The Nigerian Senate resumed from its Christmas recess on Tuesday, January 10, 2017, with Bukola Saraki, the president of the upper legislative chamber, meeting with his colleagues and addressing them before the day’s plenary.
Saraki, who in December, 2016 had three closed-door meetings with President Muhammadu Buhari explained issues affecting the country and told his colleagues how to help with their duties in 2017.
The Senate also impeached Ali Ndume as its leader at the session which happened to be the first in 2017.
1. BILLS PASSED
Saraki explained that though 2016 was very challenging, the senators put in their best to ensure a level of success among which is the passing of 49 bills while 68 other bills scaled second reading. “It is already historic that within the last quarter, which incidentally is the second quarter of this session, we all rolled up our sleeves, with sweat on our brows and successfully passed 49 bills through 3rdreading and 68 bills through second reading. This is a record setting feat, which has never been matched in the history of the National Assembly,” he said.
2. THE REALITY OF THE TIMES
The Senate president reminded his colleagues that the country was still seriously in recession and efforts must be made to help with solutions. According to him, “people are still being laid off; so long as factories are closing shop, for as the hardship in the land continues to bite harder, investment continues to dwindle and the foreign exchange market remains fragmented."
3. UNCOMPLETED BILLS
He urged his colleagues to expedite action on the pending bills which have been carried over from 2016. He also gave those in charge of the bills the first quarter of 2017 to complete them.
4. ECONOMIC REFORMS
“We promise to pass our priority economic reform bills to help aid our economic recovery. This is a promise we must keep. There are already, new NASSBER research findings projecting that our priority bills, will have an output impact equivalent to an average of 6.87 percent of GDP over a five-year period on the economy. The average annual growth in jobs is estimated at approximately 7.55 million additional employments as well as an average of 16.42 percent reduction in Nigeria’s poverty rate. Over the projected five-year period, it is suggested that the reforms, which these bills would engender, may add an average of N3.76 trillion to National incomes (National disposable income was N85.62 trillion in 2014), equivalent to 4.39 percent of 2014 figures,” he said.
5. BUDGET CONSIDERATION
The Senate president said the chamber would start considering the 2017 budget which is to hold in three ‘sitting days’ of the next week. He also hinted that the Senate would consider the implementation of the report of the committee on budget reforms which would allow Nigerians partake in budget consideration processes. He pleaded to with his colleagues to make the passage of the budget one of the best in the country.
He said the drive to encourage the made-in-Nigeria initiative would be given a special impetus in 2017. He added that the Senate had played a major role in passing the amendment to the Procurement Act for which it is awaiting concurrence by the House of Representatives and for the immediate assent of President Muhammadu Buhari. “I for one, intend to put the full weight of my office behind this initiative to build the trust and ensuing patronage of Nigerians in goods and products made by our own people. I truly believe that this is the singular policy that can play a key role in getting out of this recession, provide the needed jobs; and keep the economy going,” he said.
7. POLICY INCONSISTENCY
Saraki said this would be tackled to boost the economy as well as agriculture. He said this is also needed for the much talked-about diversification and exploration of solid minerals.
8. POWER SECTOR
The Senate president admitted that there are errors in the privatization process of the power sector of the country and the model by which it is run. According to him, the revelations from the investigation into the process have been mid-boggling. “It has failed and nobody appears willing to tackle the issue head-on towards a permanent resolution,” he said adding that he has mandated the Senate committee on power to continue the consultation with the relevant parties to forge a path to solving the electricity challenge of the country.
9. SOUTHERN KADUNA MAYHEM
Saraki called the attention of his colleagues to the attacks and killings of citizens in the Southern part of Kaduna state. While condemning the continued violence in the area, Saraki said the Senate will not pay lip-service to the issue or watch helplessly as people are killed on the basis of religion, ethnic group or political persuasion. “This new theatre of conflict is one too many and must be nipped in the bud,” he said.
10. PETROLEUM SECTOR CHALLENGE
Saraki called on the executive arm of the federal government to urgently dialogue with stakeholders and those in the Niger Delta to end their agitations. This, he said, would benefit the Nigeria in the end. He proposed that the engagement should be sincere, constructive, open, and confidence-building.
11. DATA TARIFF HIKE
He pleaded with his colleagues to pay special attention to the protection and preservation of consumer rights, especially where it concerns the proposed data tariff hike. “We will not stand for the exploitation of consumers and we have already shown that we are unafraid to tackle such an issue whether perpetrated by public or private sector service-providers; as was the case of the intended data tariff hike proposed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) which we moved swiftly to prevent. We want people to know that they can run to us and we will in turn rise in defense of the Nigerian consumer who should be respected as a driving force in the economy,” he said.