SENATE President Bukola Saraki yesterday rolled out quick and long-term measures for the federal government to get the nation out of recession, insisting that Nigerians were no more interested in blame passing but solutions. Saraki, who spoke extensively while presenting his welcome back speech to the Senate in session, called on the senators to hit the ground running as the situation of the country is worse than it was before they went on recess. According to him, “We will submit to the executive; this we will do along with passing the necessary legislation we have identified. “I must hasten to add in my own opinion that the executive must begin to take the following needful steps to show Nigerians, the international community and investors, both local and international, that we are ready to reform and do business,” he said. “The executive,” he noted, “must immediately put in place leadership-level engagement platform with the private sector. This must be one that is pro-business and shows unequivocally that government is ready to partner with the private sector towards economic revival. “This is a critical signpost towards market confidence which is a key ingredient to help us revamp the economy out of recession. And they must raise capital from asset sales and other sources to shore up foreign reserves.” He added that “this will calm investors, discourage currency speculation and stabilise the economy. The measures should include part sale of NLNG Holdings; reduction of government shares in upstream oil joint venture operations; sale of government stakes in financial institutions, e.g. Africa Finance Corporation; and the privatisation and concession of major/ regional airports and refineries.” The Senate president further averred that the government must consider “tweaking” the pension funds policy within international best practice safeguards to accommodate investment in infrastructure and mortgages. “The executive and CBN must agree on a policy of monetary easing to stimulate the economy and harmonise monetary and fiscal policy until economic recovery is attained. We must ensure local government borrowing does not crowd out credit for the private sector, and also re-tool its export promotion policy scheme with export incentives such as the resumption of the Export Expansion Grant, EEG, and introduce export-financing initiatives.” He urged the executive to engage in meaningful dialogue with those aggrieved in the Niger Delta and avoid escalation of the conflict in the region. “The National Assembly is very ready to play any role in the process and offer ideas on approaches that will deliver quick win-win in order to move the region and the economy forward. “The executive must as a deliberate response consider immediate release of funds to ensure the implementation of the budget for the near short term to inject money into the economy. “Similarly, the agricultural sector and the agro- allied businesses should be directly supported to boost value addition and job creation. “While government works on the medium to long-term plans, immediate strategies must be devised that would ease the suffering of the ordinary people across our country. In this case, particular attention should be given to our citizens in IDP camps. The images emerging from this zone of deprivation and hunger is no longer acceptable. Government should accelerate interim measures to provide social safety nets to our people and assuage current high level of misery in the land. Such intervention should seek to fully execute the social spending framework already provided in the 2016 budget,” Saraki urged. He also urged every senator to turn attention towards a number of legislative priorities such as the Petroleum Industry Bill, saying “we must ensure the passage of the PIB as soon as possible to stimulate new investment and boost oil revenue. As we all know, this bill is long in waiting and is very crucial for vital investment in the oil and gas sector. The impasse of not passing the bill is doing great harm to the industry and the Nigerian economy as a whole.” Mortgages, he said, remain key for them in the National Assembly and that they would immediately begin the process of accelerating bills aimed at reforming the sub-sector for growth and accessibility in a manner that deepens the people’s access to housing, jobs and economic activities that could inject fresh funds into this sector. “There is the National Development Bank of Nigeria (est. etc) Bill 2015, which will provide long term, cheaper source of funds to the private sector. “There are also the Nigerian Ports and Harbours Authority Act (Amendment) Bill 2016; National Road Fund (Establishment, etc); National Transport Commission Act 2001; Warehouse Receipts Act Bill 2016; Review of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, CAMA, Investment and Securities Act (ISA) and Customs and Excise Management Act; Federal Competition Bill 2016; and the National Road Authority. In my view, these bills and some of the other economic reform bills we will be considering in the coming days will be critical in the creation of a basic framework to free up capital and provide the opportunities to get us out of this recession. “We must also explore the possibility of backing certain key government policies with legislations that have time limitations. This will help give confidence to investors to go into certain areas of the economy and invest without the fear that such policies will suffer reversals and their investments lost. This is especially important in boosting investment in agriculture and minerals, which are critical segments of the new diversified Nigerian economy. “This chamber is ready to receive and consider expeditiously additional proposals from the executive to create a new Nigerian economy and get us out of this recession as quickly as possible “Distinguished colleagues, I must at the point like to re-emphasis the fact that we need togetherness to tackle this problem and it will be naïve to consider the problem we face today as the problem of the administration alone, or that those who brought us to this situation should see us out. That would be doing a disservice to our people who elected us to help them out when they are in need. This problem is our collective problem; it doesn’t matter if we are APC, PDP, or whatever affiliation we may have politically or socially. As leaders, we must respond positively to the challenge and thinking out of the box. Hence, we cannot allow our personal interest or comfort to becloud our perception. I do not think anybody in this chamber has gone through more political persecution than myself since the inception of this government, but I will be the last to fold my arms and say that the current economic problem is not my problem,” the Senate president posited. Reps pass vote of confidence on Dogara Despite the budget-padding allegation levelled against the leadership of the House of Representatives, 85 percent of the lawmakers have passed a vote of confidence on the leadership of the House. Nigerian Pilot recalls that while on recess, former Chairman of Appropriation Committee, Hon Abdulmumin Jibrin had accused Speaker Yakubu Dogara, Deputy Speaker Yussuff Lasun, chief whip, Hon. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, and the House minority leader, Hon. Leo Ogor, of padding the budget discreetly and dishonestly to the tune of N40billion. Jibrin also accused Dogara of abusing his office by soliciting for inappropriate favours from agencies and multinational companies. He accused Dogara and Deputy Speaker Lasun of diverting millions of naira in the name of paying for guest houses and official residence. Jibrin also alleged that Dogara had refused members access to the financial dealings and internal budget of the House, adding that the speaker ran the financial management of the House like a cult. He had even appeared before the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption led by Prof. Itse Sagay, as well as the Special Investigative Panel, SIP, led by a retired Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Amodu Ali, to prove his allegations. Reacting to allegations that the speaker appeared before the North-West caucus meeting and begged the lawmakers over his action and even attempted to bribe them with vehicles and office items, the chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon Abdulrazak Namdas yesterday said despite the frivolous and baseless allegations by Jibrin, majority of the lawmakers were solidly behind the House leadership. Namdas hinted that as part of his pre- resumption activities, the speaker usually visits the various caucuses of the House as a way of identifying with them. He said at the meeting held at the Transcorp Hilton Hotels, the caucus members never passed a vote of no confidence on the chief whip of the House, Hon Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, as alleged by Jibrin. The House spokesman maintained that the speaker never begged or attempted to bribe the lawmakers with vehicles and office items, adding that the issue of vehicle had been on the front burner even before the House went on recess. Namdas insisted that they would follow the tradition of investigating the allegation internally, stressing that nobody was above the House rules, including the speaker. Earlier, Jibrin had claimed that in the caucus meeting, the speaker made a surprise appearance where he begged for the role he played in the budget padding and also attempted to bribe them with official vehicles and office items. The former appropriation chairman hinted that at the meeting, the caucus decided that Ado-Doguwa should step down because they did not have confidence in him. Jibrin said in the spirit of justice and fairness, Dogara should resign for a speaker pro-tempore to emerge so as to allow for thorough investigation. He noted that the speaker could still go back to his position if not found guilty of the allegations. According to him, “This matter should be investigated internally, and of course if this matter must be investigated internally, there is a laid down tradition. “There was a statement the speaker made at the North West caucus of the House; he talked heavily on the tradition of the parliament when grievous allegations of corruption has been made against him. “Nobody is saying that the speaker should be removed instantly, but in the spirit of fairness and justice, he should step aside for a speaker pro-tempore to emerge. “The speaker pro-tempore will set up a committee to investigate or direct the Committee on Ethics and Privileges to carry out the investigation and give them time line to investigate the matter and return back to the House. “If the committee brings back its report and did not indict the speaker, then he goes back to his office as the speaker. “If the committee indicts them, they lose their position and face prosecution. So, it is against this background that we went for the meeting and I must say that we are lured into that meeting, because we are not expecting to see the speaker at the meeting, it was just going to be a zonal meeting and most of the decision we took was that we no longer have confidence in the leadership of Alhassan Ado-Doguwa and all members agreed that he should step down as whip. “The speaker started by begging that we should forgive him for the offences he has committed and other members of the body of principal officers that has been accused of budget padding and he said that whatever offence that they have committed; we should forgive them. He went ahead to talk about the purchase of vehicles and he was assuring members that very soon it is going to be sorted out, he went again to talk about items in the office, if you remember it is part of the allegation I raised, that a lot of items were procured to members offices and contract awarded in such offices that already have such items. “So I will advise members not to receive such items by my own thinking, probably they were awarded and they were not even supplied; they were only trying to cover up. “On the allegation of N40 billion, he tried to explain that it is a tradition, immediately he said it is a tradition, Hon. Aliyu Madaki interjected and said that “Mr Speaker if you said this is a tradition, does it make it right that you take without the approval of the House? What sort of tradition is that you take N40 billion of N100 billion that is meant for members and you call it a tradition?” Meanwhile, the House yesterday abruptly adjourned plenary to today in honour of a deceased colleague, Hon. Elijah Oluwatayo (APC-Lagos). While reading a letter from the bereaved family, the speaker said Oluwatayo died on July 20, 2016, at the age of 66. Dogara also announced the death of three other former members of the House – Muhammed Useni, Alex Eze and Etim Atakpa. Useni represented Makrafi Federal Constituency of Kaduna from 1999 to 2003 while Eze represented Nsukka/Igboeze Federal Constituency of Enugu within the same period. Atakpa represented Essien Federal Constituency of Akwa Ibom from 1992 to 1993 on the platform of the defunct National Republican Convention.

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