Eighth Senate which was inaugurated on June 9, 2015 was one year old on Thursday, June 9. Despite being faced with leadership problems shortly after its inauguration which affected its functions and performances, the upper legislative chamber has been able to record some achievements and even surpassed the records of previous assemblies in many areas.
However, there were more knocks than praises for the economy under President Muhammadu Buhari in the last one year by senators with the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, calling for an all inclusive government if the present administration must provide the good governance that it promised the populace.
The Senate in its legislation with some under fierce consideration during plenary has made it more productive in the last one year. The adoption of a legislative agenda was another unique step.
In his special anniversary speech, Saraki said inauguration of the eight Senate “marks a further consolidation of our democracy and opens a new chapter in the practice of government by representation in our country.” He also said that the democratic transition that ushered in a new administration has re-ignited the hope of citizens as the legislative agenda of the eighth Senate is anchored on three cardinal objectives of improving governance, improving business and improving livelihood.
The Senate has been able to yield 15 major economic reform and seven business environment bills. Highlighting the achievements, Saraki said some of these bills, which is being considered through the final lap, have since entered the dockets of the legislature and are at various stages of consideration as some also, have been passed by it.
These include the Electronic Transaction Bill 2015, Debt Recovery and Insolvency Bill 2015, Railway Bill, FCT High Court (Amendment) Law 2015, on-going consideration of the amendment to the Public Procurement Act, reintroduction of the Petroleum Industry Bill.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Babajide Omoworare (APC Osun East), gave the status of bills, motions and confirmations. He said 300 bills are pending in the Senate out of which 11 were passed, 189 at the first reading stage, while 54 were read for the second time and referred to relevant committees.
The Senate through several petitions and motions also reversed more than 10 sacked staff in some companies and public institutions were it was established that the sacked persons were unjustly dismissed. Also, there are 125 petitions presented to it, with 32 already concluded and 82 under consideration.
As part of efforts to bring succour to Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, restore and rebuild the North-East from the devastation that it has experienced following the activities of Boko Haram members, the Senate president visited some IDP camps in Borno State, made donations including cash to the victims and is presently working on the establishment of a North-East Development Commission, NEDC.
Besides and interestingly, the Senate for the first time under Saraki’s leadership has been supporting the presidency on issues that border on financial prudence, accountability and fight against corruption.
“We want to assure Mr. President that the Senate will continue to play its part in the fight against corruption, which we believe is cardinal in our desire to improve governance in our country. We will also continue to broaden the scope for increased openness and accountability that we have promised at the legislative level. While the government has made progress in the fight against Boko Haram and corruption, the fight against mass poverty remains a daunting challenge.
“On our part and in keeping with our pledge to support the anti-corruption crusade, this Senate has within this period carried out oversight investigations into the noticed abuse in the implementation of the Treasury Single Account, saving government over N20 billion, implementation of the Rice Importation Waivers and Duties policy of government and the latest NEITI report detailing humongous levels of corruption totaling over N3 trillion.
“For all these and many more system leakages, we must do all in our power to expose them. Our anti-corruption agencies must double their effort in ensuring that these kind of wholesale abuses are no longer part of our governance history. This is what the anti-corruption war must be about.”
However, Saraki during the one year anniversary took a critical look at the state of Nigeria’s economy and declared that it needs urgent attention with a view to reversing the drift, even as he listed some legislative interventions to save the situation.
He led his colleagues in dissecting the economic situation in his special address to mark the day, saying as a nation, “we have failed to take the necessary steps in policy and legislations that would set us on the path to develop the kind of economy that we desire”.
According to him, “the collapse in oil price has without doubt brought huge shock to our economy on a scale that perhaps, has never been experienced before. This requires us to develop creative strategies that would stimulate business and investments into other sectors”.
He noted that the government has made progress in the fight against Boko Haram and corruption, but reminded it that the fight against mass poverty remains a daunting challenge.
Also, he said “the rising cost of living, increased cases of retrenchment and corresponding rise in unemployment, inability of governors to pay salaries, upsurge in ethnic-based agitation, potentially denies government the full credit of the great strides it has made in other areas”.
Specifically, the Senate president affirmed that the business of government needs to be conducted with great inclusiveness. “We must find a way to bring the best brains in our country on board wherever they may be found. Even those who did not vote for us but believe in the change that we all believe is necessary to move our country forward should be given a seat at the table. If we are able to mobilise the best human resources that God has bountifully blessed our country with, I have no doubt that with God on our side, we shall overcome.
“We are confident that one year after, the president must by now have better clarity on the capacity of his appointees. The Senate would not hesitate to hold any appointee accountable for the work he has accepted to do. We would like to seek Mr. President’s support and co-operation to enable us discharge this oversight task,” he said.
In his remarks during the anniversary, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said he is proud of the eight Senate’s achievements within one year despite the initial divisions along the lines of Unity Forum, Like Minds and non-aligned, noting that “today we are united as one indivisible Senate, working for the progress of our nation”.
“We can only remain patriotic. Our parties may differ, but we have one country and we have one constituency which is Nigeria,” he said.
Senator Murray Ben-Bruce (PDP Bayelsa East) also took a very critical look at government’s approach towards redeeming Nigerians from the current economic shackles and declared that national budgets over the years had been made to give undue priority to recurrent expenditure.
Ben-Bruce advised that the budget must be structured in such a manner that pays at least 50 percent attention to capital projects.
“We celebrate one year in office, but I am very troubled by our economy. A lot of things have gone wrong and we have no time to fix them. Everybody complains that the price of oil has caused economic decline, but we must understand that the oil sector contributes fifty percent to the GDP.
“The GDP cannot all of a sudden have a negative growth of minus 36 percent. If we have this again this quarter, we may go into recession. We have a very serious problem coupled with the fact that 18,000 babies are born everyday more than the whole of Western Europe combined and population growth with the declining economic growth is a terrible combination to have.
“This is coupled with the fact that after one year the budget has not been implemented as Kemi Adeosun, the Minister of Finance, has said. It is very unlikely that the budget would be implemented fully this year because we have only six months to go.
“Now, let me make a request to President Buhari. When the budget for next year is presented, he must give minister of finance a direct instruction: recurrent expenditure should not exceed 50 percent of the budget. It is ridiculous for us to talk about capital expenditure of N1.5 trillion in a N6 trillion budget. The capital expenditure budget should be the only budget; recurrent expenditure is a fixed amount regardless of what happens you have to pay salaries.
“As a country of 170 million people, civil servants are only 2.2 million, if 2.2 million people consume 75 percent of our entire budget then we have a serious problem”.
Chief Whip of the Senate, Olusola Adeyeye (APC Osun Central) was frank in drawing the attention of his colleagues to the series of problems bedeviling the nation in addition to the challenge of imminent economic recession.
“No matter the political party we belong to, the country is in turmoil. The economy is in a bad shape. Insecurity is very high. Unemployment is unimaginable. The next one year must not be like the last one year. We must make a difference.”
While speaking on the general state of affairs in the country, Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, warned that if something urgent is not done, Nigeria will be plunged into crisis.
“In the South-South, people have abandoned their homes because of the activities of Niger Delta Avengers. The north is under turmoil. The South-East is boiling because of agitation. The South-West is the only peaceful area, but they still send mercenaries to other areas to fight. I want to urge the All Progressives Congress, APC, to market this country very well. The way the APC is saying that the country is full of criminals; investors will not come here to invest. They must change the way they talk about Nigeria. Things need to change,” Akpabio submitted.

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