Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja
Senate resumed from its three-week end of year recess yesterday with a task to ensure that the Upper Legislative Chamber is judged positively in terms of its delivery, efficacy, transparency and accountability in 2016.
This is even as the Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has directed the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Constitutional Review to send in its report to the plenary for passage on or before June 30, 2016.
In his welcome address on the floor of the Red Chamber, Saraki expressed optimism that his colleagues are fully kitted for the task ahead.
“We must demonstrate to the Nigerian people, who put us in office, that we are working in their interest to ensure a progressive and inclusive national development plan. The overarching objective of our agenda remains, to work with the executive arm to find solution to economic stagnation, wastefulness, discrimination, unemployment, insecurity, corruption and impunity.
“I believe that, working together, we are able to bequeath to our country a new economy, a new vision of government, one that is able to transform our great potential to a new reality.
“Distinguished colleagues, let me use this opportunity to thank all of us for the bipartisan manner in which we have continued to carry on our legislative duties; the togetherness, commitment and resolve exhibited so far, and the bipartisan support extended to the executive towards anti corruption, and the implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), which has brought some sanity in the revenue system, to the approval of the 2015-2018 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP), as well as the passage of the 2015 Supplementary Appropriation Act.
“These are all testament to the seriousness and patriotism with which we have conducted ourselves. We must now build on this throughout 2016.
“Distinguished colleagues, let us be clear about this fact; the challenges we face require that our sleeves are rolled up. Let me urge you to oblige us with more of your time, sacrifice and dedication as we have a host of critical matters to consider in this session. I have no doubt in my mind that we are fully kitted for the task ahead.
“Action must be accompanied by accountability. How we get things done is as important as getting them done. The inability to recognise the value of process and utility of procedure has been at the heart of the failings of past governments and National Assemblies.
“We must reconnect abstract principles of rule of law, equitable and transparent governance, with intuitive notions of fairness – notions that, I believe, receive almost universal acceptance across Nigeria. We must demonstrate that a strengthened democracy can be used for the betterment of everyone. People must see and feel the impact of the laws we will pass in their communities, on their streets, and in their pockets.
“While we may do all within our power, we will not be as successful as possible without the support and encouragement of the general public. I, therefore, enjoin the public to work with us and bring to our attention issues of corruption and impunity.
“With limited resources we cannot afford wastages. We cannot do it alone, we need your cooperation, especially on information and we will play our part.
“It is on this balance of efficacy and accountability that I wish the Senate to be judged in 2016. A Senate in slumber cannot meet the aspirations of a restless nation. A Senate sealed from those whom it is accountable to, cannot legitimately ask for their trust,” he said.
Saraki urged his colleagues to ensure that the 2016 Budget is thoroughly interrogated.
“Though the problems we face today bite painfully, I firmly believe that they present us a unique opportunity to rebuild and transform our economy into a diversified, modernised and competitive economy. It all starts with the 2016 Budget and the priority bills we have resolved to pass.
“You would recall that I had on the occasion of the laying of the 2016 Budget by Mr. President, reiterated my conviction that for a budget to play its role as a primer of the economic policy of any administration, its process must tick the boxes on efficiency, transparency, the public resources fairly allocated and judiciously implemented. We must, therefore, adopt going forward, stronger measures to ensure that the 2016 Budget is thoroughly interrogated, swiftly considered to ensure prudence, fairness, integrity and timeliness,” he added.
Speaking on the 8th Senate’s priority bills, Saraki to show a sense of urgency on the bills, projected June for their passage.
“Distinguished colleagues, as you already know, our priority bills have been carefully chosen and adopted to enable us lay out the legal, institutional and regulatory frameworks that would plug leakages in the revenue system, create jobs, expand economic opportunities, diversify the economy and make Nigeria a key investment destination of choice for investors.
“We must on our part deliver on these priority bills that will impact on these sectors that are the engine of growth. We must also show a sense of urgency on these bills. We must have a business-like approach to our deliberations. We must treat statutory reports more seriously by ensuring that we fully consider them as required by law.
“At our committee levels we must ensure that referrals to our committees are promptly treated within the time frame. Putting in place these forms of legal framework, and creating predictability and certainty, is a necessary part of creating the environment which will support the next stage of our country’s economic development. Our role as the Senate in passing these laws expeditiously is crucial.
“Our committee system remains the hub, the fuse box for 2/3 of our legislative intervention vehicle. The leadership of our committees have been carefully chosen bearing this in mind. In this vein distinguished colleagues, it is imperative that we take committee work very seriously as it is the heartbeat of everything that we do as legislators.
“Therefore, the leadership of committees must ensure regular meeting of members; that reports referred to it are treated with dispatch and oversight visitations and reporting are thorough and professionally carried out.
“Distinguished colleagues, before we proceeded on the end of year recess, we constituted the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Constitutional Review. I would like to urge the committee to consolidate the various items that the 7th Senate had exhaustively considered and passed as key areas to concentrate upon. This in my view will ensure that the process is expedited and the cost reduced significantly in line with our fiscal consolidation objectives. In this regards all unnecessary travels and tours should be eliminated.
“It is my view that the committee should send in their report to plenary for passage on or before the 30th of June 2016,” he concluded.
Saraki Tasks Senators On Transparency, Delivery * Sets June For Passage Of Bills
Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja