My Thoughts on the North East Development Commission Bill

Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, speaks on the No…

Yesterday, the Senate held a public hearing on the Bill to establish a North East Development Commission to help in the rehabilitation of areas affected by Boko Haram. These are my thoughts on this bill.

Posted by Abubakar Bukola Saraki on Tuesday, May 10, 2016

OIL BENCHMARK PRICE OF $78 FOR 2015 BUDGET IS UNREALISTIC- SENATOR BUKOLA SARAKI

These are troubling times for the Nigerian economy. Our revenue base is caving in under the stress of falling price of oil in the international market. Due to the drastic and persistent nature of this fall from the highs of $115 in June of this year, it is my considered view that we can’t continue to give the impression that it is business as usual. The fact that the free fall in the international oil market price has seen it loosing over 25% of early June highs means that correspondingly our economy has lost over 25% of budget revenue estimates of the period as a result. More ominously, the fact that it continues to fall unabated means that it is not getting better yet and therefore we must now apply the breaks and act fast before they get out of hand.

 

Our economy cannot fully withstand the current trend of the current oil market. It is not our fault that the market is volatile but is will be our fault if we don’t learn from the mistakes of previous price falls especially 2008 to plan timeously on how to ease the pain for our people. This is not the time to paint over the rust, discussions and the choices we make now must be based on economics not politics.

 

The current position to put the benchmark for oil price at $78 is inconsistent with the economic trend and attitude of the managers of our economy, which has shown in the past to be very wary of over optimistic benchmark assumptions settling rather for the more prudent conservative base.

 

 

 

YEAR

PROPOSED OIL BENCHMARK PRICE

AV. OIL PRICE PER BARREL

2011

$75

$100

2012

$70

$111.67

2013

$75

$107.96

2014

$74

$90

2015

$78

$79

 

The above table clearly shows a clear departure from the trend over the years to a very acute tendency in 2015 proposed budget MTEF paper. This MOF/Executive position is hard to justify on any economic modeling or recent policy positions. One is left with the impression that this benchmark is not a product of any economic model but a political induced decision that does not paint the correct picture nor aligns itself to the 2015 forecast. So government should go back and come up with a realistic benchmark, which in my view cannot be above the lower 70’s. There is no better time to give full disclosure of the state of the economy and tell the Nigerian people the truth. We have a problem in our hands but not one that cannot be surmounted with the right political will. 

 

WHY THE URGENT NEED FOR ACTION

Aside the issue of the benchmark, the country needs a contingency plan in place now.

 

There is no country leadership that can continue to act like business as usual where it faces over 25% drop in its annual revenues.

 

Our foreign reserves have depleted considerably from the heights it had achieved of over $58b to the $39bn we have now. What this means is that we have small room to maneuver than we had in 2008.

Since most of this cost will be borne by the capital side of expenditure there is a likelihood that the implication will be in job losses, unemployment, social imbalance etc. none of the impact will be positive.

 

The implication of the state of our financial affairs and the reality if the truth is to be told by government is that there will be little or no capital project to be implemented in 2015 except things change drastically. But before Nigerians are called upon to make sacrifices government must show the will to tackle the monumental revenue leakages in our finances. These leakages have the capacity to significantly reduce the level of impact from this economic situation. It is unacceptable for these leakages to continue whilst Nigerians are called to make sacrifice.

 

These leakages, which are known to all but have persisted, now need to be tackled urgently.

 

1.   Crude oil theft.

The continuous loss of over 200,000- 300,000 barrels per day of crude must be stopped. Whether the perpetrators are powerful or highly connected is no longer an acceptable excuse why government with the full capacity of the law and instrument of state cohesion hasn’t been able to fully address this menace.

 

2.    The other issue is the vexed issue of the Kerosene Subsidy, which is costing the economy over N300b annually. This issue, which must be disconnected with the fuel subsidy, is one that government can easily deal with. There is incontrovertible evidence that the scheme feeds only the pocket of those who import Kerosene and does not get to the ordinary citizen. At this stage of our fiscal situation, this presents a good opportunity to exit the scheme to fund other critical sectors that can augment the revenue base.

 

3.        Another area that the government could work to review would be the Crude SWAP program. Many reports including the NEITI report have indicted this NNPC program and called for a review of the program, as it is not adding value to the economy. There is no better time to stop the program. It’s wasteful and inefficient.

 

4.        Government will have to revisit its recent decision to grant some oil companies Pioneer Status. This has become necessary as the nation can ill afford this due to the fiscal implications on the revenues of the country especially collectible tax in the face of these new realities.

 

What is required now is the right political will and leadership from government. Government should as a matter of national importance convene a meeting of the National Economic Council to proffer a collective and workable decision on the national contingency and viable benchmark oil price. There is no better time than now for government to do what is right and save Nigerians from the foreseeable hardship ahead.

SENATOR BUKOLA SARAKI is Chairman Senate Committee on Environment and member Senate Committee on Finance

SENATE ACTIVITIES FOR TUESDAY 21ST OCTOBER, 2014

Today, Tuesday the 21st of October 2014, the Senate was in receipt of an executive communication on the request of Mr President to increase the amount of the Diaspora Bond from USD 100 lion to a maximum of USD300 from the International Capital Market. The request was, as is the tradition of the Senate, referred to its Standing Committee on Local & Foreign debts and Finance.

The Senate also approved and adopted the Conference Committee Report on Review of the 1999 Const. of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Further amendment) Bill 2014.

The Report of the Joint Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters and the Local Government Administration on the Border Communities Development Agency Bill 2014 was considered clause by clause, by the Senate sitting in the whole. The Bill was subsequently read for the 3rd time and passed.

Other items on the other paper were stood down to another legislative date.

SENATE ACTIVITIES FOR WEDNESDAY 15TH OCTOBER, 2014

At the Senate Plenary today, Wednesday 15th Oct.2014, the Senate considered the Conference committee report on the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities(Prohibition) Bill 2014 and approved same.

The Bill for an Act to regulate the Business of Equipment Leasing in Nigeria 2014 (SB. 514 & HB. 97) was considered and extensively debated by Senators. The Bill was subsequently read for the 2nd time and referred to the Committee on Trade and Investments.

The following bills were also debated on the floor of the Senate-
i. A Bill for an Act to make provisions for Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill 2014 (SB.470).

ii. A Bill for an Act to Establish Nigeria Institute of Soil Scie ce (Est) 2014 (SB.89)

and both bills passed their 2nd Readings; and were referred to the Senate Committees on Judiciary and Agriculture respectively.

Other items on the Order paper were stood down to another legislative date.

INTERNATIONAL GIRLS DAY; TODAYW E STAND FOR CHIBOK GIRLS

Across the globe, today has been set aside to celebrate our girls. Today isn’t set aside to celebrate them alone, but to reflect on our responsibilities as a family, clan, group, state and nation to protect and preserve the rights of girl child in order to open them to opportunities that will reveal the value in them.

On this International Girls’ Day, we stand with girls across the nation, particularly the kidnapped school girls who have been abducted since April; these girls are tomorrow’s leaders, CEOs of multinational companies in the future, brains behind the next breakthrough in medical science and engineering, we must not allow their futures to be endangered.

Thus, on this annual occasion, beyond continuous promises, I call on the Federal Government to rescue these girls from abduction which has spanned through the months. The Government has to renew its commitment to build a Nigeria where all our girls feel safe, supported, and encouraged to pursue their own goals and measure of happiness.

I commend all individuals, feminists, academic and vocational schools, NGOs and groups who have been committed to the development of girls across the nation; as we work to ameliorate the lives of girls in Nigeria, I urge you all to double efforts to ensure there are no barriers to their success of Nigerian girls at home and abroad, they must be high-flyers.

Lets stay away from harmful cultural norms and prejudices against our girls, promote gender equality, work to stop violence against girls, human trafficking among other social vices that affects our girls.

I wish all our girls Happy International Day of Girls.

Saraki Reacts to Amnesty Internationals “No Progress Report”

The issue of the cleanup of extensive oil spill and the ensuing environmental degradation in the Niger Delta, has again been highlighted by the recent Amnesty international report.

This report has correctly indicted the Federal Government and Shell for doing next to nothing to implement the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) recommendations.   

It would be recalled that in August 2011, the UNEP handed the Federal Government its scientific findings on the state of degradation in Ogoniland, and warned that the environment has become hazardous for human habitation. The report also called for urgent measures to be taken to restore the environment. Three years down the line, no action has been taken on the report, and we are no farther from where we were before its release.

For the Senate Committee on Environment & Ecology led by Senator Bukola Saraki, it is sad to recall that in the wake of the UNEP report, as the Chairman of the committee tasked with environmetal-related oversight, Saraki and his colleagues immediately embarked on a visit to the devastated parts of Ogoniland to fully understand the level of devastation.

Speaking with reporters after a visit to one of the most affected areas, Senator Saraki described the level of degradation as “Unprintable, wicked and embarrassing,” as some of the spills had been left unattended to for over 40years.

Following the visit, the Senate Committee on Environment promised the communities impacted by the environmental disasters that it would do its utmost to ensure the cleanup of the spills.

Not taking its commitments lightly, the committee commenced consultations with Shell and the relevant agencies of government towards the cleanup. After several meetings with the committee, Shell immediately made a number of written commitments to begin work at three of the most impacted areas, while the government would work out the institutional framework for implementing the cleanup process.

Having observed the level of devastation on the ground, and the recommendations of UNEP, the committee also called on stakeholders to fully implement the thorough recommendations of the UNEP. The committee further advised the Federal Government that to achieve the level of restoration that was recommended by the report, an independent Ministry of Environment needed to be established to supervise such activities, instead of the Ministry of Petroleum to be saddled with such duties (an opinion mirrored by the recommendations in the report).

The committee also advised Nigeria to follow the right institutional structures and framework, as stipulated by the law, and to conduct its affairs in a manner that separates issues like oil cleanups from politics.

It was at this point that the report became unnecessarily complicated and political. As usual, issues of ‘intent’ became the sole talking points, as people without vision and conscience began to question the motive of a northern leader seeking to end the suffering of other Nigerians from another region.

Because the chairman took his environmental mandate seriously, and wanted to see the end of the suffering of the Ogoni people, rather than applaud his efforts, his actions where branded as political because those who neither saw what he saw during his oversight visit, nor have the conscience capable of being moved, were more concerned about the $1bn earmarked for the cleanup.

The Ministry of Petroleum Resources hastily pursued and got the government to set up HYPREP. Saraki was on record to have warned against this move, and urged that unless we institutionalize the process and allow things to be done properly according to the report, we might end up losing the opportunity to change the lives of the people of the Niger Delta that have been affected by these oil spills.

Some of the other recommendations of the UNEP Report required legislative action. One of these was the amendment of the NOSDRA Act of 2006, as expert commentaries on the Act showed that it was weak and ineffective.

In fulfillment of these recommendations, Senator Saraki quickly initiated a review of the NODSRA Act, and sponsored an amendment with clear provisions that if passed, would ensure that there would be no repeat of the Ogoni degradation in the history of Nigeria. Again, instead of being commended for his work, the Senator was repeatedly attacked by naysayers.

Ironically, this same bill continued to receive support and commendation from legislators from other countries including UK, and US, and environmental experts across the globe. However, the support it needs to be passed, has to come from members of the Nigerian National Assembly and the Executive branch.

Ordinarily this support is ought to be easily given because of the magnitude of the problem that the affected communities face. Hoeever, for quite some time now, the NOSDRA bill has remained at the 3rd reading stage in the Senate. No politician that is worth his or her seat should play politics with an issue like this one. No more Nigerians need to die from hydrocarbon pollution in the Niger Delta for us to pass this bill. Yet many do not seem to understand what is at stake.

Needless to say, the warnings issued by the committee have all come to pass. Not only has the HYPREP not been able to do anything tangible since it was first established under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, but due to a lack of institutionalization, the stakeholders who are supposed to engage with it have not found it trustworthy enough to engage with it – neither has the government itself. It is now technically dead as it has been starved of funds and has been unable to pay the salary of its staff for over 18 months

Why I want International Support to help #BringBackOurGirls by Senator Abubakar @BukolaSaraki

Let me first of all commend our Nigerian security personnel for their
unwavering efforts in trying to locate the children abducted from
Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State on Wednesday, April
16th, 2014.

Since this ugly incident occurred, it has been evident that these
rescue efforts require the full support and cooperation of both
Nigerians, and our friends and allies in the international community –
especially those that share our borders.

Nigeria has always demonstrated that it is always ready to extend its
hands in support when there is a crisis in the international community
– as demonstrated by our continental peacekeeping efforts. It is time
for the international community to do the same.

Given the terrain of the concerned area, the same level of technical
support that the international community has provided in trying to
locate the missing Malaysian Airline flight MH370 must at this time be
extended to Nigeria.

The degeneracy of this abduction has demonstrated that now more than
ever, the world must come together to combat terrorism for the sake of
our shared humanity.

Nigeria will embrace every act of support from our friends. No
meaningful efforts are too small, and no attempts to bring back our
girls will be considered insignificant.

With the reports of the abducted girls being ferried to neighbouring
countries – fluid intelligence gathering and sharing at this time is
also highly crucial. This is why I would like to also appeal to our
friends and allies to provide our security agencies with any relevant
information that will help in completing this mission.

Our military must be supported in every way possible – in the same way
that our political resolve must continue to remain strong. And, as a
country, we must remain unrelenting and unanimous in demanding that
the abducted girls be united back with their families.

In addition to this, the Federal Government must also try to update
the citizenry and the world on the progress being made, as well as the
challenges being met with the rescue efforts.

This is no easy task – to surmount this, we must all work together.
All hands must be on deck.

Together, we can bring back our loved ones.

Senator Bukola Saraki donate blood to bomb victims

Fellow Nigerians:

The Monday, April 14, 2014 terrorist attack in Nyanya District of the Federal Capital Territory marks a bloody notch as one of the darkest days in out nation’s history.

Fathers, mothers, sons and daughters were lost in this senseless attack, and evil in the form of extremists has again reared its head to try to challenge the resilience of the Nigerian Spirit. But we shall remain undeterred.

Today, I have taken the simple but meaningful step to send a message to those that try to damage the unity of our country, that although obstacles may present themselves in many forms – Nigerians will stand together to surmount them.

Today, I donated blood at the National Blood Transfusion Service (NTSB) in Wuse Zone 3, Abuja. I did this because I believe that the survivors of Monday’s attack deserve a second chance – and the lack of blood should not be a hindrance to that second chance. I urge you all to do the same.

Medical professionals are on standby in blood banks around the Federal Capital Territory to ensure that donors can donate in a quick and seamless fashion.

In this regard, as we all come together to move past, move forward, and get through these difficult times, I urge all Nigerians of every creed and culture, and from every aisle of our numerous political divides to come together to help the victims of these terrible attacks and their families.

I pray that Almighty in his infinite mercies continues to bless Nigeria and Nigerians.

 

Senator Saraki Sympathises with Families of Abuja Blast Victim

Yet again, we are faced with another great loss of innocent lives at the hands of terrorists in Nigeria.
It’s baffling and heartbreaking that scores have been feared dead on a Monday morning attack in Nyanya overhead bridge in the outskirt of Abuja; the growing insecurity which has spanned over 3 years unabated has threatened the unity of the nation, and weaken our socio-economic and political strength. It is unfortunate that in the face of this growing insurgencies, the Federal Government has been unable to overcome the challenge and provide adequate and holistic approach to security for the lives and properties of Nigerians.

Beyond usual promises and consolations to the masses, the Federal Government should improvise and adopt advanced security measures and counter terrorism strategies that can provide adequate security in the nation. There is an urgent need for Political cooperation across the board. I call on Mr President to call a joint meeting of leaders from all political divides , religious and opinion leaders to deliberate on the nation’s security plight. Enough of rhetorics and workshop or summit on security matter. What we need now is action and commitment. It is my believe that for the sake of the innocent lives our political resolve must be as strong as the military option.

I sympathize with the families of those affected and pray Almighty Allah comfort them.

Senator Saraki’s views on 2014 budget

2014 Appropriation Act passed today:  Read below for Senators Saraki’s view.

Today at the plenary, the Senate considered and passed the 2014 Appropriation Act. During my contribution on the floor of the Senate on the consideration of the report, I drew the attention of the Senate to a lacuna in the budget, which I considered critical to the effective implementation of the budget. My intervention is simple. The Appropriation Act we passed today did not consider a valuable indicator of our revenue base- oil production variation. In other words, our national budget is predicated on oil production and price. So much emphasis has however been placed on the bench marked price but little consideration on the production side. In recent times, we have witnessed massive fluctuations in the production level with production going down sharply and other times going up. We have seen production fluctuate from 2.1mbpd to 2.5mbpd and back to 1.8mbpd to 1.9mbpd all within two years. We have budgeted for on a baseline production figure of 2.5mbpd and ended up with 2.1mbpd average. All of these have impacted on the implementation of the budget significantly. This throws up a lacuna in the budget implementation process which now raises few questions. Some of which are; What then happens if there is a significant drop in production?  What happens if there is a significant improvement in the production levels?  While we may have set a benchmark on oil price (helpful as it may be), we have not set clear parameters on what happens with production fluctuations a key determinant of revenues. We cannot deal with one and not the other if we want a level of certainty and predictability in our budget. Implementation outcome is a key factor and a stepping stone to the next level