OPENING REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, HIS EXCELLENCY, (DR.) ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, CON, AT THE 3-DAY PUBLIC HEARING ON THE PETROLEUM INDUSTRY BILLS, HELD AT THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY COMPLEX, ABUJA – JUNE 4, 2018.

OPENING REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, HIS EXCELLENCY, (DR.) ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, CON, AT THE 3-DAY PUBLIC HEARING ON THE PETROLEUM INDUSTRY BILLS, HELD AT THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY COMPLEX, ABUJA – JUNE 4, 2018.pub, PIGB, 

 

PROTOCOL.

 

1. It is my pleasure to welcome you all to this 3-Day Public Hearing organised by the Senate Committee on the Downstream Petroleum Sector for the consideration of the Petroleum Industry Bills.

 

2. Specifically, this Public Hearing seeks further input on: the Petroleum Industry Administration Bill 2018; the Petroleum Industry Fiscal Bill 2018; and the Petroleum Host and Impacted Communities Bill 2018. Together, the Bills are part of a combo that was virtually comatose for over a decade as the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), before we took the radical approach of breaking the single Bill into workable parts, for greater ease of passage into law.

 

3. As some of you may recall, the 8th Senate had promised to set in motion an agenda for the comprehensive reform of the Nigerian oil and gas industry, and to do so through an unbundled package of Bills. Our reform agenda is driven by the need to overhaul a system that has led to corruption being endemic in the petroleum industry.

 

4. We are also motivated by the desire to usher in an internationalised framework that allows Nigeria to compete globally in terms of this industry. This would lead to the development of the local market; and the efficient use of this depleting resource, the ebb and flow of which have been so indelibly tied to the economy of the country. It is high time we stabilised the system, and to stabilise it for good.

 

5. With all this in mind, we took two critical decisions when we commenced work in the 8th Senate in 2015:

 

i. The first was to split the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) into five (5) Bills, namely: the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, the Petroleum Industry Administration Bill, the Petroleum Industry Fiscal Bill, the Petroleum Host and Impacted Communities Bill, and the Petroleum Revenue Management Bill.

 

ii. The second decision was to encourage private member sponsorship of the Bills.

 

6. We recently passed the PIGB but at point of harmonization review, certain minor observations were made which we immediately directed our conference committee to act on. We are hopeful to have it back on the floor for adoption in a week. It is my expectation that, when work is concluded on the trio of Bills under consideration at this hearing, the Senate will start the process on the Petroleum Revenue Management Bill, which would reshape how we utilise the resources we earn from oil and gas.

 

7. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, permit me to outline the key provisions of the Bills under consideration at this Public Hearing. The objective of the Petroleum Industry Administration Bill is to transform the administration of the upstream, midstream and downstream sectors of the Nigerian petroleum industry:

 

i. Firstly, the Bill creates a framework that will free up acreages that are not being developed by current license and lease holders, thereby creating opportunities for new investors. This will bring substantial new investment to our oil and gas industry.

 

ii. Secondly, it ensures effective management of the environment by petroleum operators and administrators.

 

iii. Thirdly, it provides a framework to unleash midstream activities which will open up the market for the supply of gas and other downstream products, for economic growth. Above all, I believe the most important feature of this Bill is that it provides much needed legal backing for the deregulation of our downstream petroleum sector.

 

8. Regrettably, our existing fiscal framework for the petroleum industry is outdated. The Petroleum Industry Fiscal Bill, therefore, aims to fix the anomalies, especially with regard to our royalty and tax regimes. For instance, billions of dollars have been lost through non-invocation of provisions in subsisting laws, at those times when crude oil price crosses certain thresholds. The Bill will fix this as well as remove difficulties and uncertainties surrounding our tax assessment and collection system. Additionally, it will remove distortions created by the Associated Gas Framework Agreement; and provide comprehensive fiscal terms for the development of our abundant natural gas resources. Perhaps the most critical objective of the Petroleum Industry Fiscal Bill is that it will enhance our international competitiveness and make Nigeria a choice destination for oil and gas investors.

 

9. Last but not least, is the Petroleum Host and Impacted Communities Bill, which provides for a legal framework for the development of the petroleum host and impacted communities. It is a pan-Nigeria Bill that will cater for communities that are hosts to upstream assets, as well as significant midstream and downstream assets and infrastructure.

 

10. The Petroleum Host and Impacted Communities Bill is unique because it overcomes the pitfalls of past efforts; and is structured to bring funding for the development of host communities, under the direct control of the communities themselves. We expect the Bill to make for greater harmony and partnership among the various stakeholders in the sector. I urge everyone to pay particular attention to presentations by representatives of host communities.

 

 

11. In closing, let me state that the outcome of this Public Hearing is very important to our economy and to the livelihood of all Nigerians as well as the interests of investors. We have the task of delivering these Bills which, together, will enhance the growth of our oil and gas industry, modernise our fiscal system and enhance competitiveness, while creating harmony for all stakeholders.

 

 

12. It is our expectation that, with your active participation, we will have Bills that truly reflect the aspirations of Nigerians. We have an opportunity to show that the momentous passage of the PIGB was by no means a one-off. Let us power ahead with the radical transformation of our oil and gas sector.

 

 

13. On that note, I wish you successful deliberations, as I now formally declare open the Public Hearing on the Petroleum Industry Bills.

 

 

Thank you.

 

THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE, ON THE 2018 APPROPRIATION BILL, 16TH MAY 2018.

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE, ON THE 2018 APPROPRIATION BILL, 16TH MAY 2018.

 

1. Distinguished colleagues, let me thank you so much for the industry you have put into bringing us to this point. Let me thank the relevant sub-committees, especially, for the patriotism and commitment to the delivery of a more efficiency oriented budget.

 

2. When we received the 2018 Draft Appropriation Bill, I reiterated the need for us to reassess the relationship between oil and our economy. We must grow our economy away from oil. Hopefully, the current budget, when signed into law, should help us in this regard, especially with the coming into focus for implementation, the economic reform bills we have passed so far and those on the way to full passage.

 

3. We have always believed that government spending must continue to grow on issues relevant to the welfare and security of our people. In the same vein, government spending should reduce in areas where the private sector is better placed to catalyse progress. This will free up funds for Education, Health, Water and Sanitation services, amongst others.

 

4. On this note, it with great delight that I announce that the 2018 Budget has met the threshold of reserving at least 1% of total budget to health. This is historic. We were focused on this commitment of the 1% set aside for the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF). We promised, and we have delivered.

 

5. For us this is not a commitment to numbers; it is a commitment to the health and well-being of our people. It is a commitment to ‘Making Nigeria Stronger’. We expect that this will continue and even inch upwards as we work to eradicate malaria, and significantly reduce infant and maternal mortality. The statistics that show Nigeria as having one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world – is not the Nigeria we want to leave behind for our children. The journey starts now; let us not look back.

 

6. As you will recall, I had indicated the need for the Executive and the Legislature to come together, especially in the formation and passage of the Appropriation Bill. However, while we may have made progress in the formation stages, there is a lot more that needs to happen, to minimise delays and other stumbling blocks in the process.

 

7. One of the symptoms of the unhelpful aspects of the prevailing culture hampering the process, remains the neglect or refusal of certain agencies of government to honour invitations to budget defence. It is our hope that we will see a major change in this regard, going forward.

 

8. The Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) has been passed; it should of course be duly signed and implemented, so that our people can reap the full dividends of this landmark legislation. We are committed to passing all three parts of the legislation – i.e. Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) – thereby ushering in major reforms that will sanitise the oil industry. I am confident that we will redouble efforts towards passing other major component parts of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) – namely the Fiscal and Host Communities Bills – a process that is currently ongoing.

 

9. Further to the goal of increasing independent revenue, there is the need to review agreements that government has signed with some private sector service providers. It is pertinent to observe that many of these agreements are biased and clearly not in the interest of the country. These are important steps toward freeing up funding for our critical sectors especially now with the increasing need for strengthening our security architecture and capacity across the country to improve on the safety and confidence of our people in government’s ability to provide for their welfare and security.

 

10. It is also hoped that we have put together a Budget that will lend itself easily to the government priority of revamping the economy, creating jobs and fuelling the economic recovery in a manner that has meaning for the ordinary man on the street.

 

11. We would like to see that the process of implementation of the budget starts immediately so that our people will begin to benefit from the objective of the budget and opportunities it opens. In order for us to have an efficient budget implementation, we will advise that agencies of government eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy and speed up the procurement process.

 

12. I congratulate us all, once again, on this accomplishment of passing the 2018 Appropriations Bill; and I enjoin everyone in the legislature and the Executive to do their very best to ensure its successful implementation, for the greater development of our country.

PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE

 

REMARK BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE, HIS EXCELLENCY SENATOR (DR.) ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, CON, AT THE INAUGURATION OF THE SENATE AD HOC COMMITTEE TO INVESTIGATE THE INCIDENCT OF THE SENATE CHAMBER INVASION ON WEDNESDAY THE 18TH OF APRIL, 2018.

REMARK BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE, HIS EXCELLENCY SENATOR (DR.) ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, CON, AT THE INAUGURATION OF THE SENATE AD HOC COMMITTEE TO INVESTIGATE THE INCIDENCT OF THE SENATE CHAMBER INVASION ON WEDNESDAY THE 18TH OF APRIL, 2018.

 

1. It is my honour, distinguished colleagues to inaugurate the Senate Ad Hoc Committee to investigate the Incident of the Senate Chamber Invasion on Wednesday the 18th of April 2018.

 

2. The events of the 18th of April 2018 will go down as one of the darkest days of our democracy. The precincts of the National Assembly is not just a place where the National Assembly meets, it is the symbol of our liberty and freedom from autocracy and the base of our democracy.

 

3. This should not happen. It should never have happened. The violation of this solemn place, the symbol of our liberty to have a government by the representatives of our people for our people by a group of mobsters and criminals cannot simply be ignored. It has been inferred in many quarters that this group of thugs and urchins were led by a serving distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is most despicable and unspeakable.

 

4. It is clear and remains the duty of the legislature when faced with behaviours that undermine its fundamental integrity like this one that the legislature acts to restore the integrity of the institution. We owe it as a duty not only to this present National Assembly but also those to precede it, that the legislative process is purged of this dirt and the legislature restored to its full place of dignity. This is a duty that must be achieved. We cannot let a precedence proceed from this. Everyone involved from conception to execution of this heinous crime must be brought to book.

 

5. This committee, therefore must see its charge as pivotal to the restoration of the sanctity, the preservation of the dignity of the National Assembly and the restoration of the security, integrity and moral authority of the National Assembly.

 

6. To the Committee, I make this charge to be thorough, fair and courageous in the discharge of this assignment. The Senate has deliberately considered your pedigree for this assignment, knowing fully well the enormity of the job ahead. You have been chosen also because we have a great task ahead, to think outside of the box to take lawmaking back to the people through creative interventions.

 

7. This Senate looks up to you to do the nation proud.

 

8. This Senate has confidence that you will discharge your duties with responsibility and probity.

 

9. May I use this opportunity to commend the Clerk of the National Assembly, National Assembly Management and distinguished senators who have worked to ensure that this inauguration is achieved. I wish the committee success.

 

10. I hereby inaugurate the Senate Committee to investigate the Incident of the Senate Chamber Invasion on Wednesday the 18th of April 2018.

 

Thank you.

President of the Senate, and 

Chairman, National Assembly

SPEECH DELIVERED BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE, HIS EXCELLENCY (DR.) ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, CON, MBBS, AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF 58TH ANNUAL GENERAL AND SCIENTIFIC CONFERENCE OF THE NIGERIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (NMA) HELD AT THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE CENTRE (ICC), ABUJA, ON 3 MAY, 2018.

SPEECH DELIVERED BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE, HIS EXCELLENCY (DR.) ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, CON, MBBS, AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF 58TH ANNUAL GENERAL AND SCIENTIFIC CONFERENCE OF THE NIGERIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (NMA) HELD AT THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE CENTRE (ICC), ABUJA, ON 3 MAY, 2018.

 

PROTOCOL.

 

1. It gives me great pleasure to be with you all today at this gathering, which is the 58th Annual General & Scientific Conference of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), here in Abuja. It is always a special feeling when I am amongst the venerated body of Nigeria’s medical doctors and dentists, fellow members of the Hippocratic oath, as I am doing today. I feel very much at home as a member of this Association, in the footsteps of my late father – whose affiliation with the NMA constituency remains a source of pride and inspiration to me.

 

2. Let me therefore, as one of the medical doctors in the house today, welcome all practitioners and stakeholders in the health sector, civil society organisations here present, as well as all health agencies and representatives from the states level – to this all-important 58th annual gathering.

 

3. Health has been a core legislative agenda of the 8th Senate under my leadership, and the nature and demands of my national duties make for a beneficial intersection in my abiding desire and commitment to participating in your activities. Let me commend most heartily the President and all members of the Nigerian Medical Association, especially the members of the organising committee whose meticulous planning has made possible this grand event.

 

4. The mainstay of this year’s conference, with its over-arching focus on the providers, administrators as well as recipients of healthcare in this country – strikes one as very apt indeed, particularly in light of recent events in the polity. The Nigerian health sector especially Primary Health Care, as we all know, has not been adequately attended to, in terms of the standard medical and infrastructural resources needed for the preservation and advancement of citizens’ lives and the economy. This is regrettable because it has retarded progress in our healthcare provision as a country, even in the sub-sectors of the health system. At the core of these issues is funding – or specifically, the lack of funding.

 

5. A look at the subthemes of this conference highlights issues bedeviling the sector, namely: ‘Budgeting for Health Resources in the Nigerian Setting’; ‘Reversing Medical Tourism Through Effective and Efficient Public Private Partnership (PPP) in the Health Care System of Nigeria’; and ‘The National Health Act – Four Years After, Where Are WE?’

 

6. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is pertinent to observe that these sub-themes represent a foundational structure that should act as much needed springboard to, at the very least, help us sustain our people and make Nigeria stronger for global participation and competition into the future.

 

7. Key to this needed sustenance and strength for our people, as I have noted, is the issue of funding for the health sector. This represents the agreed sum of income and expenditure, an agreed figure for a specific time and specific organisation, usually expected to be in tandem with organisational and institutional financial requirements. The sobering truth is unavoidable, that funding for medical activities in Nigeria calls to be looked into, seriously and with urgency.

 

8. As I intimated when the delegation led by the NMA President and the Executive called on me at my office yesterday, and as I reiterate now, Primary and Universal Health Care provision is a key legislative agenda for the 8th Senate under my leadership. It is a promise that we have made to Nigerians, and one that we are determined to keep. In July last year, I launched the Legislative Network for Universal Health Coverage; and urged the Federal Government to honour the Abuja Declaration (2001), while calling for full implementation of the National Health Act 2014, which – as some of you will recall – I helped formulate during the 7thSenate.

 

9. Therefore, there is no better place than here today, to announce that the issue of funding will be attended to in our budgetary review of the 2018 Appropriations Bill. The Senate has, with the cooperation of the House of Representatives, resolved to mandate our Committees on Appropriations to ensure that the pledge to set aside 1 per cent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) is met. This would be the underpinning for a legislative framework for the BHCPF and revitalisation of primary health care delivery across the nation.

 

10. It will happen, and it is imminent. We are working hard to achieve this, and – as I said during the courtesy call yesterday – we believe the 1 per cent will be a good parting gift from the 8th Senate to the NMA President as he comes to the end of his illustrious tenure. Better healthcare for Nigerians is long overdue, and we now have the historic opportunity to put that right. Once this 1 per cent is put into law, we as legislators will embark on the next stage, which will be to ensure that we get value for money, for transparency in the use of the funds.

 

11. With respect to Medical Tourism, Nigeria ranks amongst the top countries visiting international shores for medical treatment and support. We lose more than $1bn annually to medical tourism; and it is untenable and unsustainable. Some countries even go to great lengths to streamline certain aspects of their health policies specifically for Nigerians.

 

It is a damning indictment of what we have not been able to provide for our own citizens in this country, such that a great many feel they have to go elsewhere, at great cost to the individual and collective purse.

 

12. I must say that I have always been a strong advocate of mutually beneficial collaborative arrangements. When the Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria paid me a visit late last year, I touched on the need for authorities in that country to partner with the Nigerian Government in encouraging Indian investors to also build and maintain world-class health facilities here. With Nigeria’s upward review in the Ease of Doing Business index, coupled with the right government support, I have no doubt that Public Private Partnership (PPP) will yield a positive result for our medical system, so that we may begin to reverse the trend of medical tourism.

 

13. In addition, we must find a way to reverse another negative trend in the system, which is the gradual loss of our doctors and brightest brains to foreign medical institutions. This drain in medical expertise is plain to see, and should be a major concern for all of us. In acknowledging the feats and strides of our citizens in the diaspora, we must also recognise the need to build, harness and sustain local content. We cannot achieve our collective goals as a people without developing this country to the point where we are self-sufficient.

 

14. Let me assure you all that we in the National Assembly are always focused toward policies that positively affect the lives of the average Nigerian. In so doing, amongst other duties, we seek to provide not just the legislative framework but the political will for institutions such as yours to get things done.

 

15. To effectively revisit and review existing laws as pertain to the health sector, the NMA – given its leadership role and the expectation of the public that is looking unto you – must be at the forefront of engaging the National Assembly and providing the requisite information for the continuous deliberation and understanding of lawmakers. As you do so, let me extend to this gathering the assurance that the 8thNational Assembly is desirous of examining, amending and updating, as applicable, existing health laws and enacting new ones, to bring us to where we need to be as a nation.

 

16. All these can be done with your support and collaboration, which we shall continue to rely on. I thank you all for your advocacy, your hard work and tenacity on behalf of Nigerians. Your passion and integrity are the hallmarks of this great Association, and are a credit to us all. Together, we shall revive this sector, for social inclusion and in providing health and education to all Nigerians, for a stronger nation.

 

17. I congratulate the outgoing President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) for his achievements – and also for laying a solid foundation for his successor who, I am sure, will work just as hard to ensure that the medical sector in this country attains an enviable status regionally and worldwide.

 

I wish you all a successful conference.

 

PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE

 

 

KEYNOTE ADDRESS DELIVERED BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, HIS EXCELLENCY (DR.) ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, AT THE AFRICA FINANCE FORUM ORGANISED BY THE CORPORATE COUNCIL ON AFRICA IN WASHINGTON D.C., UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

KEYNOTE ADDRESS DELIVERED BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, HIS EXCELLENCY (DR.) ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, CON, MBBS, AT THE AFRICA FINANCE FORUM ORGANISED BY THE CORPORATE COUNCIL ON AFRICA IN WASHINGTON D.C., UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ON APRIL 18, 2018.

 

PROTOCOL.

 

It gives me great pleasure to be among you here at the Africa Finance Forum. It is always time well spent when we come together like this to share ideas on ways of propelling the economic growth of the continent. Only a few weeks ago, I was at the Georgetown Africa Business Conference in this city. I see the Africa Finance Forum as a further opportunity to expand on the discussions from that conference and to channel them in various, equally profitable directions. In this instance, there is the platform to explore the role being played by the FinTech industry in driving growth and innovation in the finance sector and financing on the African continent. I thank the organisers for inviting me.

 

The Corporate Council on Africa is to be commended for the successful convening of this very important event, therefore; and for the inspired focus on the FinTech environment on the continent, which, as we all recognise, is entering into an unprecedented period of boom. I would like to talk a bit about what this holds in store for the continent, but I must also, necessarily, particularise my focus by dwelling on my country, Nigeria. In doing so, I hope to share some background as experienced in Nigeria thus far with regard to FinTech, as well as the steps we are taking in the Nigerian legislature to regulate the banking industry and facilitate digital finance in the country.

 

FinTech has enjoyed a tremendous upsurge in the global economy, but it is also true that excitement is revving up for Africa as the next frontier in this industry. Consider this encounter related to me just this past week by a friend who went on a 10-hour road trip from Nigerias capital Abuja to the commercial centre of Lagos, in the south-west of the country. He was travelling through stretch of rural countryside when he stopped to buy some plantains from a roadside seller, a young woman with a baby on her back. When he muttered that he could not buy as much as was on offer despite the persuasive sales pitch, due to limited naira notes in his wallet, the woman without missing a beat – asked him in Pidgin English, Oga, You No Get Transfer? Not such a country bumpkin after all. The seller was, of course, referring to the popular USSD or web-based mobile funds transfer services, now offered by most banks in Nigeria. Such is the impact of the digital finance revolution now apace on the continent, you underestimate the rural plantain seller at your peril.

 

Without a doubt, the success of FinTechs and their chain of strategic responses have challenged the activities of the major actors in the financial services industry across Africa. They are transforming the operational space of traditional innovation; and with a massive potential for creating significant revenue generation opportunities for African economies. The facts speak for themselves. A KPMG Report found that investment in the African FinTech sector quadrupled in the three years up to 2017 from $198 million to $800 million. 2017 was a phenomenally successful year for African tech start-ups in general; over $195 million was raised in funding, an increase of 51 per cent on 2016. This is according to the Disrupt Africa African Tech Start-Ups Funding Report 2017 – which noted that the number of start-ups receiving funding rose to 159. FinTech companies received almost a third of that funding due to their pull for investors eager to tap into the huge potentials in the sector.

 

Nigeria is now one of the top three African destinations for tech investors. And this should be no surprise. One needs only take a look at the flourishing tech hubs in Yaba in Lagos, Nigeria or Nairobi, Kenya – to get a sense of the radical changes being made possible by technology in the economic landscape of these countries. Naturally, a continent with a fast growing, youth-powered population that is plugged into content production and keen to keep abreast of information, must innovate. With apps and entertainment platforms aided by broadband technology that is driven by young African investors, the industry is scaling new heights. Tech start-ups proved particularly resilient during the recent slump in the Nigerian economy. These companies not only emerged from the recession relatively unscathed, they are attracting major seed funding and driving business growth.

 

One remarkable factor is the convergence of two sectors: mobile telecommunications and finance. In Nigeria, for example, tele-density has grown from less than one per cent to 108 per cent in just 16 years of the liberalisation of the telecoms sector, making ours one of the fastest growing telecommunications sectors in the world. The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) estimates that investment in the sector is now in excess of 68 billion dollars contributing up to 15 trillion naira into the countrys treasury – the Federations Account, as we call it in Nigeria. The sector has created hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs, while also driving businesses and innovations in the ICT sub-sector. This explosion is clear evidence of the uniquely expansive market when you have a population of about 180 million people, half of whom are between the ages of 15 to 35.

 

And here is really exciting thing, ladies and gentlemen, the potential for growth in this area of convergence, the investment opportunity, is simply incalculable, especially when we are talking of a country like Nigeria. Yes, indeed, 7 out of every 10 Africans own mobile phones but in Nigeria, that corresponds to only 15.5 million smartphone users at present, a mere 23 per cent. Internet penetration is still less than half of the population, at 47 per cent. This really comes into focus in a continent where only 17 per cent of the population has access to banking services. And so, rather than FinTechs role as a disruptive force in the more developed economies such as here in the United States, digital financing is actually the key to bridging the gap in the banking sector across many African countries.

 

In my speech at the first Africa FinTech Foundry (AFF) 2017 Conference held in Lagos last December, I touched on the need to accelerate the growth of FinTech start-ups that can rise to the challenge of providing access to banking services for the unbanked in Africa. This is so that more people, like that plantain seller by the rural roadside, can be empowered to conduct economic activity and make or receive payment in a seamless manner. It also opens up the economic space for greater financial inclusion, thereby enabling Nigerians at all levels to be drivers of economic growth.

 

In the 8th National Assembly under my leadership, we have pursued a robust economic legislative agenda; and the two legislative chambers namely the Senate for which I am President; and the Federal House of Representatives have worked closely with the Nigerian Presidency to reform the economy for greater efficiency and transparency. We are working to expand opportunity for our people to grow wealth, create employment and aspire to better standards of living and the private sector is the pivot for realising these goals. We have, therefore, made economic laws a priority, to foster ease of doing business and to increase private sector participation at all levels of the economy.

 

No fewer than 500 tech start-ups have come up in the Nigerian technology eco-system over the last decade, enabling business processes and by so doing, enhancing economic activity and providing Africa-led solutions to economic problems. However, without funding, many of these ventures and tech start-ups would flounder, to the detriment of the economy. In our pursuit of a robust FinTech-driven digital economy, therefore, we are mindful of the need to use technology to bridge the funding gap between innovators, regulators and government.

 

We recognise the role of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in economic growth and development; and that is why the National Assembly has prioritised the passage of landmark economic laws to enable SMEs to grow and prosper, including: the Warehouse Receipts Bill; the Secured Transactions in Movable Assets Bill and the Credit Reporting Bill. SMEs employ around 80 per cent of the Nigerian labour force; and can help bring down the unemployment rate. In light of all of this, the potential of FinTech to grow SMEs cannot be overstated. Nor can we over-emphasise the importance of the use of digital financial services – such as mobile banking, mobile money, internet banking, ATM and PoS machines – to achieve financial inclusion. The ease and cost of processing and collecting payments for products delivered, or services rendered, is critical to the success of the modern-day SME. And, thanks to the growth of the FinTech Industry in Nigeria, the cost of integrating online payments to a website is drastically reduced.

 

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), as a signatory to the MAYA Declaration, has launched a Nigerian Financial Inclusion Strategy which aims to halve the number of financially excluded Nigerians, to bring it down to 20 per cent by Year 2020. Already, the average citizen can carry out transactions using Short Codes, thus banking is made available to mobile phone users. There is greater ease in carrying out bank transactions, as most banks in Nigeria have mobile apps that enable banking outside bank premises or traditional opening hours. The unbanked are increasingly being banked; financial transactions can now be carried out in areas where there no banks; and Nigerians can easily transfer cash to people in the rural and suburban locations the same way as those in remote areas can carry out transactions without going in search of a bank.

 

These all point in the direction that Nigeria needs to go, as one of the fastest growing digital financial platforms in the world, in order to reap the full benefits of the FinTech revolution. So far, banks have been the most active players in partnering with FinTechs and rebranding related purchased services. And not for no reason. The 2017 Nigeria FinTech Survey Report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) found that more than 62 per cent of bank customers in the country will use mobile applications to access financial services over the next five years. The potential for growth in digital financing is simply enormous in Nigeria; and the signs abound in our business terrain.

 

This is why this topic is so timely as it is coinciding with our work at the National Assemblyin particular the 8th Senate through the Committee on Banking and Financial Institutionsto ensure financial inclusion for all; especially in the rural areas where a large percentage still remains unbanked; by bridging services between the banking and telecommunications sectors. The two sectors have been meeting to find a financial inclusion or services model that works for the complexities of our people and opens up more opportunities for economic growth at all levels of society. Our model could borrow from the success stories of countries like Kenya and South Africa but will be uniquely tailored to our needs and entrepreneurial spirit.

 

The net impact of our legislative interventions; through the relevant Committees oversight and engagement will be to expand the ability of our banking sector to facilitate digital financing, expand the opportunity for financial services penetration and reach with the SMEs, and for enterprise support. We believe that these will give a fillip to the development of innovation and private sector capacity across the country. You will agree with me that innovation is the engine that powers financial inclusion. We are therefore working assiduously to encourage innovation in the FinTech space in Nigeria, and we shall continue to do so.

 

As you might imagine, there are many challenges raised by the growth of FinTech in Nigeria. These include consumer protection and intellectual property issues as well as concerns about money laundering, fraudulent activity and so on. And then there is the data quagmire; legal and ethical questions raised by the use and abuse of data are the subject of global anxiety right now. FinTech growth requires us to pay attention to all of these, and to come up with regulatory frameworks that will safeguard our people. Therefore, as we seek to improve the business environment for SMEs and tech entrepreneurs in Nigeria, we are also committed to passing legislation that strikes a balance between facilitating the sector and maintaining a secure financial system.

 

We are continuously working work to reframe our payment systems, strengthen mechanisms for electronic commerce, reduce non-performing loans and strengthen the credit market for SMEs through a broad range of legislative interventions. These include: the Electronic Transactions Act; the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (Repeal and Re-Enactment) Bill; the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission Act which creates a Consumer Protection Commission to safeguard consumers from fraud and price manipulation; and the Consumer Credit Agency Act which allows lenders to better assess the credit worthiness of loan applicants.

 

The Credit Reporting Act, which has been signed into law, will enable the market reduce credit delinquencies. This bill would serve as a behaviour changing and institutional framework that brings sanity into the credit community and inspires confidence in the Nigerian market, drawing in more participants.

 

The Secure Transactions in Movable Assets is the signature bill in our support of SMEs. It frees up capital and creates opportunity for the funding of SME ventures as never seen before in Nigeria. With this law, we have created a new stream of opportunity for SMEs to access capital by using movable goods including small machinery, cell phones and even household items as collateral. The implication of this is enormous in terms of dealing with capital formation and poverty eradication.

 

Our work is not exhaustive and will continue to adapt to changes that innovation in technology brings. We are confident in the signals we are sending to the world, that Nigeria fully intends to key into the astronomical growth of the FinTech industry and to harness its full potential for the benefit of the largest economy in Africa; and we welcome any partnerships that ensure that this happens.

 

Thank you.

 

THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE 

Federal Republic of Nigeria 

OPENING REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE, HIS EXCELLENCY, (DR.) ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, CON, MBBS, AT THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY PUBLIC HEARING ON THE 2018 BUDGET, HELD ON MARCH 27, 2018.

OPENING REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE, HIS EXCELLENCY, (DR.) ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, CON, MBBS, AT THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY PUBLIC HEARING ON THE 2018 BUDGET, HELD ON MARCH 27, 2018.

 

PROTOCOL.

 

1. It is my pleasure to welcome you all to the Joint National Public Hearing on the 2018 Budget. When the first joint session took place last year, the conclusion was indicative of our intention to make this an annual event, and we are keeping to that resolve.

 

2. In the 8th National Assembly, we believe that the citizens, who we represent, are critical stakeholders in nation building. We promised, and were the first Nigerian legislature to make the civil society part of the budget process through the institutionalization of the Public Hearing process as part of the Budget process. For the first time, civil society has a voice at the table, with regard to the Budget. Public Hearing on the Budget as part of the enactment process, has come to stay.

 

3. It is with that in mind that this forum has been designed to bring together civil society and non-governmental organisations, as well as thought-leaders in the online and social media circle – and, of course, the Executive and Legislature – as an interactive session on the public Budget.

 

4. Distinguished Guests, you will recall that the National Assembly started its consideration of the 2018 Budget as soon as it was presented by Mr. President. In line with our commitments to making the enactment process more transparent and inclusive, as earlier described, this interactive session is intended to enable us to consider fresh opinions, explore other dimensions and weigh new perspectives on the 2018 Federal Budget proposal.

 

5. Unlike the maiden edition held on the 13th of February last year – when we considered the 2017 Appropriations Bill – this two-day session affords participants the platform to engage – not only on the details of the Appropriations Bill – but also on the underlying assumptions driving the Budget revenue, which we believe are critical for a successful implementation of the Budget.

 

6. As you may be aware, in our interrogation of the 2018 Budget proposal, we have chosen to place more emphasis on getting our revenue projections right. The importance of setting realistic revenue targets, and achieving them, cannot be overemphasised – especially as revenue performance has tended to fall below targets in the past.

 

7. Moreover, we are concerned about Government-Owned Enterprises whose operating surpluses have always been significantly lower than projections. Invariably, over the years, the performance of independent revenues has fallen short by at least 50 per cent. While we work towards setting new performance standards for government corporations as well as developing stronger oversight frameworks to improve performance in independent revenues, we do expect more realistic projections of Corporations operating surpluses.

 

8. It is also observable that non-oil revenue performances have been impacted by policy inconsistencies and leakages. Thus, in addition to our call for improved systems and processes to plug revenue leakages, we had required that the 2018 Budget proposal be accompanied by a 2018 Finance Bill (which has so far not been received by the National Assembly). Let me therefore use this opportunity to, once again, emphasise the need for the Finance Bill. We want government to show clarity and consistency in its policies and to see how these will square up to its financial projections for 2018.

 

9. We acknowledge Nigeria’s huge infrastructural deficit, as well as the need to expand planned expenditure. However, you will agree with me that, while it is important to achieve equity and balance in the spread of development projects around the country, we must also prioritise human capital development. It is in this vein that the National Assembly will prioritise expenditure on critical health and education facilities as well as soft infrastructure.

 

10. Furthermore, we must ensure an adherence to the 1% resolution to health. This requires the Basic Health Fund to be funded by 1% of the Consolidated National Fund. This funding, which amounts to 86 billion naira, has yet to be committed. When the Speaker and I met with Bill Gates last week, the emphasis was on health, and it is something we should take very seriously indeed, especially as the 1% resolution would go a long way in boosting basic maternal and child health immunisation services as well as local and rural community health in this country.

 

11. In addition, there is the need to ensure real value-for-money in government spending as well as prioritise spending on locally made goods. The Made-in-Nigeria initiative, with particular regard to government procurements, is already the thrust of a significant law passed by the 8th National Assembly – and which has the added advantage of helping to revamp our industrial base. This is one sure way of creating opportunities for local entrepreneurs, encouraging private sector partnerships and creating jobs, especially for the youth.

 

12. As a legislature, we are acutely aware that modern democratic lawmaking requires the deliberate engagement of the people; and that issues that matter most to the people should form the core objective of parliament. And so, for the first time, the National Assembly is becoming the People’s Parliament – where all shades of opinions are ventilated and experts are also able to have the space to contribute to the fashioning of solutions that will endure.

 

 

13. It is therefore my firm belief that, with your inputs and contributions at this Public Hearing, the 2018 Budget will deliver the envisioned socio-economic benefits to Nigerians in an all-inclusive manner. That is why we strongly encourage stakeholders’ participation in the process, especially as it relates to the provision of public services and equitable distribution of social benefits.

 

14. I urge everyone to feel free and be constructive in our submissions, as this will not only enhance the outcome of this interactive session but engender the attainment of the development interest of Nigerians.

 

15. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, let me assure you that your suggestions will be carefully considered and utilised in ensuring that we pass a Budget that addresses our core development needs in a sustainable and inclusive manner.

 

16. I wish you fruitful deliberations, as I formally declare open this Joint Public Hearing, to the greater development and prosperity of Nigeria.

 

Thank you.

PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE

 

 

KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, HIS EXCELLENCY (DR.) ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, CON, MBBS, AT THE SENATE ROUNDTABLE ON MIGRATION AND HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN NIGERIA, HELD IN BENIN CITY, EDO STATE ON FEBRUARY 26, 2018

KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, HIS EXCELLENCY (DR.) ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, CON, MBBS, AT THE SENATE ROUNDTABLE ON MIGRATION AND HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN NIGERIA, HELD IN BENIN CITY, EDO STATE ON FEBRUARY 26, 2018.

 

PROTOCOL.

 

1. Let me extend warm greetings to everyone here, especially my distinguished colleagues in the Senate, representatives of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), our international partners, dignitaries, speakers and invited guests. You are all welcome to the Senate Roundtable on Migration and Human Trafficking in Nigeria, a Two-Day discourse starting today in Benin City, Edo State.

 

2. The theme centres on Irregular Migration – which some refer to as Illegal Migration – and Human Trafficking; two issues that have become a bane of our existence as a nation. Nigeria currently ranks 23 on the Global Slavery Index of 167 countries with the highest number of slaves. Human trafficking is third in the ignoble hierarchy of the commonly occurring crimes in Nigeria, according to UNESCO.

 

3. Irregular migration has been a disastrous development for our continent; and the stark realisation becomes even more so, when we narrow the focus to Nigeria – which accounts for the world’s highest number of irregular migrants going through the Agadez Route. Our citizens represent the fifth largest number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea into Europe; and the number of females arriving in Italy alone increased 600-fold in just three years.

 

4. And what of those who perish along the way – who are sucked into the void between the desert and the raging sea and are never seen again? 10,000 Nigerians are estimated to have lost their lives on the perilous journey in five months of last year alone. We have seen the bleak images of coffins of 26 Nigerian girls who were laid to rest in Italy last November. And while media attention is often focused on those rescued at sea or washed up along Europe’s shores, United Nations’ estimates suggest that more migrants die crossing the Sahara than the Mediterranean. This is human tragedy on a colossal scale, and to reel off the statistics is to recite a litany to doomed youth.

 

5. That is what brings us today to ancient Benin, throne of kings, a centre of culture and home to one of the greatest artistic traditions in the world – which gave us the 16th century Mask of Queen Idia, the imperishable icon of FESTAC ’77. That is the Benin we know and revere. But today, there is disquiet in the land. His Excellency Governor Godwin Obaseki declared earlier this month that the irregular migration of Edo citizens had reached ‘epidemic proportions’ – pointing out that 10,000 persons had been traffickedin one year, and 3,000 lost their lives during the same period. The trafficking of young males has overtaken females in this state for the first time, and now stands at 63 per cent.

 

6. I thank Governor Obaseki for his determined leadership in the face of the crisis, and for being our gracious host for this Roundtable. Recognition or acknowledgement of a problem is a crucial step in seeking solution, because in that way, we banish denial. Nor can we be in denial of the fact that this is something that affects many Nigerian communities. It would be illusory to think that this is a problem for Edo State alone; it is a Nigerian problem. Young people all over the country are entranced by the lure of life abroad, and it appears many are willing to risk their lives for it. It is our expectation, therefore, that this Roundtable will serve as a springboard to efforts to stem the tide.

 

7. The Roundtable is intended to draw attention to the situation, to give confidence to our people and to let them know that we are troubled by this. We are losing sleep over irregular migration and human trafficking; and we are determined, as representatives of the people, to do something about it.

 

8. Therefore, this summit should help identify how legislation – which is the primary function of the National Assembly – and policy – a joint responsibility – can be brought to bear in addressing the problem. The irregular migration of Africans to faraway countries – especially in the Western hemisphere – is not new, but it has assumed a much more worrying dimension in recent times. And Nigerians seem to lead the ignominious pack. Of asylum applications rejected by European countries since 2011, Nigerians accounted for nearly 100,000 – almost three times the number of any other African country.

 

9. Even more alarming is the spectre of human trafficking – and worst of all, the enslavement of Africans, including Nigerians, in some countries. Who can forget 21-year-old Victor, who told CNN in one viral video that he was sold into slavery while in transit? “I spent my life savings leaving the country,” he narrated. Ponder that for a moment, if you will; many Nigerians waste funds that could have been ploughed into profitable enterprise, in the quest for an ever shifting horizon. Victor is symbolic of the best of us, being lost to the desert and the sea in their search for what they think is a better life. It no longer seems appropriate to call this a Brain Drain; rather, it is the lifeblood of Africa draining away.

 

10. And you wonder… why? This Roundtable is designed to help answer some of the niggling questions. To identify root causes and the various dimensions of the problem, as well as areas where legislation and policy can be used – in the short term – to stem the outward flow of our people; and – in the long term – to see how Nigeria and the rest of the world can collaborate to reduce the damage to national economies, societies and the global economy.

 

11. I should say that the particular impetus behind this initiative by the Senate, lies in disturbing images of thousands and thousands of Africans, including a large number of Nigerians, imperiling life, limb and liberty in the hope of attaining a dream that is often more myth than reality. It is time to lay bare the mirage that tricks young, able-bodied, energetic and potentially productive Africans like Victor into leaving the relative certainty of the fatherland. We must drive home the message that they are undertaking these highly uncertain and risky journeys for countries where, even if they get there, they will likely live wretched, subterranean lives as fugitives from the law. The irregular migrant’s desperate dreams are often not realisable. It is a pipe dream.

 

12. As you might imagine, the media images have shocked the leadership of this country and indeed the whole of Africa; and it would be irresponsible and a betrayal of the people’s trust if no action is taken to reverse the trend. As we have seen, the immediate response of the Nigerian government has been to commence the repatriation of our citizens stranded in countries such as Libya, and many are now back on Nigerian soil. We must commend the initiative of President Muhammadu Buhari, who moved swiftly to come to the aid of citizens marooned in foreign lands, and prioritised their return.

 

13. And yet, in spite of those images that show in no uncertain terms what befell many that went before, we have reports that thousands are still willing to take a chance on the same deadly route. The question we then have to ask is: what is the spur to these dangerous odysseys?

 

14. We have lost too many young people who have died in the desert and in the sea on these unpredictable treks.

 

15. We have lost too many young people who would otherwise have found productive lives in their home country.

 

16. And have we not lost our dignity as a people, watching our freeborn citizens sold as slaves in lands that are themselves teetering on the brink?

 

17. We have had to endure the trauma of a history we thought ended two centuries ago with the abolition of the slave trade. A history we thought we would never see repeat itself. A history of the enslavement of our people by outsiders. And the bitter irony of that history – whereas Black Africans were forcibly taken across the seas during the Transatlantic Slave Trade, we now have the absurdity of youths wilfully walking into bondage.

 

18. We must therefore ask ourselves some searching questions. For one, how has it become such an easy option for thousands of young females born into proud and civilised cultures to find their ways into prostitution and other forms of crimes, as well as dehumanised existence in other countries? How is it that they drag Nigeria’s image into disrepute and put themselves in harm’s way in one go?

 

19. Are the answers to be found in an economy that does not sufficiently address the needs and aspirations of young people? Or in the erosion of societal values and the enthronement of greed, immediate gratification and the worship of money? Or is it the failure of community leaders to exercise the responsibility bestowed on them by our culture?

 

20. Additionally, we should ask whether the Nigerian state has not failed its citizens. Why is it so easy for huge numbers of young Nigerians to leave home, go through borders illegally, enter other nations’ borders, and cross those borders without being detected or prevented? Clearly, something is wrong in the way we manage citizens’ security, border security as well as international cooperation and collaboration.

 

21. We are not comforted by the international community raising alarm about the large numbers of our citizens within their borders. While Nigeria should collaborate with destination countries, we should also join in undertaking a mutual enquiry as to whether those nations themselves do not compound the problem with some of their policies. We make bold to ask our international partners: what have you done and what are the sincere and humane steps taken to bring an end to this crisis? You certainly can do more to collaborate with us because whether we like it or not, you also have a responsibility in this matter. We have seen international summits on Syria, for example. But what we are seeing here is also worthy of international intervention. This is a silent holocaust of African humanity unfolding, and it cannot be allowed to go on. It simply cannot be allowed to go on.

 

22. I must stress, however, that this is not a blame game. The idea is to collaborate in a responsible manner, to make certain that agencies in Africa, Europe and the wider world are not failing in their duty on this issue. Let me make it abundantly clear that Nigeria is willing to collaborate with all countries of the world on irregular migration. With our international partners, we should be able to work out a carrot-and-stick approach that gives our people the incentive to stay on the continent and strive. Every human being deserves his or her own place in the sun – and for many, that place in the sun is here, in Africa – but they have to stay in order to find it.

 

23. Awaiting repatriation, Victor lamented to CNN: “The problem is, how I am going to start again?” As policy makers, we must have a reassuring response to Victor’s plaintive enquiry. Naturally, we recognise that part of the solution is to evolve an economy that would make it less tempting for young people to leave. It is also important to try and examine whether we can adopt constructive, innovative strategies and policies with countries that receive large numbers of irregular migrants. We commend the initiative of countries that are actively involved in looking for solutions and options that include skills acquisition, education as well as laws legalising the stay of some Nigerians in their jurisdictions.

 

24. Above all, we as Nigerians need to take a hard look at ourselves. We need to reexamine our value systems and ask some very difficult questions, because clearly, poverty alone cannot account for this debacle. Without holding excuses for government, let us reason with ourselves as Nigerians. Is our economy worse than that of Burkina Faso, Chad or some other countries out there? However bad we think the situation is, surely there are some things that we, as a people, would not want to be associated with?

 

25. Communities and leaders at all levels must therefore come together to find solutions to what appears to be a total collapse of the value system that once placed premium on hard work, respect for the law and perseverance in the search for lawful means. In spite of our limitations, Nigeria is a great country, and in no shape or form should our people be leaving in the thousands via irregular routes on the plea of poverty or insecurity.

 

26. In closing, let me set out what I think are the main goals of this Roundtable, and these are:

 

i. To improve collaboration between the Nigerian state and other countries on irregular migration;

 

ii. To put a stop to human trafficking, an aberration and an assault on our standing as a civilised nation;

 

iii. To improve legislation and policy in the longer term, so as to put in place effective mechanisms for arresting the twin scourge;

 

iv. To see to ways of improving funding and other support to MDAs including the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), in order to increase their capacity for tackling the culprits; the deterrence, reorientation and rehabilitation of victims; as well as greater synergy between relevant authorities;

 

v. To facilitate and fast-track all pending treaties and agreements that are necessary to put in place, in order to effectively deal with this issue; and

 

vi. To ginger our international partners to meet us halfway, and come up with incentives that will encourage more Africans to opt for legal migration – for example, through more embracing and creative visa regimes, as well as other workable initiatives.

 

27. Whilst we are seeking an end to human trafficking and modern day slavery, we as Nigerians must look inward in our everyday lives and take steps to eradicate every semblance of domestic trafficking and slavery in our midst. Big changes begin with the seemingly little ones.

 

28. And, for the sake of our people caught in the vortex of illegal migration and its evils, we must not relent. The cry of #BlackLivesMatter has reverberated throughout the world. These ones too, who are trekking into bondage or death, are also black lives – and we must begin to trumpet the affirmation here in Nigeria that their lives matter, too – by taking decisive action that will lead to a significant reversal of these unfortunate trends.

 

29. Timing is a very crucial factor here; and so, permit me to sound an additional note of urgency on this matter. I believe we have a window of about six months to get something done – before the polity is taken over by politicking ahead of the next general election. Let us seize the moment, and take the opportunity for action on the subject of this summit.

 

30. Do we promise that illegal migration and human trafficking will stop immediately after this Roundtable? No one can promise that. However, with you and us and the support and cooperation of our international partners, we can give hope to Nigerians that – Yes – there is a government that exists and cares for the people. The solution needs all of us, coming together with a common purpose. Together, we can do this.

Thank you all very much.

 

THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE

 

OPENING REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, HIS EXCELLENCY DR. ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, CON, MBBS, ON THE OCCASION OF A ONE DAY PUBLIC HEARING BY THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON INTERIOR ON FOUR PRISON REFORM BILLS ON THURSDAY FEBRUARY 15TH, 2018

OPENING REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, HIS EXCELLENCY DR. ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, CON, MBBS, ON THE OCCASION OF A ONE DAY PUBLIC HEARING BY THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON INTERIOR ON FOUR PRISON REFORM BILLS ON THURSDAY FEBRUARY 15TH, 2018.

 

PROTOCOL,

 

1. It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to this Public Hearing organized by The Senate Committee on Interior on four Bills which are of significant importance to the reformation of our Prison services nation wide. The Bills for consideration are:

i. AN ACT TO AMEND THE PRISONS ACT CAP P. 29 LAWS OF THE FEDERATION OF NIGERIA, 2004 AND ENACT THE NIGERIAN PRISONS AND CORRECTIONAL SERVICE BILL TO MAKE PROVISIONS FOR THE ADMINISTRATION OF PRISONS IN NIGERIA AND OTHER RELATED MATTERS, 2017.

ii. AN ACT TO AMEND THE PRISONS ACT CAP P. 29 LAWS OF THE FEDERATION OF NIGERIA, 2004 TO PROVIDE FOR A MOTHER AND BABY UNIT FOR THE CARE OF FEMALE PRISONERS WHO ARE NURSING MOTHERS AND THIER BABIES AND FOR RELATED MATTERS

 

iii. NIGERIAN PRISONS AND CORRECTIONAL SERVICES ACT, 2016.

iv. CORRECTION, REFORMATION AND REINTERGRATING CENTRE (ESTABLISHMENT) BILL, 2018.

 

2. The dilapidated state of our prisons demonstrates a condition that cannot guarantee the reformation the prison process should have on inmates. The current state of disrepair decay of infrastructure, intra institutional culture and worrying outcomes we all witness today from our prison service have made reform of the institutional regulatory and legal structures imperative. Our prison sector remains a very key public institution for the rehabilitation and reformation of individuals in breach of our ethos and criminal justice process.

 

3. A recent survey by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics shows that there are about 70,000 in mates with over 80 percent awaiting trials. These figures I believe can be reduced drastically if all arms of government work together to bring a more efficient prison system in Nigeria. As legislators, we will continue to use the legislative process to make laws that will create a more organized public sector.

 

4. The prison system, which ideally should have been solely for correction of prison inmates through counselling, rehabilitations and reform of inmates, has today, become a breeding ground for hardened criminals who become worse than they were when they got into prison. This could be attributed to the over emphasis on punishment as against rehabilitation by the Act establishing the prison system.

 

5. The four Bills slated for consideration today was well received by the Senate when it was read a second time during plenary. I thank the Sponsors of this Bills, Senator Shaba Lafiagi, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, Senator Babajide Omoworare and Senator Gershom Bassey. Their persuasive debate and the content of the Bills are the reasons why we are all here.

 

6. On Tuesday February 13th, 2018, the Senate Leadership received members of the National Committee on Prisons Reform. In our engagement, we agreed that there is a lot of work to be done and that it would need a lot of collaboration between the legislature and interested parties to ensure a comprehensive prisons reform in Nigeria.

 

7. Going forward from that meeting, I believe that we need a new approach to prisons decongestion. It is a national scandal that many prisons are overcrowded by up to 90 percent. Urgent new measures should be put in place to speedily decongest prisons not only in the interest of justice but to save cost for prisons maintenance and enhance the welfare of prisoners.

8. I commend the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Interior, Senator Andy Uba and other members of the Committee for ensuring that today’s Public Hearing takes place. The experience of the legislators in this committee gives all of us the right confidence that they will handle this task thoroughly.

 

9. I also thank the invited stakeholders and all who have come from far and near for this Public Hearing. It is a testament to how much we all need to improve the quality of the prison system in the country. Let me state it clearly that the Senate is yet to take a position on any of these Bills. Therefore, your contributions will go a long way in adding substance and acceptance to the content of the Bills.

 

10. I sincerely believe that with the collective wisdom of everyone seated here, we can deliver a legal framework that will finally make our prisons rehabilitation centers in tandem with the best global practices.

 

 

 

11. On this note, I hereby declare today’s Public Hearing open.

 

PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE

 

 

 

 

 

ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, HIS EXCELLENCY (DR.) ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, MBBS, CON, AT THE 9TH MEETING OF CLERKS OF THE NIGERIAN LEGISLATURES, HELD IN CONFERENCE HALL NO. 231, SENATE NEW BUILDING, ABUJA, ON FEBRUARY 9, 2018.

ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, HIS EXCELLENCY (DR.) ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, MBBS, CON, AT THE 9TH MEETING OF CLERKS OF THE NIGERIAN LEGISLATURES, HELD IN CONFERENCE HALL NO. 231, SENATE NEW BUILDING, ABUJA, ON FEBRUARY 9, 2018.

PROTOCOL.

1. Let me on behalf of the Senate and the entire 8th National Assembly welcome you all to the National Assembly and to Abuja for the 9th Meeting of Clerks of the Nigerian Legislatures. I note that the objective of this meeting is, amongst others, to promote interactions between Clerks of the National and State Houses of Assembly, to enhance effective and efficient service delivery; and also to review the experiences of various levels of legislatures since the advent of the 8th Assembly in 2015. This is very welcome, for this kind of self-assessment can only make for greater efficiency and cohesiveness in the administrative engines that power the legislature at various levels.

2. I understand that the Conference of Clerks of Nigerian Legislature, as an initiative, started in 2005 – but the meetings have not been consistent over the years. It is hoped that every effort will be made to ensure regular conferences of this august gathering going forward. This is clearly an initiative that needs to be sustained. Not only does it afford administrators of Nigerian parliaments the opportunity to examine and redesign strategies for improving parliamentary administration and developing the associated support services – it is also a platform for energising the sustainability of Nigeria’s fledgling legislative democracy.

3. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, you will agree with me that your role as administrators of Nigerian Parliaments – especially as Chief Executive Officers in an environment dominated by political figures who may, at times, show a predilection for engaging in partisan and interest trade-offs – is not only challenging but can be frustrating, particularly if one is not pre-disposed or strategically primed for dealing with such.

4. It is clear that, compared with counterparts in older democracies around the world, our parliaments here in Nigeria may be described as being in the pubescent stage of democratic development. This has manifested itself in the occasional, constitutionally questionable and non-procedural manoeuvres, as well as overzealous actions or inactions that do not necessarily portray our democracy in the best light. Let me quickly issue a disclaimer on behalf of the 8thNational Assembly in this respect – we do take care to be constitutionally proper, always! Nonetheless, regular educative gatherings such as this one, can easily help to correct any unwarranted unparliamentary eruptions, especially when they are guided by seasoned administrators.

5. It is quite impressive that between 1999 to date, the National Assembly has recorded remarkable achievements, not only in performing its legislative responsibilities but also in the administration of parliament and managing political representatives. It is my expectation that we can build upon these achievements by replicating the best practices – the things that have been done well – in the State Houses of Assembly.

6. At this juncture, let me make an observation, that: after 17 years of legislative democracy, we ought to have started organising a National Conference of Nigerian Legislatures (NCNL) akin to the National Conference of State Assemblies (NCSA) in the United States of America. This would be a platform for senior administrative and legislative Officers of Nigerian parliaments to come together to share experience, and deliberate on ways of improving support services rendered to legislators. While this might seem new in the Nigerian political terrain, I assure you that it is a fairly common practice in developed democracies. It would be perfectly in order, therefore, for us to aspire to that level of democratic leverage in our environment.

7. I am aware that there are serious complaints of political intrusion in administrative matters. This is an anomaly that we as politicians discuss continually during legislative workshops and seminars, including meetings of Presiding Officers. I believe that with time, such distractions will be a thing of the past. Let me assure you that we are committed to making this legislative democracy work, not only because we have the opportunity and the people’s mandate to be here, but more importantly because our people and the country will be better off for it.

8. I should not fail to mention that, in as much as we are striving to achieve independence for Nigerian legislatures, there is compelling and complementary need for the independence of the administrative structure of the legislature. All the more reason why the bureaucracy will have to develop its own resource centres manned by professionals from divergent fields, who would be able to provide reliable information and data as may be required by parliament and parliamentarians, in order to adequately and effectively perform their legislative responsibilities.

9. I thank the management of the National Assembly for organising and hosting this conference, and also for giving me an opportunity to share some ideas. I wish you successful deliberations.


THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE

#SecuritySummit: Remarks by the President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, at the Summit on National Security, Held at NAF Conference Center, Abuja.

#SecuritySummit: Remarks by the President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, at the Summit on National Security, Held at NAF Conference Center, Abuja.

PROTOCOLS.
 
1.         You are welcome to the Summit on National Security, a 2-Day dialogue convened as a matter of national urgency. We are here because, in the face of escalating threats to the peace and security of our dear country, it becomes necessary to put heads together, share ideas and map out strategies to see us out of the current predicament.
 
2.         The coming together of the Executive and Legislative arms of government for this discussion about security, is a pointer to the seriousness of the situation, and our determination to tackle the problem. The Summit is also unique, because never before have we had such an inclusive platform for appraising security-related matters in this country.
 
3.         If I may provide some background: it will be recalled that the Senate had, on 30th of November 2017, inaugurated the Ad-Hoc Committee on Review of Security Infrastructure in the Country. This came about, because we were increasingly concerned at the spate of crises and insecurity in many parts of the country, and knew that we needed to do something about it. The Committee had a broad mandate; to look into the problem and prepare a report outlining a different approach for dealing with the issue.
 
4.         The spike in the bloodletting over the New Year period injected another note of urgency into the matter, and further served to augment the mandate of the Committee, whose members suspended their recess to conduct a fact-finding visit to Benue State, scene of one of the recent killings. From that visit on 12th January 2018, the Committee had a report ready for the Senate upon resumption on 16th January. It was on the back of that, that we passed the Resolution to organise this Summit – to review the entire security architecture of the country. I would like to thank the members of the Committee – Chaired by Senate Leader, Distinguished Senator Ahmed Lawan – for their hard work and commitment to this national assignment, and the expedient manner in which they discharged their functions.
 
5.         The sharp increase in murderous violence, over and above the relatively manageable level of insecurity that has plagued our country for some time, jolted us out any last vestiges of complacency or denial. There can be no denying the horrific reality in many parts of our country today. People who should be neighbours are turning on one another and taking up arms. These attacks and reprisal attacks are an intolerable cycle of hell that must be broken. Killings, kidnappings, mayhem and general lawlessness cannot be the new normal. We must take this country back and restore order.
 
6.         To this end, the Summit brings together a wide spectrum of stakeholders including: political leaders; security policy makers; Governors – who are Chief Security Officers in their states; security and intelligence chiefs; key persons in the nation’s security architecture; regional and socio-cultural groups; traditional rulers; civil society organisations (CSOs) and others with strong, persuasive insights into the problem.
 
7.   It was envisaged that the Summit would provide a platform for critically examining the problem of insecurity, to help collate views and ideas in aid of the search for solutions. It is most reassuring to see us all here – people together – coming together to come up with a national response to a grave problem confronting our nation.
 
8.         To the Executive, I say this: you cannot do it alone – and this is why we are all here to join efforts. It is all hands on deck. No one person, organisation or arm of government can single-handedly tackle the hydra-headed monster of insecurity. The Constitution makes it clear that the safety of lives and property of citizens is the responsibility of government. We in government must therefore do everything in our power to ensure that Nigerians are safe from harm, and their livelihoods and belongings protected.
 
9.         Permit me to observe that those who are in this room have the capacity to bring about a change in this situation, to end the violence and bring succour. We have the capacity. But, do we have the political will? I daresay political will is what is required; and it is my hope that we shall marshal it as a legitimate instrument against this problem. Indeed, there is no reason why that should not be the case. This is not a Summit to trade blames – in no way is this a blame game. Neither is it convened so that any person or entity can take credit. We just want solutions. Solutions only. That is all Nigerians require of us.
 
10.   Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is expected that at the end of our deliberations and submissions, we will have a more profound understanding of the nature of the crisis; as well as a realistic assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of our security assets. We should also have a more accurate assessment of challenges to the current disposition of the Nigerian state – through the level of preparedness of all its law and order agencies to security threats.
 
11.   Let me add that this Summit should help us achieve some consensus around what needs to be done, in the short term as well as in the long term, to bring comfort and relief to those affected, and assurances of security throughout the country.
 
12.   Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, we would have failed in our responsibility if – by the end of this Summit – we didn’t succeed in triggering higher levels of collaboration and cooperation among all stakeholders, of a character that can be sustained and placed at the service of the nation. This spirit of collaboration and cooperation is, therefore, key.
 
13.   The Summit programme has been designed to allow full and unfettered discussion. All participants are therefore encouraged to be forthright in expressing their views, and show commitment to the need for solution. Let me reiterate that we are not here to indict anybody. This is not an indictment, it is not to lay blame or point fingers, and it is not to take credit for what goes well. This process is very much solutions-driven. In order for us to ameliorate the current difficulties, therefore, it is important that people speak frankly.
 
14.   In that vein, let me say to those who will make contributions during the sessions: please, do not be on the defensive. Nobody is on trial here. Let us make our submissions with openness, in good faith and with an attitude that is forward-looking. When all is said and done, this is a worthy exercise, for the good of Nigeria, and we should all strive to do our best, – and that work begins at this Summit.
 
15.   What our country needs at this time is leadership that will work to douse the flames and reduce tension in the land. It is essential that we lower the barriers in our actions and rhetoric, and refrain from playing politics with a crisis situation in which Nigerian lives are being lost, tragically and needlessly, on a regular basis.
 
16.   Let me extend our deepest gratitude to His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, for his and the Executive’s support towards the convening of this Summit. Appreciation also goes to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, for the cooperation that brought the entire 8th National Assembly on board for this Summit.
 
17.   The kind of collaborative and joined-up working that should be an example to Nigerians, is already on display here; and it is hoped that we shall use this as a springboard for the success of this Summit, the outcome of which must be such as can feed into the search for a solution.
 
Thank you all.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria
 
 
THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE