GOODWILL MESSAGE BY HIS EXCELLENCY, SENATOR (DR.) ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, CON PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA AT THE 1ST NATIONAL CHEVENING ALUMNI LEADERSHIP SUMMIT
1. Your Excellency, distinguished alumni; let me start by thanking you for the honour of your invitation to me to say a few words at this illustrious gathering of some of the best minds in our country; the First Chevening Alumni Leadership Summit in Nigeria.
2. I understand that the Chevening scholarship is awarded annually to exceptional individuals who possess outstanding leadership potentials for them to pursue a one-year master’s degree in any university in the United Kingdom. The event this morning is therefore, to a very significant extent, a testimony to the outstanding success of this initiative by the British Government through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. As a UK trained medical doctor myself, I can testify to the wonderful opportunities that the UK universities offer in both academic and professional development. I have no doubt therefore, that the Chevening Scholarship has contributed immensely to our country’s human capital development over the years and has further strengthened the historical ties between our both countries.
3. As I look around this room, I cannot but marvel at the fantastic array of intellect gathered here. However, I could also not help but wonder why in spite of the outstanding capabilities that all of you could bring to the table, we have not made the kind of progress we ought to have made as our country. I wonder why we have failed to tap into the enormous reserve of skills and leadership that abound within you all.
4. As we continue to grapple with the challenge of how best to manage our natural resources, here yet is another dimension. We must urgently begin to develop a system that puts our human assets to best use. We must urgently begin to create a system that enables us to put our best brains and minds in positions that they can contribute effectively to the development of our country. As we continue to struggle to find new solutions to the old problems that we face, people like you must be at the forefront, you must bring your expertise and experience to bear.
5. Our economy is in recession. For the first time in more than two decades, inflation is at a decade-high of close to 18%. Oil production is down and there is a severe foreign currency shortage; resulting in a slumping currency and subsequent job losses. The task before all of us, citizens and leadership alike, is enormous. Chevening Alumni in Nigeria must get involved in this quest for solutions to what has effectively become the greatest challenge of our time.
6. At the 8th Senate, we saw very early on that the major challenge before us was the economy. We are convinced that the only economy that can serve Nigeria at this point in our history is that which is inclusive and is able to protect the weakest among us. Our approach therefore is to create the legislative framework for inclusive economic prosperity to all our citizens. We believe that the kind of economy we must build as we face the grim prospect of a post-oil world; is that which is able to tap on the best of our human capital, the creative energy of our youth and the diverse resources of our land.
7. Even as we try to embrace this new thinking and solutions, we recognize the institutional challenges. This is why one of the first legislative initiatives we undertook as early as 6 months from resumption of office was to review all the laws that have made it difficult for people to do business in our country and frustrated investors willing to come into our economy. The assignment we undertook had the following components:
Review of the laws of the Federal Republic o Nigeria which relate to the business enabling environment to determine whether they were consistent with international best practices; how effective they were in providing a competitive environment for private sector enterprises to thrive; what specific aspects of the laws were impeding business growth; and the degree of transparency in their operation or whether they prevented arbitrary or perverse enforcement by public agencies;Review of current proposed legislation in the National Assembly that may impact on the Nigerian Business Environment;The identification of specific deficiencies in the legislative framework for business;Preparation of draft recommendations for consideration by the Roundtable on priority areas to be addressed in the national legislative agenda covering: existing acts which should be repealed or significantly amended; existing bills which should take priority at the National Assembly; and new legislation which should be brought to the National Assembly by the Federal Government.
8. Among the first set of bills that have emerged from the review are the Public Procurement Act Amendment bill; the Custom and Excise Bill; The Federal Competition Commission Bill; Federal Roads Authority Bill; The Ports and Harbour Reforms Bill; Securities and Investment Act (Amendment) Bill; Companies and Allied Matters Act (Amendment) Bill; National Transport Commission Bill; Independent Warehouse Regulatory Bill; National Roads Fund Bill; National Development Bank Bill and; Petroleum Industry Governance Bill. 40 of these bills have been passed in the Senate while 82 are nearing the end of their legislative cycle.
9. The 8th Senate is confident that these bills, once passed into law, would lay a solid legislative and policy foundation for the broad-based reforms that are so urgently needed to set our country on the path of inclusive economic growth.
10. In September 2016 when the National Bureau of Statistic declared us in a recession, the Senate upon reconvening carried out a debate to identify actions required. Prior to this, the Senate leadership with a few key private sector leaders to discuss the causes but more importantly, possible practical solutions. At the end if the debate, we came up with a 20-point agenda to assist the executive arm of government to hasten our exit from recession.
11. Even as we continue to work on these, I wholeheartedly invite you to work with us in productive partnership so that we can journey together in this difficult but necessary task to build the Nigeria that we all wish for, for us and for our children.
12. We are here today to explore “The Economic prosperity of Nigeria and the role of alumni in contributing to economic growth”. As we continue to partner with the private sector, we in the 8th Senate believe that you have a significant role to play in contributing to economic growth largely by engaging with us in government; either at the Executive or Legislative level. We have seen from our partnership with NESG, the benefits ad we believe that with the caliber of alumni here, more can be achieved. Let me reassure you that we remain focused on achieving economic prosperity for all Nigerians.
13. Your Excellency, distinguished scholars, ladies and gentlemen. I thank you once again for the honour of your invitation and I wish you fruitful deliberations.