REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, DR. ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, CON, PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE, TO THE SENATE PRESS CORPS ON THE OCCASION OF THE ‘WORLD PRESS FREEDOM’ DAY 2017 ON WEDNESDAY, MAY 3, 2017
1. Good afternoon, Gentlemen of the Press.
2. Although we usually interact in various capacities during the course of our respective duties, today, it gives me great pleasure to be here again with all of you at the refurbished Senate Press Centre.
3. As we all know, today is World Press Freedom Day, a day that gives all of us — both members and non-members of the press — an opportunity to reflect and reaffirm our commitment to upholding the rights of the media. This is because, time and time again, as demonstrated throughout history, the power of the pen has been proven to be more potent than the power of the sword.
4. The stories that you tell; the articles that you write; the videos that you edit and release on your various platforms; have the power to shape public perception. The media has helped to enthrone leaders and topple them. The media, especially here in Nigeria, has played a crucial role as a watchdog at various points of our momentous history.
5. However, as it is often said: “With great power, comes great responsibility.” What I mean by this is that just as the executive has a responsibility to enforce our laws; the judiciary a responsibility to interpret these laws; and we in the legislature, have a responsibility to enact these laws; you in the media, especially those of you here in the Senate Press Corp, have a responsibility to tell our stories in an independent, impartial, accountable, and truthful way.
6. The media must evolve beyond carrying ordinary propaganda and sensational news to sell newspapers and increase viewership — to pushing out truthful, verifiable, and pertinent information to the public.
7. All of you here have the power to shape all that happens here. By pushing relevant issues — not stories of who is insulting who; or what ‘Senator A’ said about ‘Senator B’ — you have the opportunity to define the discourse in the public arena, and by so doing, positively define our agenda.
8. The theme of this year’s commemoration of World Press Freedom Day, which is “The Media’s Role in advancing a peaceful, just and inclusive society”, also emphasizes the fact that your stories play a major role in charting the course of our national development. Hence, today, I would like to encourage you all to strive to always attain a certain level of substance in your reporting of our issues.
9. I urge you all to look beyond the propaganda that is being sponsored to put down the Senate and judge us based on facts and figures about our genuine performance. These facts and figures are readily available, therefore, judge us by our actions. You participate indirectly in our daily plenary, committee and oversight sessions. You are a constant feature around here. So, please, let the public know and understand that this Senate is working for them, and it is people-centered.
10. This is why we continue to pass Motion after Motion to call attention to critical national issues. We have passed critical laws that will make positive impact on the standard of living and rate of development in our country. We have investigated key issues that have helped to expose corruption in high government offices. We have equally treated petitions from people who feel oppressed but believe the Senate could help them seek redress and get justice instead of resorting to prolonged litigations. In less than two years, this Senate has already cleared 76 petitions. Whereas, the 6th Senate cleared only six public petitions in four years; and the 7th Senate did 87 petitions in four years.
11. In the Media, we play up the angle of an executive and legislative friction or face-off. Despite this, if you look at the numbers, out of 196 nominees that have been sent, 185 have been cleared. Only 11 have not.
12. Additionally, not many people know that the National Assembly’s Economic Priority Bills are gradually but surely making their way through the Senate. Last month, the report of the long-elusive PIB was submitted on the floor of the Senate — the farthest stage it has been in 17 years. While taken all together, all 13 of our economic reform Bills are poised to reduce poverty in the country by double digits and create upwards of 7 million jobs. These are major milestones that would make the public proud of their representatives. Nigerians want to hear what this institution is doing for them in these times of economic uncertainty. This is where you all come in.
13. In a similar vein, the Senate has been working to create more avenu4es of funding for social development issues in our communities. To this end, since we took office, we have worked to pass critical legislation that will help to free up a significant portion of the hundreds of billions of Naira that go into funding infrastructure so that these funds could be channelled into funding more Healthcare, Education, Poverty Alleviation and Security projects in communities across the country. These Bills include the Federal Roads Authority Bill; the National Roads Funds Bill; the National Transport Commission Bill; and the Nigerian Ports and Harbors Bill that we passed just last week.
15. Hence, on this note, I congratulate you all for all the great work that you have been doing, and enjoin you to take one message out of today: “Push for Substance.”
16. Thank you for your time.
17. God Bless You. God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, CON.
PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE
FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA