REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE AND CHAIRMAN OF THE GOVERNING COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR LEGISLATIVE STUDIES (NILS), HIS EXCELLENCY SENATOR (DR.) ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, AT THE SIGNING OF PROJECT GRANT AGREEMENT BETWEEN NILS, NATIONAL ASSEMBLY AND AFRICAN CAPACITY BUILDING FOUNDATION, (ACBF) ON MONDAY 10TH JULY 2017.
1. On behalf of the Governing Council of the National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS), National Assembly, Nigeria, I wish to welcome our esteemed partners from the African Capacity BuildingFoundation to yet another historic signing ceremony of the NILS-CAP II Project Grant Agreement between the National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS), National Assembly and the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF).
2. We are today witnessing another noble effort that seeks to strengthen financial oversight functions of parliaments, thereby deepening the democraticprocess in the West African sub-region with the grant to support the implementation of NILS-CAP Phase II.
3. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, you may recall that on the 27th of March, 2014, we witnessed the signing of a grant of US$ 900,000 from the ACBFand a contribution of US$700,000 from the National Assembly to jointly support the implementation of the first phase of the NILS Capacity Building Project (NILS-CAP I).
4. The first phase which covered a two year period from 2014 – 2016, was a national project with a sub-regional outlook. As part of its sub-regional outlook, the project focused on Capacity Building for the National Parliaments of the member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the ECOWAS Parliament. The project which targeted legislators and parliamentary staff in the West African sub-region ensured that capacity gaps were bridged to improve governance systems for sustainable development in the sub-region.
5. Following a successful implementation of NILS-CAP I from April 2014 to August 2015, and its extensionto January 2017 with a $400,000.00 grant, efforts were made to bring to fruition, the second phase of the project which thankfully, we are launching today.
6. I must congratulate the ACBF on its continuous engagement to support capacity building efforts in Nigeria and beyond.
7. It is gratifying to note that NILS-CAP II is furthertargeting capacity development in ECOWAS countries and the ECOWAS Parliament to more effectively facilitate the implementation of intra-regional trade among ECOWAS member states and effective financial oversight in the sub region.
8. Other important sub-themes for consideration have been identified to include:
i. Regional Trade: Resolution of Challenges Impeding Effective Trade Integration;
ii. Security Challenges in ECOWAS (Terrorism, Maritime Insecurity and Cattle herdsmen – Farmers Conflict on Pastoralism): Legislative Actions for Containment of Small Arms Proliferation and Terrorist Financing;
iii. Agricultural Policies: Enhancing the Value Chain Exports of Agricultural Produce;
iiii. Executive-Legislature Relations on Appropriation;
v. Financial Audit of Public Institutions: Lessons of Experience;
vi. Issues in Public Financial Management particularly relating to Infrastructure Financing;
vii. Compliance with Prudential Guidelines including Basel Core Principles, IFRS and Electronic Payments System Standards; and
viii. Role of Parliament in Monitoring and Evaluation of PIDA Projects.
9. As part of the programme, a platform would be created for legislators in the ECOWAS sub-region including Nigeria and other governance actors to discuss these daunting issues and to come up withpractical solutions.
10. Let me, therefore, use this opportunity to draw our attention on the emerging challenges on the implementation of regional trade and agricultural policies that should be carefully considered as we move into NIL-CAP II which, if left unaddressed,may tend to hamper the effectiveness of those policies.
For instance, our attention in the National Assembly has been drawn to the massive importation of rice into some ECOWAS countries beyond their consumption capacities solely for dumping /smuggling into Nigeria, thereby undermining the huge investment for domestic production.
11. Furthermore, we are also aware of the establishment of large pharmaceutical industries in the sub-region with the intention of exporting their outputs to Nigeria thereby, constraining the viability of localindustries.
12. I, therefore, urge all stakeholders during the consideration of the NILS-CAP II to thoroughly and carefully address these anomalies to ensure a healthy and competitive trade policy among ECOWAS countries.
13. On oversight, we all know that it is one of the three principal functions of parliaments in representative democracies all over the world. In fact, financial oversight of public finances is critical to ensuring that public resources are used for intended purposes. Over the years, concerted efforts have been made to strengthen good governance and independent oversight of public finance, particularly the budget through support to audit institutions including the parliament.
14. On our part, the 8th Senate and National Assembly have, for the past two years, worked on freeing our markets by enacting laws that improve the ease of doing business, promoting competitiveness of our industries and markets and encouraging the patronage of locally made goods, thereby providing the base for economic growth and development.
15. I use this opportunity to reiterate the unflinching support and commitment of the Leadership of the National Assembly and the NILS Governing Council to the efforts of ACBF in facilitating development in Africa.
16. I wish all parties to the signing of the agreement fruitful implementation and realization of the objectives of NILS-CAP II.
17. Thank you,
Senator (Dr) Abubakar Bukola Saraki,
President of the Senate
Chairman, NILS Governing Council