PRESS STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE, HIS EXCELLENCY, DR. ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, CON, ON JULY 31, 2018. 

PRESS STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE, HIS EXCELLENCY, DR. ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, CON, ON JULY 31, 2018. 

 

I wish to inform Nigerians that, after extensive consultations, I have decided to take my leave of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

 

This is not a decision that I have made lightly. If anything at all, I have tarried for so long and did all that was humanly possible, even in the face of great provocation, ridicule and flagrant persecution, to give opportunity for peace, reconciliation and harmonious existence.

 

Perhaps, more significantly, I am mindful of the fact that I carry on my shoulder a great responsibility for thousands of my supporters, political associates and friends, who have trusted in my leadership and have attached their political fortunes to mine. However, it is after an extensive consultation with all the important stakeholders that we have come to this difficult but inevitable decision to pitch our political tent elsewhere; where we could enjoy greater sense of belonging and where the interests of the greatest number of our Nigerians would be best served.

 

While I take full responsibility for this decision, I will like to emphasise that it is a decision that has been inescapably imposed on me by certain elements and forces within the APC who have ensured that the minimum conditions for peace, cooperation, inclusion and a general sense of belonging did not exist.

 

They have done everything to ensure that the basic rules of party administration, which should promote harmonious relations among the various elements within the party were blatantly disregarded. All governance principles which were required for a healthy functioning of the party and the government were deliberately violated or undermined. And all entreaties for justice, equity and fairness as basic precondition for peace and unity, not only within the party, but also the country at large, were simply ignored, or employed as additional pretext for further exclusion.

 

The experience of my people and associates in the past three years is that they have suffered alienation and have been treated as outsiders in their own party. Thus, many have become disaffected and disenchanted. At the same time, opportunities to seek redress and correct these anomalies were deliberately blocked as a government-within-a-government had formed an impregnable wall and left in the cold, everyone else who was not recognized as “one of us”. This is why my people, like all self-respecting people would do, decided to seek accommodation elsewhere.

 

I have had the privilege to lead the Nigerian legislature in the past three years as the President of the Senate and the Chairman of the National Assembly. The framers of our constitution envisage a degree of benign tension among the three arms of government if the principle of checks and balances must continue to serve as the building block of our democracy. In my role as the head of the legislature, and a leader of the party, I have ensured that this necessary tension did not escalate at any time in such a way that it could encumber Executive function or correspondingly, undermine the independence of the legislature. Over the years, I have made great efforts in the overall interest of the country, and in spite of my personal predicament, to manage situations that would otherwise have resulted in unsavoury consequences for the government and the administration. My colleagues in the Senate will bear testimony to this.

 

However, what we have seen is a situation whereby every dissent from the legislature was framed as an affront on the executive or as part of an agenda to undermine the government itself. The populist notion of anti-corruption became a ready weapon for silencing any form of dissent and for framing even principled objection as “corruption fighting back”. Persistent onslaught against the legislature and open incitement of the people against their own representatives became a default argument in defence of any short-coming of the government in a manner that betrays all too easily, a certain contempt for the Constitution itself or even the democracy that it is meant to serve.

 

Unfortunately, the self-serving gulf that has been created between the leadership of the two critical arms of government based on distrust and mutual suspicion has made any form of constructive engagement impossible. Therefore, anything short of a slavish surrender in a way that reduces the legislature to a mere rubber stamp would not have been sufficient in procuring the kind of rapprochement that was desired in the interest of all. But I have no doubt in my mind, that to surrender this way is to be complicit in the subversion of the institution that remains the very bastion of our democracy. I am a democrat. And I believe that anyone who lays even the most basic claim to being a democrat will not accept peace on those terms; which seeks to compromise the very basis of our existence as the parliament of the people.

 

The recent weeks have witnessed a rather unusual attempts to engage with some of these most critical issues at stake. Unfortunately, the discord has been allowed to fester unaddressed for too long, with dire consequences for the ultimate objective of delivering the common good and achieving peace and unity in our country. Any hope of reconciliation at this point was therefore very slim indeed. Most of the horses had bolted from the stable.

 

The emergence of a new national party executives a few weeks ago held out some hopes, however slender. The new party chairman has swung into action and did his best alongside some of the Governors of APC and His Excellency, the Vice President. I thank them for all their great efforts to save the day and achieve reconciliation. Even though I thought these efforts were coming late in the day, but seeing the genuine commitment of these gentlemen, I began to think that perhaps it was still possible to reconsider the situation.

 

However, as I have realized all along, there are some others in the party leadership hierarchy, who did not think dialogue was the way forward and therefore chose to play the fifth columnists. These individuals went to work and ensured that they scuttled the great efforts and the good intentions of these aforementioned leaders of the party. Perhaps, had these divisive forces not thrown the cogs in the wheel at the last minutes, and in a manner that made it impossible to sustain any trust in the process, the story today would have been different.

 

For me, I leave all that behind me. Today, I start as I return to the party where I began my political journey, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

 

When we left the PDP to join the then nascent coalition of All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2014, we left in a quest for justice, equity and inclusion; the fundamental principles on which the PDP was originally built but which it had deviated from. We were attracted to the APC by its promise of change. We fought hard along with others and defeated the PDP.

 

In retrospect, it is now evident that the PDP has learnt more from its defeat than the APC has learnt from its victory. The PDP that we return to is now a party that has learnt its lessons the hard way and have realized that no member of the party should be taken for granted; a party that has realized that inclusion, justice and equity are basic precondition for peace; a party that has realized that never again can the people of Nigeria be taken for granted.

 

I am excited by the new efforts, which seeks to build the reborn PDP on the core principles of promoting democratic values; internal democracy; accountability; inclusion and national competitiveness; genuine commitment to restructuring and devolution of powers; and an abiding belief in zoning of political and elective offices as an inevitable strategy for managing our rich diversity as a people of one great indivisible nation called Nigeria.

 

What we have all agreed is that a deep commitment to these ideals were not only a demonstration of our patriotism but also a matter of enlightened self-interest, believing that our very survival as political elites of this country will depend on our ability to earn the trust of our people and in making them believe that, more than anything else, we are committed to serving the people.

 

What the experience of the last three years have taught us is that the most important task that we face as a country is how to reunite our people. Never before had so many people in so many parts of our country felt so alienated from their Nigerianness. Therefore, we understand that the greatest task before us is to reunite the county and give everyone a sense of belonging regardless of region or religion.

 

Every Nigerian must have an instinctive confidence that he or she will be treated with justice and equity in any part of the country regardless of the language they speak or how they worship God. This is the great task that trumps all. Unless we are able to achieve this, all other claim to progress no matter how defined, would remain unsustainable.

 

This is the task that I am committing myself to and I believe that it is in this PDP, that I will have the opportunity to play my part. It is my hope that the APC will respect the choice that I have made as my democratic right, and understand that even though we will now occupy a different political space, we do not necessarily become enemies unto one another.

 

Thank you.

 

Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, CON

President of the Senate

Press Release: Smuggling, Greatest Threat To Buhari’s Economic Policy, Says Saraki

Press Release

July 17, 2017

 

Smuggling, Greatest Threat To Buhari’s Economic Policy, Says Saraki

 

Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has identified smuggling of goods into the country as the greatest threat to the realization of the economic policies of the present administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari.

 

Saraki stated this on Monday while declaring open a public hearing on tackling smuggling in the country organized by the Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariffs at the National Assembly, Abuja.

 

Saraki, according to a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Sanni Onogu, insisted that unless the monster of smuggling is tamed, efforts being made to diversify the economy from oil would not yield expected results.

 

He called on the Committee and all the stakeholders present at the hearing to come up with relevant recommendations on the way forward to save the nation’s farmers, small scale industries and financial institutions from impending crisis.

 

“My personal presence here this morning along with the leader of the Senate is to make a point of the importance that this senate places on this subject matter,” Saraki said. “For me personally, it is my view that the singular greatest threat to our economy is this issue of smuggling. What is militating against the success of our government is this issue of smuggling.

 

The singular greatest threat to the delivery of the promises made by President Muhammadu Buhari on the diversification of the economy is this issue of smuggling.

 

“The level of smuggling that we are seeing cannot continue because they will definitely rubbish all the policies of government if allowed to go on. I am saying that with all sincerity and all level of responsibility and I tell you why. Today, the greatest threat to small holder farmers is smuggling. Today, rice farmers who have gone to take loans either from the CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria) or from commercial banks are being threatened by rice coming in from across the borders at highly subsidized rate.

 

“The meaning of that is that the imported rice will always be cheaper than those produced by our local farmers. A time will come, if we do not do anything, that these farmers will not be able to pay their loans to the banks and this will result in serious crisis. The banks that have given loans to these farmers, will also have crisis in their hands. And for the Central Banks that has intervened with billions of Naira again will not be able to recoup their money.

 

“The processors who have invested in rice mills at the beginning of this administration will also be threatened if we do not address the issue of rice smuggling,” he said.

 

Saraki also stated that if smuggling is not stopped, the over $7billion invested by the government in the last 10 years to stimulate local production will go to waste.

 

“As a country we have invested over $7billion over the last 10 years in stimulating local production,” Saraki said. “If we do not address the area of smuggling, this investment will go to waste. This is the severity of the issue before us today.

 

“Any institution, whether it is the National Assembly or any other one, in order to support the success of our President, we must join to stop smuggling, without it, we should just forget the issue of diversification or increased agricultural production. We will only pay lip service to issue of agricultural production if we do not address the issue of smuggling and that is why I made it a point to come here personally to drive this message.

 

“I am confident that with the caliber of members of this Committee and the stakeholders here, that we will use this opportunity to come out with robust solutions on the way forward”, the Senate President.

 

He insisted that smugglers must be stopped to prevent them from further sabotaging the economy.

 

“There is no government, any serious government, that will render itself helpless because we must know the individuals who are doing this smuggling. We must be able to know who they are. Is it that they are larger and bigger than government?

 

“Is it that we cannot stop them? Or is it that we don’t want to stop them? Or is that we lack the competence to stop them? These are the questions that we put before us today. We must stop them. Customs must do what it takes to stop smuggling. These are the largest economic saboteurs that are ruining our economy. We must be able to identify them. They must be made to realize that we are serious about this issue.

 

“We must be able to sanction officers who are responsible for this and we must be able to reward officers who prevent the issue of smuggling. We want this Committee to sit down for the length of days of public hearing and ask ourselves what is the way forward. I can assure you that our responsibility as a Senate is to ensure that whatever recommendations are made by this Committee we have to send them back to the executive because as I said this matter is the singular greatest threat to our economy and to this government”, he said.

 

He noted that while Nigeria must continue to respect international treaties, it cannot afford to do so at the detriment of its economy.

 

“There are other issues, of course, that have to do with the ECOWAS treaties and agreements,” Saraki said. “Yes, we are part of ECOWAS. Yes, we want to develop ECOWAS, but no serious country will allow anything that will ruin its economy at the benefit of its neighboring countries.

 

We must be able to do what is right. So on this note, all hands must be on deck to ensure that we address this problem squarely. I assure you of the greatest support of this Senate.

 

He urged the Comptroller General of Customs, Colonel Hamid Ali to prove his mettle by stopping the incidence of smuggling across the nation’s borders.

 

“To the Comptroller General of Customs, let me say on a lighter note, that once you end smuggling, even if you want to wear jeans and T-Shirt, I will move the motion that you should wear jeans and T-Shirt,” Saraki said. “But on a serious note, this issue is very important. Let us all work towards ending this menace once and for all.”

 

Earlier, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariffs, Senator Hope Uzodinma, said the public hearing was part of the committee’s holistic investigation into the operations of the Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme (CISS) with a view to identify the factors responsible for increasing rate of smuggling of goods into the country.

 

He said that the exercise was also aimed at proffering solutions to the menace of smuggling and recommend appropriate penalties to be visited on perpetrators.

 

END

 

Sanni Onogu

Chief Press Secretary to the Senate President

Press Release: Saraki to IDPs: Government Will Not Forget You

Press Release

May 31, 2017

 

Saraki to IDPs: Government Will Not Forget You

…Visits Camp In Abuja

 

Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki has assured Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in some parts of the country that government will continue work to ensure their security, social and economic wellbeing as well as safe return to their homesteads.

 

Saraki who said the government will not forget the displaced persons was speaking when he led a Senate delegation on a visit to the IDP camp at Kuchigoro, near the Games Village, Abuja, according to a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Sanni Onogu, in Abuja.

 

The delegation was received by the evangelist of the camp, Mr. Jude Kaghala and other leaders of the camp.

 

The Senate President also donated food items including rice and toiletries for distribution to inhabitants of the camp and said while the executive was working in collaboration with the legislature to rehabilitate and resettle the IDPs in their original communities, it will ensure that their life is made better on a daily basis.

 

“We have not forgotten you and we will not forget you,” Saraki said. “We will continue to work to ensure that you return to your individual villages and towns. But while you are here, we will ensure that your life is made better everyday.

 

“This is why we decided to come and identify with you, to know how you are coping and to comfort you. We share your pains and we are doing what needs to be done to make your towns and villages habitable once again. We will make sure you live a better life.”

 

Senators that accompany Saraki on the visit to the Kuchigoro IDPs camp, include Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan, Philip Aduda, Abubakar Kyari, Mohammed Hassan and Baba Kaka Garbai.

 

Earlier the Evangelist of the Camp, Mr. Khagala thanked the Senate President and his team for the visit and the food items and toiletries he donated for use by the IDPs.

 

He promised that the rice, soaps, deodorants and body spray he donated will be evenly distributed among the IDPs, especially the pregnant women and children. He said the food could not have come at a better time than this Ramadan period.

 

While praying for the Senate President and his delegation for the august visit and donation of items to alleviate their plight, he called on other well-meaning individuals in society to emulate the Senate President’s kind and fatherly gesture.

 

“We are honoured to receive you in our midst today. We want to thank Mr. Senate President and all the distinguished Senators for this visit. We also thank the Senate President for the rice and all the other items he has donated to us.

 

“We will distribute them to our people here to help them as they partake in the Ramadan fast. We cannot thank him and the Senate enough. We also thank you for the work the Senate has done in passing a bill to create the North East Development Commission. We pray the Almighty Allah to reward you,” Kaghala said.

 

END

 

Signed

 

Sanni Onogu

Chief Press Secretary to the Senate President

 

Press Statement: Saraki: My Relationship With Buhari Cordial

Press Statement

May 30, 2017

 

Saraki: My Relationship With Buhari Cordial

…. Nigeria not ripe for Muslim-Muslim Presidential Ticket, Says Islamic Cleric

 

Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki yesterday said that his relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari remains cordial despite false claims in some social quarters.

 

He spoke when the National Executive of the Islamic group, Jamaatu Izalatul Bidiah Wa Ikamatus Sunnali (JIBWS) led by its President, Sheikh Mohammed Sani Yahaya Jingiri visited him at the National Assembly .

 

According to a statement by his Special Assistant on Print Media, Chuks Okocha, the Senate President debunked allegations that he and the Senate are working against President Buhari, as he said, ”I want to assure you of the good cooperation between the legislative arm and executive led by President Muhammudu Buhari.

 

” Since the commencement of this Senate, I think we had about 196 requests from President Buhari for confirmation of his nominees and we have confirmed 185. I think, we have only rejected 11. By Mathematics, that is over 90 per cent.

 

“I want to assure you there is a lot of noise, you will see on the newspaper, radio and social media, please, be assured that the two arms of government are working closely together, more than in past sessions of the Senate. In January, I went to see him and assured him of our cooperation and we’ve continued to work closely. I want to assure you as we always say, let us be judged by our actions and not by talk. A lot of people talk, but do something else when you are not around and loyalty can be best measured by what people do when you are not around.

 

”I want to appeal to you now that you are here, to convey the same message to your followers, who because of social media and the fake news they hear that some of these fake claims over radio, they get wrong impression that we in the Senate, the Senate President and the Senators, are working against the President. I assured you that we have a very cordial relationship with the Executive””.

 

Saraki also reaffirmed the commitment of the Senate in ensuring good governance, economic stability and creation of jobs for the teeming unemployed youths and promised to ensure that all bills to be passed by the Senate will ensure that religious sentiments of Nigerians are taken into consideration.

 

The Senate President told his visitors that the Gender Bill currently before the National Assembly will be fair to all religious groups and sentiments.

 

He said: ” I want to reassure you on our greatest concern, particularly in the issue of Gender Bill. Here in the National Assembly, we pass laws and whatever law we pass, we take into consideration subjected the religious aspects.

 

”There is no law that can disregard the religious sentiments of the citizens. So, we must also put that in our mind. We have discussed that whatever final version of the law that will come for discussion, because it is still for discussion, it is just a proposal, it should not be one that would have conflict with religion. I want to assure you of that”, he said.

 

According to the Senate President, “the final version of the gender bill will be such that all religious sentiments are taken care of and Nigerians would be proud of”.

 

On education, Saraki said. ”Let me also talk on the issue of education because was raised by the earlier speaker. We too have seen the problem. It is a big problem, we are hoping to have a round-table with all the stakeholders and let us ask ourselves what we need to do differently. The problem is huge. When the time comes, we will also meet some of our religious leaders and invite you to come and contribute your own view. It is very important to address that.

 

“Finally, let me continue to assure you that we will continue to play our roles by bringing political balancing and stability into consideration as we do what we know is best for this country. We will strive to work to keep this country together”, the Senate President said.

 

Earlier, the leader of the Islamic group, Sheikh Jingirr commended the Senate President on his role in the arrangement that led to the rejection of the Muslim-Muslim Presidential ticket for the All Progressives Congress ( APC) in the 2015 presidential elections.

 

He added that Nigeria was not ripe for such an arrangement which did not take into consideration the need for religious balance in the country as all religious interest must be represented at all times, including elections.

 

He added that “religious balancing must at all times be respected in Nigeria as only this will ensure harmony”.

 

The Islamic cleric also commended the National Assembly for rejecting same sex marriages and capital punishment, describing them as unIslamic. He also urged the Senate President to ensure that the current Gender Bill reflects the tenets of all religions.

 

Sheik Jingiri called on the Senate President to ensure equality of representations in political appointments in line with the population of states, while at the same time ensuring that a cordial relationship exist between all arms of government for the benefit of the people.

 

He also called on the National Assembly to regulate the operations of the Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) since failure of proper regulation of the operations of the examination body may aggravate the problems in the education sector.

 

The leader of JIBWS prayed for the quick recovery of President Buhari who is currently on medical vacation in London.

 

Signed:

 

Chuks Okocha

 

Special Assistant to the Senate President on Print Media.

 

 

Press Release: Ramadan: Saraki Seeks Prayers For Buhari, Help For IDPs

Press Release

May 27, 2017

 

Ramadan: Saraki Seeks Prayers For Buhari, Help For IDPs 

 

Senate President Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has called on Muslim faithful and all Nigerians to dedicate the Ramadan period to offer prayers for the full recovery of President Muhammadu Buhari and the prosperity of the country.

 

Saraki in a message personally signed by him, said that the Holy Month presents another opportunity for Nigerians to show love to the less privileged, especially those currently living in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in some parts of the country.

 

The Senate President’s statement to mark the beginning of this years’ Ramadan reads thus:

 

 

Assalamu Alaykum,

 

It is a great pleasure and honour to once again felicitate with millions of Nigerian muslims, and of course Muslims across the world, on the start of the glorious month of Ramadan.

 

Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam.

 

As a kid back in the days, Ramadan was synonimous to fasting only. So, I quite naturally looked forward to Iftar and Sahur at home.

 

But as I grew up and learnt more, I have come to the realisation that Ramadan is far much more!

 

Ramadan is a unique symbol of the values that Muslims and people of all faiths share – that is charity, cooperation, compassion and self-restraint.

 

Ramadan is also an occasion for Muslims to strengthen family and community ties and share God’s gifts with those in need.

 

This is why I invite us to reflect on the conditions of our brothers and sisters in IDP camps across the country who, for no fault of their own, are unable to fast in the comfort of their homes like you and I. This heart-breaking conditions therefore remind us all of our common humanity and compel us into positive actions that could bring a permanent end to the siuations.

 

I like to also use this occasion to pray for the quick recovery of our dear President, President Muhammadu Buhari. My thoughts and prayers are always with him just as I wish for him a complete and restful recovery.

 

My wife, Toyin and I, and our kids are delighted to extend our warmest wishes to our Muslim brothers and sisters in Nigeria and across the world on the start of this holy month.

 

May the glory and blessings of this month shine upon us now and always.

 

Ramadan Mubarak.

 

Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, CON 

President of the Senate 

Turaki of Ilorin

 

Press Release: Saraki Hails Buhari, Security Forces on Release of 82 Chibok Girls

Press Release 

May 7, 2017
 
Saraki Hails Buhari, Security Forces on Release of 82 Chibok Girls
President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has commended the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government, security operatives, and the international Red Cross on the release of 82 of the Chibok schoolgirls, that were part of the group abducted by Boko Haram in 2014.
In a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, Saraki expressed delight at the development, saying that the prayers and well-wishes of Nigerians and the global community had led to the return of “more of our daughters.”
“As a father, I can’t help but feel delighted and excited at the release of the 82 schoolgirls. When they were taken from us, the whole world joined in demanding for their return — now, it is a testament to the tenacity and commitment of the Federal Government, led by Mr. President, that they are back with us, and will soon be reunited with their families,” the Senate President said.
“Last year, we managed to secure the release of 20 girls. Today, 82. By this feat, those that are still out there should be rest assured that Nigeria will not forget them, and this government will continue to do everything within its power to bring them back home,” Saraki said, “Moving forward, the Security Forces must be commended.  However, the work is not yet done, too many families are still anxious today. Too many of our daughters have not returned.”
The Senate President reassured that the Senate and by extension, the National Assembly, would continue to do everything within its power to augment the efforts of the executive and our international partners in securing the release of more girls and ending the Book Haram menace once and for all.
“My colleagues and I in the 8th Senate will continue to remain committed to the cause of bringing back all our girls, ending the Boko Haram insurgency and ensuring the rehabilitation of the devastated North East zone,” he said, “It is clear that we still have a lot to do. But God-willing, we will be up for the challenge.”
END
Signed: 
Yusuph Olaniyonu 
Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, to the Senate President 

ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE AND CHAIRMAN OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, HIS EXCELLENCY, SENATOR (DR.) ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI TO THE JOINT SESSION OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY ON THE PRESENTATION OF THE 2017 DRAFT APPROPRIATION BILL BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI

ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE AND CHAIRMAN OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, HIS EXCELLENCY, SENATOR (DR.) ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI TO THE JOINT SESSION OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY ON THE PRESENTATION OF THE 2017 DRAFT APPROPRIATION BILL BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI, PRESIDENT AND COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF THE ARMED FORCES OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA.

Senate President with Speaker House of Rep at the 2017 Budget Presentation

Senate President with Speaker House of Rep at the 2017 Budget Presentation

 

Protocol:

 

1. It is my pleasure on behalf of my Distinguished and     Honourable colleagues to warmly welcome you Mr. President and your entourage to this joint session of the National Assembly.

 

2. Mr. President, while we may have struggled with key aspects of our budget process in the pastI am happy to note that we have made some important progress. 

 

To start with, we are seeing the budget presentation coming slightly earlier this year. Though, we hope tosee an even greater improvement on this in the coming year. But more importantly however, is that so far this year’s budget process has benefitted from greater cooperation and consultations between the National Assembly and the Executive.

 

3. Mr. President, I wish to note that the National Assembly recognizes however that the problem with our budget and budgeting process goes far deeperthan the relative progress we have madeThis is why in August this year, I inaugurated a joint Executive/Legislative committee and a technical committee to review our budget systems and identify ways we can make them more transparent, more participatory, more result oriented and therefore more effective

 

The committee has since submitted its report and the National Assembly is already started the process of implementing the recommendations. 

 

4. Already, we have tried to bring the key highlights of the report into effect within the 2016 framework. These include:
• pre-budget consultation and engagement, 
• greater information sharing and recording, 
• Public hearing on the budget bill
• Drafting of an Organic Budget Bill
• Amendment of the Public Procurement Act

 

5. Our hope is that the remainder of the recommendations of this report will be implemented within the 2017 budget year with the passage of the Organic Budget Law
 
The Organic Budget Law will provide the legal framework for regulating the procedures that budget preparation, approval, implementation and even accounting must follow. It will bring the budget and national planning regime within a clearly defined framework, thereby ensuring greater predictability, transparency and efficiency. 

 

6. When the current National Assembly introduced the Civil Society Public Hearing on the Budget initiative, the idea was to open up the budgeting space by incorporating the Civil Society into the budget process, thereby ensuring greater transparency and accountability. We are proud to say that this engagement has come to stay as a crucial part of our budget approval process. 
 
7. Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, honourablemembers, you would recall when the National Bureau of Statistics NBS came out with the numbers to confirm that the Nigerian economy has slumped into recession, the National Assembly rose with one voice.  Through a joint resolution, we recommended that you make a “state of the nation” address on the plan of government to get us out of recession and have 20 important Executive actions that in our view needed to be taken to get the economy back on trackThe National Assembly on its part listed and prioritized 11 economic reform bills for passage. We intend to get these bills ready alongside the 2017 Appropriation bill. We believe that the core elementsof these bills will aid the Executive in mobilizing the required private capital into the general economy, but especially the infrastructure market.

 

8. In the thinking of the 8th National Assembly, our country can no longer rely on the public sector alone to spend us out of recessionIt is therefore critical that we mainstream private sector business and investment in the economy. To achieve this, we must make it much easier and efficient for people to invest and do business in our country. 

 

9. Further to this, we are also aware that if we must attract private investments to play a central role in our economic recovery efforts, must make deliberate efforts to market Nigeria as an attractive brand through a very robust and highly coordinated process of engagements. This effort must necessarily start with injecting confidence in the market through clarity and consistency of policies. We must speak the right language and show that we are open to and ready for legitimate business. 

 

10. I wish to reassure Mr. President that the National Assembly would continue to seek opportunities to deepen this relationship because we are convinced it is the only by working closely together that our country can make the progress that we all desire. 

 

 

11. The overarching purpose of a budget is essentially to ease the economic pressure on our people in general and the poor most especially. The 2017 budget assumes even a greater significance, particularly in this time of recession. Mr. President, the feedback we get from visits to our various constituencies is that there is hardship in the land. We can see it and we can feel it. This situation therefore commands all of us as government to a greater sense of urgency. We cannot work magic, but we must continue to work the clock. 

 

Our people must see that the singular pre-occupation of government is the search for solution to the current economic hardship; and the commitment to ease their burden. They don’t want to know what political parties we belong, what language we speak or how we worship God. They have trusted their fates into our hands, and they need us now more than ever, to justify the trust that they have reposed on us. The people of Nigeria will pardon us if we do some things wrong. But they will not forgive us if we do nothing. And that is why, Mr. President the two chambers have taken a position whatever may be our differences, or opinions on issues of the economy we will all work with one common purpose for this reason.

 

12. It is in times like this, when we are challenged from all sides that we need to develop new relationships and cultivate more friends. No one can clap with one hand and expect to be heard. This is the time when compromise, engagement is the tool necessary for successful collaboration and cooperation

 

13. This is why I encouraged the Executive to continue with its engagement plans across all sections and stakeholders in the country particularly with our brothers in the Niger Delta and all parts of the country where instability is impacting on our collective economic and security aspirations.

 

14. Mr. President, you will recall in 2015, , I made a clarion call while receiving Your Excellency’s budget presentation for that year that the 2016 budget needed to be bold and pragmatic to drive local production and promote made-in Nigeria goods. 

 

15. Today, permit me Your Excellency to reiterate this call. The only way we can cut down on our foreign exchange needs, create jobs and stimulate entrepreneurship in the country is to promote local manufacturing and investments. 

 

16. This is why the National Assembly injected the made-in-Nigeria amendment into the Public Procurement Act. We are expectant that with your leadership, Mr. President, we will achieve even much more in this areaIt is the hope of the National Assembly that the 2017 budget will continue to proactively pursue this policy objective

 

 17. Mr. President, though we are confident that we are receiving from you a very well-articulated budget proposal, it is worthy to point out that the best produced budget from the executive at all times still remains a proposal according to our constitution which the National Assembly will work assiduously on. 

 

On behalf of the National Assembly, we commit to work on the 2017 budget, conscious of the responsibility that the current economic situation imposes on us and driven by the urgency to alleviate the suffering of our people and also bearing in mind your aspiration and vision for our people. We assure you Mr. President and all Nigerians that not even a single minute would be wasted on our side in the course of getting this budget approved. 

 

18. With these few words, I hereby invite Your Excellency to deliver your speech and lay the 2016 budget proposals for the consideration of the National Assembly in accordance with Section 81 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.

 

19. I thank you and extend the season’s greetings to all.

 

PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE