Motions of change by 8th Senate
Two years in the life of any administration is significant. This is especially so when the life span of that organization is just four years. Any organization that has successfully spent two years can no longer hide its goals, objectives, failures and successes. In a four year tenure, two is equal to halftime. And half time in a game of football is a sure time to reflect on whether a team is getting it right and if not, to adopt new strategies to enable it up its game.
Fortunately, for the 8th Senate, the last two years has been like 10 considering the milestones it has attained through the laser-focused determination of its leadership to restore the legislature’s lost glory. Presently, the 8th Senate has shown itself as a worthy and dependable partner in the drive to sustain democracy, develop the country, diversify the economy and squelch the locust of corruption.
Its President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, had clearly set the tone for the many innovative interventions by the Senate when he told his colleagues, during one of its plenary sessions, that Senate would not abdicate its responsibility to government and the people under any guise.
“Let me also state clearly that we shall not hide under the cloak of partisan solidarity to abdicate our constitutional responsibility under the principles of checks and balances,” he said. “We shall make critical interventions whenever they become necessary and undertake emergency actions whenever they are required, within the confines of the Constitution.”
While some may argue that legislation and oversight is the de facto mandate of any legislature, it can also be said that the use of motions and critical interventions to respond to emerging national emergencies is obligatory. Notwithstanding, the 8th Senate in the last two years has engaged motions and interventions as veritable instruments in aid of the government, prevent monumental loss of revenue, rally support for security and humanitarian emergencies, protect the people from exploitation, curb corruption and to ensure the economic viability of the country.
It must the said that the most lofty and people friendly intervention of the 8th Senate has been its resolve to help uplift the economy through relevant legislations. In line with this, the Senate at inception fashioned a comprehensive agenda, which put the nation’s economy at the centre of its legislative business. To achieve this, the Senate commissioned a team of experts to work with the National Assembly to research and review all institutional, regulatory and legislative instruments operational in the country, identify their impact on the ease of doing business in the country and to come out with a way forward.
It must be noted that in a bid to quickly terminate the recession facing the country, the Senate President, had in September last year, presented a 14-point plan to his colleagues for deliberation, adoption and subsequent transmission to the Executive to aid it in rebutting the economy. Saraki added that while the executive is working on the recommendations enumerated above, the National Assembly would support it with the necessary legislations and oversight activities.
While the Senate has kept its promise by passing major landmark legislations to support the economic revival strategies of the Federal Government like the PIGB, Ports and Harbours Bill, Railways Act amendment, Public Procurement Act amendment, Federal Competition Bill and the National Road Authority Bill, to mention but a few, the Executive has since adopted some of the recommendations.
Also, most of the recommendations have been accommodated in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan recently launched by the Federal Government. President Muhammadu Buhari in his speech before presenting the 2017 budget, openly acknowledged and thanked the National Assembly for its resolutions on how to exit the recession and grow the economy.
“Let me, Mr. Senate President, Right Hon. Speaker, here acknowledge the concerns expressed by the National Assembly and, in particular, acknowledge your very helpful Resolutions on the State of the Economy, which were sent to me for my consideration,” Buhari said. “The Resolutions contained many useful suggestions, many of which are in line with my thinking and have already been reflected in our Plan. Let me emphasise that close cooperation between the Executive and the Legislature is vital to the success of our recovery and growth plans.”
In addition, the Senate through a motion, during its early days, exposed the fraud inherent in the implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy of the Federal Government and through painstaking investigation, helped the country to prevent the theft of N20 billion - monies that were being siphoned through a skewed commission parameter in favour of the software company engaged to operate the scheme by government.
Senate intervention also led to the review of Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) forex policy to enable small business owners and individuals access required foreign exchange to keep their import businesses afloat and to meet the educational requirements of their wards in foreign academic institutions respectively. In this wise, many business that hitherto would have been asphyxiated were rejuvenated.
The parlous power situation in the country and the fleecing of the ordinary Nigerians by some power companies also witnessed Senate’s immediate response. Through a motion, the 8th Senate mandated the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, (NERC) to immediately abolish fixed electricity charges and bulk metering hitherto imposed on electricity consumers.
The Senate also investigated the failure to remit over $3.4billion revenue to the Federal Government by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) - with appropriate sanctions recommended. It halted the planned internet data tariff hike by telecommunications companies, despite the approval given to it by Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), stopped the payment of retroactive duty on imported vehicles, initiated by the Nigeria Customs Service and the investigation of the fraud and anomalies uncovered by the 2013 audit report of the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI). This report revealed that Nigeria lost over $9 billion in stolen, unremitted oil money in 2013.
Interventions by the Senate have led to resolution of the crisis concerning the closure of the Queens College due to protests over the death of three students on account of the hygiene situation in the school, disagreement between Islamic and Christian groups over the merger of Islamic Religious Studies (IRK) and Christian Religious Knowledge (CRK) in the curriculum of junior secondary schools, the LAUTECH impasse in which the university jointly owned by Oyo and Osun States have been shut continuously for two years and many more.
In summary, one can safely conclude that with the long list of achievements already recorded by the 8th Senate, the two years will witness the cancellation of past poor records and setting of new enviable ones.
Onogu is Secretary to President. Chief the Press Senate