We failed to plan for economy, says Senate
• Senators mull measures to fight recession
• Buhari sends 47 envoy-nominees list to upper chamber
• President names Akabueze Budget Office’s DG
An occasion that was supposed to be an exuberant celebration of the one year’s anniversary of the Senate yesterday became one of sober reflection at the upper legislative chamber over the dismal state of the nation’s economy.
The occasion, however, was not lacking in suggestions on how to reverse the negative trends in the economy.
Leading other senators, Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki noted that as a nation, “we have failed to take the necessary steps in policy and legislations that would set us on the path to developing the kind of economy that we desire.”
Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday unveiled a list of 47 nominees sent to it by President Muhammadu Buhari for confirmation as ambassadors.
The list, as read out by Saraki at the commencement of the session, contained only the names of pure career public servants.
Saraki informed senators of the president’s plea that the screening and confirmation of the nominees be given accelerated consideration.
Saraki said: “The collapse in oil price has without doubt brought huge shock to our economy on a scale that perhaps has never been experienced before. This requires us to develop creative strategies that would stimulate business and investments into other sectors.”
On measures adopted by the Senate to address the economic problems through legislative interventions, the Senate president said: “The Ease of Doing Business Report that ranks our country 167 out of 189 countries is not likely to attract business into our economy. This Senate understands this. With the support from our international development partners, organised private sector, we commissioned an expert report which identified 54 extant laws that must be reviewed and brought in line with international best practices in order to open up our economy up for private investments and business.”
Other legislative actions the Senate had taken to address the issue according to Saraki include the processing and passage of some series of legislations directly related to reviving the economy.
“This legislative intervention yielded about 15 major economic reform bills and seven business environment bills. Some of these bills have since entered the dockets of the Senate and are at various stages of consideration as some also have been passed by the Senate.
“Chief among those passed include the Electronic Transaction Bill 2015; Debt Recovery and Insolvency bill 2015 and; the Railway Bill which is being considered through the final lap. All these bills represent a watershed in economic and business legislations in our country,” he said.
Continuing, Saraki noted that: “The Electronic Transaction Bill 2015 for example, will be the first legal framework ever in our country that provides the legal foundation for electronic signatures and guarantees predictability in contracts made electronically.
“Once signed into law, this bill will offer full protection to contracts entered into via emails, and transactions conducted with online shops, electronic commerce and services platforms, which are currently not provided for in our laws.
“By passing this bill, the Senate has given legitimacy and local application to the United Nations Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts, which was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 23rd November 2005.”
He also included the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Repeal and Amendment Bill 2015 as another important bill that has emerged from the Senate’s interventions.
The senator who represents Bayelsa East District, Ben Bruce, took a very critical look at government’s approach towards redeeming Nigerians from the current economic shackles and declared that the budget must be structured in such a manner that pays at least 50 per cent attention to capital projects.
“We celebrate one year in office but I am very troubled by our economy. A lot of things have gone wrong and we have no time to fix the problems. Everybody complains that the price of oil has caused the decline of economy. But everybody must understand that the oil sector contributes 50 percent to the Gross Domestic Product which cannot all of a sudden have a negative growth of minus .36 per cent. We have a very serious problem coupled with the fact that 18,000 babies are born in Nigeria everyday more than the whole of Western Europe combined and population growth with the declining economic growth is a terrible combination to have. This is coupled with the fact that after one year the budget has not been implemented as the Minister of Finance has said.
“Now, let me make a request to President Buhari. When the budget for next year is presented, he must give the Minister of Finance a direct instruction: recurrent expenditure should not exceed 50 per cent of the budget”, Bruce said.
Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Olusola Adeyeye drew the attention of his colleagues to the series of problems bedeviling the nation in addition to the challenge of imminent economic recession.
Adeyeye said: “No matter the political party we belong to, the country is in a turmoil. The economy is in a bad shape. Insecurity is very high. Unemployment is unimaginable. The next one year must not be like the last one year. We must make a difference.”
Also speaking on the general state of affairs in the country, Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio warned that if something urgent was not done, Nigeria would be plunged into crisis.
He noted that “In the South-south, people have abandoned their homes because of activities of Niger Delta Avengers. The north is under turmoil. The South-east is boiling because of agitation. The South-west is the only peaceful area.
“I want to urge the APC to market this country very well. They must change the way they talk about Nigeria. Things need to change,” Akpabio submitted.
Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu in his remarks, said only God gives power. He called on detractors to leave the Red Chamber alone.
“I am proud of our accomplishments as a Senate. When we started, we were divided along the lines of Unity Forum, Like Minds and non-aligned, but today we are united as one indivisible Senate, working for the progress of our nation.
“To our detractors, let me just say that there is God. It is God that gives power and He gives to whoever he wants. It does not make any sense people wasting their time and energy plotting the downfall of others,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Senate declared that it has initiated a total number of 300 bills between June 2015 till date.
Addressing a press conference shortly after the session, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Babajide Omoworare disclosed that of the 300 bills introduced into the senate only four were executive bills, adding that the rest were sponsored by senators.
According to him, out of these 300 bills, “186 bills are at the first reading stage, while 45 have been read the second time and referred to the various committees for further legislative action.”
The President’s list of envoy-nominees include Obinna Chukwuemeka, Salisu Umoru, Iyan Udoh, Okeke Vivian, Liman Munir, Edem Jane, Mohammed Hassan, Martin Cobham, Janet Molegbo, Itegbuoye Sunday, Olatunde Adesesan and Lilian Onu.
Others are Manaja Isa, Ngozi Ukeje, Bello Husseini, Enoch Ducci, Garba Baba, Usman Aliyu, Umar Salisu, Momoh Omeiza, Kadiri Audu, Balogun Hakeem, Nosa Ahmed, Ibrahim Isa, Bankole Adeoye and Ibidapo Obe.
Other ambassadorial nominees are Ogundaro Sakirat, Eric Belgam, Ateru Haliru, Ramota Bulima, Musa Mamman, Kabiru Bala, Adamu Shuaibu, D.A. Agiv, T.K. Gonglong, Ibrahim Hamza, K.C. Nwachukwu and Q.R. Wolu.
The list also had E.K. Oguntuwase, A.I. Paragauda, L.A. Gasharga, Olufemi Abikoye, Abubakar Ibrahim, Rabiu Kawu, Janet Bisong and Adekunbi Habeebat.
Besides, Special Adviser to the President on Budget Matters and former Lagos State Commissioner for Economic Planning, Mr. Ben Akabueze, was yesterday appointed the new Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation.
He swapped position with Alhaji Tijani Abdullahi, who was also named the new Special Adviser to the President on Planning.
No reason was given for the latest development, but a statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the appointments.