Bukola Saraki; Nigeria’s Unity Ambassador

By Adewole Kehinde

Political environment is synonymous with sweet promises most of which are not achievable. This discrepancy leads to loss of trust in leadership. Such pattern is common in our clime.

However, the current Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, is an exception, one of the steadfast persons that keep to their promises. His emergence as the Senate President made him Chairman of the National Assembly, a position that is strategic and core in rebuilding the legislative arm of government to let people have the feel of true and genuine representation.

It’s on record that, since his emergence as the Senate President, and in keeping to terms with the public mandate that produced him, he made it a point of duty to post weekly activities on the upper legislative chamber on the social media. This feat is in keeping to terms with principle of running an open administration as the Senate of the people to enable input from members of the society and to show his commitment to transparency and public accountability.

The emergence of Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki as the Senate President of the 8th Assembly, despite internal party contradictions, is enough to be made a special case. While the tide and zoning was against him, one wonders how he still survived the odds. His input as a Senator  of the Federal Republic while he served his first term, and also his critical engagement of the public, paved way for him, and he beats “them” to it.

Some of the people-oriented bills traceable to him during the 7th Assembly are:

  • The National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency Amendement Bill, 2012, which focuses on oil spilling in Niger Delta;
  • The Gas Flaring Prohibition Bill, 2012, which focuses on generating more income from gas insetead of wasting it;
  • The Climate Change Commission Bill, 2013, developed from his experience as a medical doctor who understood the implications of ozone depletion, radiation and environmental pollution. He helped sponsor this bill to establish a commission to legislate, advocate and deals on climate change issues in Nigeria;
  • The motion on fuel subsidy as a conduit pipe for diverting Nigeria’s money.

The hurdles he crossed to emerge prepared him for setting a proactive people-oriented legislative agenda, starting with composition of the Senate committees.

A critical assesement of composition of the 8th upper chamber Committees places professionalism, experience, ranking and past antecedents on who chaired what committee and who gets what to ensure required productivity. The selection committee of the Senate was thorough.

And within the last two years, the Oversight and Committee work so far has reposed back the confidence of both the political society and civil society members that indeed we have a Senate to work with.

The landmark output that passed through the Senate within the last six months, despite the distractions and fifth columnists, includes but is not limited to approval of medium-term expenditure framework and supplementary budget.

The 8th Assembly, led by Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki approved the MTEF which is to form basis for spending of government. The unprecedented conscious and speedy approval of the MTEF forms basis for passage of supplementary budget. It also emphasize need to implement the fiscal responsibility act which ensures that all ministries and agencies of the government should submit their expenditure and should be captured in the budget proposal.

The Senate President in his wisdom and in fulfillment of his legislative agenda also suggested the need to include expected payment for October-December to round up 2015 subsidy issue at once in the supplementary budget.

The Senate President having built his 8th legislative agenda around people, has promised President Muhamnadu Buhari that this National Assembly will pass a budget “that will de-emphasise recurrent expenditure and priotize the upgrade of infrastructure in order to achieve economic recovery and generate employment for our teeming population”.

This we can see in the budget proposal submitted and the welcome speech made by Senate President. This will be possible based on the pre MTEF already approved by the Senate under his leadership.

Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki has reiterated several times the need to adhere to rule of law and constitutional principles which will further guide and save our democratic process. Adherence to these principle will make the arm of government more responsive and their constitutional roles will be easily carried out, such as lawmaking, legislating and oversight, along with budgeting which is core and shows how responsive a government can be.

Legislation that will rebuild confidence of investors: the 8th Assembly built around people have vowed to legislate in all sectors of our economy to provide a budget and other legislations that “must also be bold and pragmatic in providing transparent incentives and conducive environment that will promote private sector-led development, encourage local production and promote made-in-Nigeria goods”. Either by tax exemption or waivering on importation of manufacturing tools and machines, or by making more money available to bank of industry or commercial banks with very low charges. This we will need to be on the lookout for as once done private investors will be encouraged to invest and by that provide job for teeming masses.

The Saraki-led Senate has promised Nigerian that 2018 is to settle down for economic growth and development. All the impending laws causing administrative bottlenecks will be amended. The Senate President said: “We recognise that a harmonious National Assembly is essential not only on legislative progress but also for the Executives to function effectively.” This could only be achieve with good legislations.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives understood the need for industrial growth to employ our graduates and jobless youths, and earn more income from taxes and royalties. To this they have collectively marshalled out plans for “passage of laws that will further enhances our business environment and promotes accountability in governance”.

Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, as a private sector-trained businessman, understood the need to diversify our economy to a non-oil revenue driven economy, and has promised the people of Nigeria laws that will support non-oil earnings to build infrastructures and make life better. And in doing this, implementation of fiscal responsibility act will be adhered to at same time ensure that oversight is taking serious to ensure full implementation of the appropriated budget.

The Ilorin-born politician, the Chairman of the National Assembly, promised Nigerians transformational economic policies in 2018. Many of those who know him will agree that if he could put all mechanisms for effective budget implementation and performance as the Special Assistant on Budget in 2001, then he can do better now as the Senate President.

This he will do regardless of distractions. His commitment to national development and peace cannot be overemphasized.

It is already historic that within the last quarter, which incidentally is the second quarter of this session, the Senate under Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki  has rolled up their sleeves, with sweat on their brows and successfully passed 49 bills through third party reading and 68 bills through second reading. This is a record setting feat, which has never been matched in the history of the National Assembly. That within a period of 4 months in the middle of the term of any past National Assembly, 49 bills are passed in a single quarter.

Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki must also be commended on his timely directive to the Senate Ad hoc Committee on Security Infrastructure to cut short its recess and investigate the New Year killings in Benue State. Within a week, he had two meetings with President  Buhari on the  Benue killings.

In a bid to end the ongoing fuel crisis and the untold hardship it is presently unleashing on Nigerians, Senator. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, on directed the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream) to cut short its recess and immediately convene a meeting with industry stakeholders.

The Committee summoned the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Maikanti Baru and other relevant stakeholders in the petroleum sector on Thursday January 4, 2018 to find lasting solution to the fuel crisis.

It is on record that the 8th National Assembly finally reached a milestone with the passage of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill — otherwise known as PIGB.

It will be recalled that in May 2017, the Senate took the first step in this direction, and yesterday, Thursday,  18th January 2018, the House of Representatives did the same by passing this Bill that is aimed at modernizing the Petroleum Industry and overhauling the entire system – to create a conducive business environment for petroleum industry operations.

The Petroleum Industry Governance Bill will also promote openness and transparency in the industry by clarifying the rules, processes, and procedures that govern the oil and gas sector. This should eliminate, or at worse, reduce corruption significantly and make the sector more efficient and more productive.

With the ongoing fuel scarcity in many parts of the country, Nigerians should know that the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill,  once it becomes law, will help alleviate those issues that lead to scarcity, such as: the limited supply of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS); the poor import planning schedule that leads to fuel importation constraints; the corruption, diversion and smuggling that leads to artificial scarcity; and the absence of deregulation in the sector.

This bridge that the Senate  have just crossed, is a part of the commitment of the National Assembly to remain focused, committed, and determined to meet Nigerians expectations.

This is another promise made and kept by the 8th Assembly. With this feat, National Assembly  have demonstrated that they have the will and capacity to deliver on her key promises aimed at rebuilding the national economy and improving the standard of living of our people.

In doing this, all stakeholders must be on the same page to give required support for the Senate under the leadership of Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki and at same time ensure that distractors are put on check to ensure required service delivery.

Adewole Kehinde is a Journalist based in Abuja.  He can be reached via kennyadewole@gmail.com 

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