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The Nigerian Senate resumed from its Sallah recess on Tuesday, September 20, 2016 with Bukola Saraki, its president, reminding his colleagues and the executive arm of government that the citizens of the country are desperately hungry.
Nigeria is currently suffering from an economic recession and rising cost of food and Saraki did not fail to confirm this,
While proffering solutions to the country’s many challenges, he also promised that the National Assembly would work with the executive arm of government to get Nigeria out of the woods.
Read some of the most important statements he made while addressing his colleagues on the floor of the Senate:
1. I recall unforgettably, how one of the women came straight to me with a look of utter desperation and all she could mutter out was, please our Senator, do what you can to put an end to this suffering, it is becoming unbearable. I don’t know what your experience was, but if your experience mirrored mine, then the challenge before us could not have been made clearer. The words of this woman reverberated across the hall with such unison that it was impossible to under estimate the desperation in the land.
2. Yes, the collapse in oil prices from over $100 per barrel to about $48 recently meant the Nigerian economy would experience serious challenges. However, low sovereign savings have compounded our situation with FX reserves having declined from over $65bn in 2007 to about $30bn by 2015. The implications of this is that we must do something drastic and quick to restore confidence back into the economy and get people investing and spending again if we are to end the despair in the land.
3. It is clear to me that when people are desperately hungry, what they need is leadership with a clear vision; leadership whose daily actions reflects the very urgency of the people’s condition. Therefore, our response to the current challenge must be dictated by the urgency of the hardship that the people suffer on a daily basis.
4. The simple question for our debate must be; how do we tame the widespread hunger in the land? How do we save our businesses from collapse? How do we save jobs for the majority and create even a lot more? Only a few months ago, Naira was exchanging to the dollar at 200; today it is approaching 500. How do we arrest this drift so that our businesses can compete and our children can go to school wherever they may find opportunities.
5. Even as desperate as our people may be for solution, I did not feel that what they expect from us is a miracle. I believe what they want to see is that as leaders, all our hands are on the deck. They don’t care about our politics; they don’t care about our political affiliations; they don’t care if we are APC OR PDP; north or south. What they want is for us to lead the way out of this crisis and deliver on the promises that we made to them.
6. We will work in concert, not at cross-purposes. Our goal is clear; to work together with the Executive to get our economy out of recession. We will proffer our solutions on policy issues, and where necessary enact necessary legislation to ensure that investor confidence returns to the market.
7. The executive must immediately put in place leadership-level engagement platform with the private sector. This must be one that is pro-business and shows unequivocally that government is ready to partner with the private sector towards economic revival. This is a critical signpost towards market confidence which is a key ingredient to help us revamp the economy out of recession.
8. The executive mist raise capital from asset sales and other sources to shore up foreign reserves. This will calm investors, discourage currency speculation and stabilize the economy. The measures should include part sale of NLNG Holdings; reduction of government share in upstream oil joint venture operations; sale of government stake in financial institutions e.g. Africa Finance Corporation; and the privatization and concession of major/regional airports and refineries.
9. The executive and CBN must agree on a policy of monetary easing to stimulate the economy and harmonise monetary and fiscal policy until economic recovery is attained. We must ensure local government borrowing does not crowd out credit for the private sector.
10. The executive must retool its export promotion policy scheme with export incentives such as the resumption of the Export Expansion Grant (EEG); and introduce export-financing initiatives.
11. The executive is urged to engage in meaningful dialogue with those aggrieved in the Niger Delta and avoid an escalation of the conflict in the region. The National Assembly is very ready to . any role in the process and offer ideas on approaches that will deliver quick win-win in order to move the region and the economy forward.
12. The executive must as a deliberate response consider immediate release of funds to ensure the implementation of the budget for the near short term to inject money into the economy.
13 Distinguished colleagues, I must at the point like to re-emphasis the fact that we need togetherness to tackle this problem and it will be naïve to consider the problem we face today as the problem of the administration alone, or that those who brought us to this situation should see us out, that would be doing a disservice to our people who elected us to help them out when they are in need.