From Nigeria’s Senate to Nigerians’ Senate: Three years after – Blueprint Newspapers Limited

Wealthlandnews June 12, 2022
Updated 2022/06/12 at 2:51 PM

In order to have a valid assessment of the 9th Senate, its mission has to be understood first of all.
And as a refresher, Nigeria had a dispensation where the legislative and the executive organs of the same federal government witnessed the worst of hostilities in relationship. Apart from satisfying the egos of a few, that era literally contributed nothing to the efforts at national development. Most of the attempts by the national assembly to assert itself were roundly undermined by the constitution. This is because the same constitution that empowers the legislature to exercise some levels of supervision on the executive ironically enables the latter to dispense with the former seamlessly. And in the end ultimately, governance suffered while Nigerians paid the price.
Then came the Senator Ahmad Lawan-led 9th Senate.
Rather than sustain the impoverishments, it toed the path of empathy by seeking to connect the people to good governance. And conscious that leadership is key in this task, Lawan came handy with the blueprint. The major thrusts of his legislative agenda were to: “reposition the Senate to carry out its constitutional duties of legislation, oversight and representation in an open and transparent manner; take legislative action to improve national economic conditions including public finance management and national security architecture and to reduce poverty, unemployment and infrastructure deficits; propose and implement a national planning and annual budget process that fosters collaboration between the executive and legislative arms of government; (and) continue with legislative actions to bring to closure all outstanding legislation including the electoral act and constitution amendments bills”.
Then of significance, Lawan added that “to effectively address the crisis of confidence between the Senate and the general public, the 9th Senate shall adopt a transparent and accountable system that offers full disclosure of its budget in terms of personnel costs, operational expenses and other expenditure”.
Again, he emphasized that “in the laws we enact, in the oversight and representations we undertake, the wellbeing of the Nigerian people will always be our priority.……we shall use all available channels to ensure a regular flow of information to the general public and encourage feedback and dialogue so that we remain responsive to the Nigerian people that we were elected to serve”.
Succinctly, the 9th Senate is on a mission to advance citizens’ cause and revive national interest.
However three years after, Nigerians may not have been out of the woods, but authoritatively, the 9th Senate has kept faith with its goals.
Firstly, the senate is today repositioned and functions “in an open and transparent manner” where bipartisanship, nationalism, stability, and unity of purpose are the defining features. Also, senators are unanimous that collaboration in governance is their corporate strategy if they must effectively represent the people, particularly learning from the past.
Secondly, the 9th Senate is truly committed to its avowed resolve “to take legislative actions to improve national economic conditions”. In law-making, it elevated quality above quantity, settling for only those that have direct bearings on the well-being of the people. The first bills it initiated were those that had been in existence but needed fresh impetus for immediate good governance delivery. They included the Deep Off-Shore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts Act 2004, whose amendment by the 9th Senate was aimed at maximizing the revenues accruing from the crude oil; the Finance Act and the Public Procurement Act 2007 whose amendments complementarily were to ensure the high-level performance of the budget, as well as the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2004 amended to advance the ease of doing business policies. They were speedily accented to sequel to the canvassed synergy between the arms of government.
And then added to the dividends of these economic-stimulating bills, the senate president hinted that “we have equally approved special requests from the executive for emergency funding and interventions to reflate the economy as a means of moving our country out of recession, restoring businesses and livelihood, improving supply chains, generating more employment and creating wealth and income for millions of Nigerians”.
Also driven by the critical importance of security to the economy which has necessitated special budgetary allocations among other steps including visits to the troops by the Senate, Lawan noted that, “to address the emergency, we passed several resolutions as part of our legislative interventions and kept engaging with the Executive in order to achieve the desired outcome……We are glad that Mr. President heeded our calls, besides those of other well-meaning citizens and effected the needed changes. The result of this is the renewed zeal, animated by our gallant troops in the nationalistic fight to rid the country of all forms of criminality”.
Yet Lawan was dispassionate to also note that “we have done a lot in terms of providing resources for our security agencies to fight banditry and other security issues but we have not achieved the kind of result that we want to achieve. We will continue to provide more resources and continue to hold our security agencies responsible for the resources we give them for as long as the insecurity persists”. This is of course towards deepening accountability and probity in governance expected of a responsible legislature.
Equally concerned about the crucial nature of power to the economy, Lawan had lamented that “if there’s any sector of our economy that is so important and yet so challenged, it is the power sector. I believe that this is a sector that needs a declaration of emergency. The truth is that we all know what is wrong, what we really need is to have the political will to take on the challenges generally”. Similar worries were also expressed concerning the Niger-Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
Hence, the senate aside organizing a public roundtable discussion on power, launched separate legislative probes on NDDC and the power sector.
Lawan stressed that “our mind-set in the senate is that we must have NDDC that is efficient in service delivery to the people of Niger-Delta. This is the essence of setting up the Commission. So we want to see a situation where the very limited resources appropriated for NDDC are prudently deployed for the development of the Niger-Delta region. This is our mind-set and we will not shy away from our responsibility at any time we feel that is not happening”.
Instructively, those calculated interventions are already yielding fruits. At least, the economy is experiencing gradual growth.
Furthermore, the legislative advocacy of the 9th Senate activated the overriding need for reform in the operations of the national social investments programme, NSIP towards revitalizing the economy.
Leading from the front as usual, Lawan warned that “the time has come that we review the ways and manner we used to deliver the service under the SIP to Nigerians. We need to be better in terms of strategy for delivery and definitely, what we have been doing in the past cannot deliver exactly what will solve the challenges of the most ordinary and vulnerable Nigerians. So we need to put on our thinking cap and work out some strategies on how to identify the poorest persons in Nigeria, I think we have not been able to reach far out there to get them properly captured”.
And today to the overall benefit of humanity, a bill to this effect has passed through 3rd reading at the House of Representatives.
Then thirdly on the review, the 9th Senate has since delivered on its resolve to “propose and implement a national planning and annual budget process that fosters collaboration between the executive and legislative arms of government”. One clear dividend is the reversion to the January-December fiscal calendar where 100% budget implementation has been attained and sustained for 3 unbroken years now, sequel to elimination of revenue leakages associated with the hitherto weak budgeting system. This signposts a growing economy facilitated by the collaboration between the executive and the legislature which has made it mandatory for budget proposals to be presented months before passage to provide ample time for scrutiny and also for every head of the ministerial departments and agencies to be physically present at budget defence sessions.
Fourthly and on the 9th Senate’s promise to “continue with legislative actions to bring to closure all outstanding legislation including the electoral act and constitution amendments bills” much have been achieved. In this regard, and because every law passed is statutorily to the credit of the two chambers of the national assembly, the joint report is just what is delaying the passage of the concluded alterations on the largely obsolete 1999 constitution. Because it is the bane of Nigeria’s democratic governance advancement, the 9th Senate paid the highest premium to the constitution amendment.
Meanwhile the petroleum industry bill (PIB) that defied several assemblies, spanning over 20 years, has since been passed by this Lawan-led 9th assembly. Similarly there are today, reformed electoral laws that guarantee transparent, credible, free and fair elections in Nigeria because globally, strong economies are supported by robust and dynamic electoral system.
Apparently, it is this subject of electoral legislation that underscores the commitment of this parliament to identifying with the people as well as jealously guarding its relative independence. Apart from vehemently resisting persistent pressures from the executive to tinker with the recently amended electoral laws, the 9th Senate rejected Lauretta Onochie’s presidential nomination and that of Olalekan Raheem as independent national electoral commission, INEC, commissioners, based on their partisan affiliations. Again, the Senate yielded to the democratic clamours of the masses for electronic transmission of election results and also multiple options on the mode of nomination of candidates by the political parties.
Then lastly and on the pledge that “the 9th Senate shall adopt a transparent and accountable system that offers full disclosure of its budget in terms of personnel costs, operational expenses and other expenditure”, the detailed breakdown of the national assembly yearly budget is today open to the public.
Though through elitist orchestrations, the 9th senate has been dubbed a rubber-stamp institution, there has not been a proven case of legislative infraction to support the insinuation. This misconception is thriving because there is no celebrated friction between the executive and the legislature.
Rather than engaging in futile efforts, given that the constitution is manifestly tilted in favour of the executive, this senate deliberately weighs every option against the overall interest of the people. For instance, if the national assembly vetoes the executive on any matter, the laws do not spell out the consequences of the executive’s likely non-compliance.
Two clear cases were when the nomination of Ibrahim Magu as the chairman of the economic and financial crimes commission, EFCC, was rejected by the senate and also when the same senate made a resolution that the Custom’s boss would be wearing an official uniform. The executive had it way as it did in several others. Nonetheless, the 8th Senate declined the presidential request to borrow externally. But to what extent did it impact on the living conditions of the citizenry especially given that the loan was proposed to fund some critical infrastructures?
Hence, wisdom demands that the Lawan-led Senate learns from the experiences of the immediate past.
But beyond this and by every standard of objective assessment, the 9th senate is not only excelling in its commitment to evolving from Nigeria’s senate to Nigerians’ senate which is the bottom line of its promises to Nigerians at the inception, it has also not lost its voice on any issue of good governance. Ahmad Lawan is diligently providing the needed leadership in this regard.
However, the ultimate impacts of these achievements depend on the executive.
Egbo is the print media aide to the senate president.
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