ABUJA – On June 11, 2020, the upper chamber of the National Assembly clocked one year in the office. The Senate, which was inaugurated on June 11, 2019, has not been spared of criticisms.
While several condemnations have been trailing the operational method of the Senate in its one year in office, the upper chamber on Thursday gave itself a thump up for a job well done.
In his address to mark the first year of the 9th Senate, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said that after the Senate was inaugurated, the lawmakers adopted a well-articulated Legislative Agenda, which is to focus on ensuring that this Senate works for Nigerians; through various and timely legislative interventions, and other parliamentary functions.
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“We have also committed ourselves into working in a bipartisan manner. Our goals and targets were crystal clear, and we have remained resolute to achieve them. Our decisions have been collective, purposeful and patriotic. Today, we can say that we have remained on track to deliver on our promises to the Nigerian people,” he said.
Lawan said that the Senate working cordially with the House of Representatives has created a productive and proficient National Assembly, adding that as a bicameral legislature, the Senate will continue to partner with the House of Representatives to engender stability and productivity.
The President of the Senate disclosed the decision of the National Assembly to work with The executive was for the progress of the country.
“Both the Ninth Senate, indeed the Ninth National Assembly and the Executive arm of government have decided to collaborate and partner for a harmonious working relationship. Today, there is a very good relationship, based on mutual respect, consultation, cooperation, collaboration and partnership. There is no doubt that this has proven to be beneficial to the people we represent. I commend the executive arm of government for the valuable partnership that has so far yielded improved service delivery to our citizens.
“A good working relationship is desirable and indeed imperative in order to achieve optimum, effective and efficient service delivery to the people. Equally important, however, is the observance of the principle of separation of powers. We will continue to be guided by this principle in our relationship with other arms of government. Thus, we will continue to carry out our constitutional role of oversight on the executive arm of government. This is necessary in order to engender and guarantee efficiency in governance and to also protect the liberty of citizens. We will also be guided by the national interest,” he said.
Lawan listed an approval of borrowing request by President Muhammadu Buhari as one of the achievements of the Senate in the one year under scrutiny.
He said: “In order to support and enable the government raise the necessary funds for national development, there were requests for approval to borrow, both from the domestic and foreign sources. We have approved foreign loans of about $28 billion in the last one year. We had ensured proper scrutiny for the desired projects and programmes of the government, the conditions of the facilities; before approving such borrowing requests.”
He also listed the introduction of about 450 Bills, some of them, which have already been signed into law and the remaining at different stages of legislative processing, as among their achievements in the one year in office.
Lawan disclosed that aside from the aforementioned achievements, regularization of the federal government budget circle from January to December was another major feat of the National Assembly under his watch.
“One year ago, one of our major concerns and priorities was to change the Federal Government Budget cycle. Our concern then was our country needed to have a Budget cycle that will be regular, predictable and stable. We worked extra hours and days to ensure that the Budget 2020 was passed before the end of December 2019. Our Committees carried out the necessary scrutiny of the budget estimates of the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) before the Budget was finally passed by the National Assembly on 5th December 2019. It’s noteworthy that the passage of the 2020 Appropriation has enabled the Federal Government to start the implementation of the budget from January 2020. It also created better environment for businesses in Nigeria to plan on their financial activities within the year.”
He added that the Senate successfully amended the Deep Off-Shore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts Act Cap D3LFN 2004 (Amendment Bill 2009); which was specifically geared towards increasing our collectable revenues from proceeds of crude sales.
“The other areas of legislative interventions considered by the Senate were the passage of Medium Term Expenditure and Fiscal Strategy Paper MTEF/FSP 2020- 2022; Public Procurement 2007 (amendment); Finance Bill 2019 (Nigeria Tax and Fiscal Law) (SB.140); Companies and Allied Matters Act, Cap C20 LFN 2004 (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill 2019 (SB. 251).
“These legislative interventions have direct positive impacts on the economy of our country. As more revenues are earned by the government, the capacity and ability of government to address the infrastructural deficits are enhanced.”
Also speaking of the achievements of the Senate, the spokesman of the upper chamber, Senator Ajibola Surajudeen Basiru, said that the 9th National Assembly in its first year of legislative session made required interventions on the Nation’s economy resulting in new windows of revenues estimated by experts to be about N320 billion per year.
In furtherance of that, the federal lawmakers are also more than ready, to give the much expected Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), expeditious consideration anytime forwarded to them by the executive arm of government.
Sacrificially, the senators, according to him are still donating half of their salaries on monthly basis to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senator Basiru (APC Osun Central), in a statement said that in the area of legislative interventions for good governance, the Senate and by extension, the National Assembly had enacted new laws and/or modifying existing legislation for the attainment of good governance .
According to him, one of such interventions was the amendment of Finance Act 2019 by the Senate, adding, perturbed by dwindling national revenues largely due to vulnerabilities in international price of crude oil, the Senate took steps towards improving revenues from other avenues notably Value Added Tax (VAT).
“Accordingly, it passed an Executive Bill which proposed an increase in VAT from 5% to 7.5% in record time by invoking its powers under Order 79(1) of the Senate Standing Rules. This was an extraordinary step to take.
“Another laudable and progressive intervention was the extensive work done on the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract (Amendment) Act 2019 (Act) to repeal and replace Section 16 of the Act.
“A statutory mandate to review the Act was never complied with for decades and the country lost valuable revenue. Thus, the amendment passed by this Senate achieved 4 major milestones which are: It revised upwardly the regime of royalty payable on crude produced in deep waters.
“It deleted Section 16 of the Act which provided for the trigger for a review of the Act. It introduced Section 16(A) which mandated the Minister of Petroleum to cause the NNPC to under a review of Production Sharing Contracts every 8 years. It introduced Section 16 (B) which provided for offences and penalties.
“The cumulative effect of this amendment is that the sum of N320 billion has been unlocked according to several reputable industry experts and it goes without saying that the injection of such huge revenue into our economy will catalyse several positive outcomes.”
Reacting to the one year anniversary of the Senate, the spokesman of Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere said that the 9th National Assembly is the worst in the history of Nigeria parliament.
He added that the parliament in one year reduced the law making process to a child’s play, reduced the principles of separation of power and independence of the parliament to a ridiculously low level and also turned it into a political house of Hallelujah.
Speaking with our correspondent, Ugochinyere said that are only promoting incompetency, adding, “They are reckless, they have been so barbaric in their actions, they have reduced the law-making process to a child’s play and if there’s anything that they have achieved or they should be described after one year is that they have finally turned their parliament into a political house of Hallelujah, whereby whatever the lead singer repeats which is the President is what they do.
“Look at their achievement, helping the President to stamp reckless borrowing; borrowings that have no impact on the lives of ordinary Nigerians; borrowings that are deceptive in nature, borrowings that will be used to fund private pockets.”
The CUPP spokesman compared the one year of the Parliament to that of Uganda and Burundi, adding that they are trying to overtake them in terms of being the house where everything goes and a place that a law can be made to change a man into a woman, “as long as we the opposition are concerned, in the last one year, they have become politically useless to the Nigerian people.”
On the working relationship between the parliament and the executive, Ugochinyere said, “they have taken the issue of executive and legislature working relationship to a ridiculous level, whereby they now dine and wine at the table of the President and always look up to the President for direction, so they’re of no use to the Nigerian people. The money being paid to them is useless.”
Berating the lawmakers for the ridiculous amount budgeted for the renovation of the National Assembly, Ugochinyere said, “you can see the level of political and economic madness, that assuming it was approved, that N37 billion would have been spent on that building that has become in the last one year, economically and politically useless to the Nigerian people in terms of bringing out output that would have helped to caution the problems and challenges the republic is facing.
“It is a shame that they have the audacity to even say they are celebrating one year, they are supposed to bow their heads in shame and not do anything because it is a one year of shame, a one year of reducing the principles of separation of power and independence of the parliament to a ridiculously low level.”
Source : independent.ng