By Uju Maduakor and Grace Danjuma
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has charged senators to take serious their oversight functions on the executive, saying that this is the major reason why Nigerians voted them into office.
In his welcome speech, Saraki said “Let me therefore use this opportunity to call on all our standing committees to begin the process of putting together their oversight plan for a close and proper review of the performance of the 2017 Budget.
“In the same token, we must remind ourselves of the initiative we started and for which we have significant stride – that is, the Made in Nigeria initiative. Distinguished colleagues, it is time to enter the next stage of this initiative; the oversight of implementation to ensure that the policy yields expected gains”, he added.
He further recalled that the senate has in the last two sessions of it term devoted enormous time, working on critical legislation, some with historical essence and others with relatively high-level implications for enhancing the welfare of the people and putting food on their tables.
“I am happy to tell you that some of these bills which has since become law have already started yielding expected gains. This is especially so with the Secure Transactions in Movable Assets Act, with increased lending to private sector. We expect more to come. Our ultimate aim will be, inclusive growth, full employment for our people and frameworks that enable our young people to run viable startups”, he said.
He gave a clue to what the senate will focus on saying “our focus on interventions critical to our national development will continue in this session. We will be interacting with stakeholders with the aim of repositioning our education sector and the health sector especially with the health insurance subsector as key primers of the economy.
“The major direction will be to expand access to basic education and health, incentivize investment in these critical sectors and find lasting solutions to issues of strikes and interruption in these sectors”.
He charged his colleagues not to be deterred by blackmails by those in the executive while performing their constitutional duties.
According to him “as a firm believer that economic security is first and most important security we can offer our people, it is the apparent inadequacy of this security that is at the heart of the general disaffection of our people towards government.
“We have done this with the belief that with less hunger on the street; with more of our people gainfully engaged; insecurity will be significantly reduced and our economy revamped. In this period, I expect us to conclude work on the National Transport Commission Bill, and the National Road Funds Bill, the Petroleum Industry Fiscal and Host Community Bill which are pending. It is my hope that we shall conclude work quickly on the Bank lending rate reduction initiative and the National Payment Systems Bill.”
While adding that the senate will continue to take action to strengthen the economy, the senate President congratulated Nigerians for working together to get the country out of recession, but warned that the country should not rest on her oars as this is not an end in itself.
“There is a lot of work ahead. Our aim is to see our economy create millions of new jobs and see growth rates of 7% or more. This is why the implementation of the 2017 budget is crucial”, he said.