By Musa Adamu and Ikechukwu Okaforadi
President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan yesterday gave reasons why the Senate will pass the $30 billion loan request from the executive after being rejected by the 8th Senate.
Speaking at the Media briefing organised by the leadership, the Senate president, said the Senate would pass the President’s loan request considering that there was no alternative to it to bridge the budget deficit.
He however, disclosed that unlike in the 8th assembly, the request from the executive this time carried all the possible details needed to guide the Senate.
He further assured that the Senate would be prudent in its consideration of the request, tied every request to a project and be strict in its over sight duty.
On why the Senate is still considering the loan even after passing the Finance Bill, Contract Sharing Production Bull supposedly aimed at giving more revenue to the government, Lawan said the position was that the passage of these Acts can only help to reduce budget deficit but that it cannot completely eliminate it.
On the Hate Speech Bill currently before the Senate which generated mixed reactions from Nigerians, he said he was aware that the proposed legislation elicited controversy, he however assured, like every other Bill passed in the Senate, the Bill would receive input from Nigerians and the majority would carry the day at the end.
Commenting on the necessity for constituency projects, he said although, it had remained controversial since 1999, it was a desirable approach to development.
He said even though the initiative had always suffered from paucity of funds, he hoped that the passage of Finance Bill, TSA and the return to January to December budget cycle there would be enough funds to implement them.
On electoral process in the country, he said: “ we are concerned about our electoral process like every other Nigerian but we cannot claim to completely eliminate the challenges but we will do our best as soon as we resume from Christmas break to work on an Electoral Act that will help a great deal.”
On the high rate of unemployment in the country, he said: “we are asking the government to continue to lend help to the private sector which is the organ that create employment. We will continue to work with executive to promote our private sector to strengthen them to create employment opportunities for our youth.”
On the promise to fight against corruption by the APC led government, he said: “what I can say is that the facts on the ground should speak for themselves. Forgive me if I don’t speak much in this but you must have seen that a lot if gain is being made on this.”
Lawan also unveiled the agenda which the Senate will focus on during the 2020 session of the parliament, including: Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), 1999 Constitution amendment.
Others, according to him are, 2010 Electoral Act (Amendment), Agricultural revolution agenda for food security, legislations to encourage mining of solid minerals, power sector development.
He said the quarterly oversight will be placed on revenue generating agencies, including FIRS, Customs, NNPC, among others, adding that the senate will particularly focus on the ability of the agencies to meet their revenue targets.
To this end, he said the lawmakers will intervene as appropriate in cases where the factors inhibiting the achievement of the set revenue target require policy or legislative interventions by the parliament.
“Some of the bills that will be accorded priority when we return from the Christmas and New Year break in January are the Petroleum Industry Bill, Electoral Reforms Amendment Bills and Amendment of the 1999 Constitution.
“The National Assembly will this time around adopt a different approach to make the passage of the PIB a reality. We want to see a situation where the Legislature and the Executive work very closely to have a PIB that will attract investment into the oil and gas sector in Nigeria.
“We want to create an investment climate that will be competitive. We know some other countries have this product, therefore, we have to be competitive, we have to create an environment where the businesses make profit”, he said.
He said the senate will want both the legislature, executive and other relevant stakeholders in the sector, particularly the IOCs (International Oil Companies), to work together to ensure that the environment works for every interest.
Recounting the gains and giant strides recorded by the 9th Senate under his watch, the senate President said it has also confirmed 12 key appointments.
These, he listed to include: Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ministers of the Government of the Federation, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, President of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria; and chairmen and members of eight Commissions, Services and Corporations.
He said presently, the senate is screening the Presidential nominees for the National Hajj Commission, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCOM), promising that the Senate is also likely to pass the 2020 Budget for the Federal Capital Territory before it embarks on Christmas and New Year recess.
Speaking on the allegation that the senate under him is a rubber stamp of the executive, Lawan said despite their desire for cordial relationships with the other arms of government, the Senate and indeed the ninth National Assembly will continue to firmly exercise its oversight role on the executive agencies with a view to ensuring transparency, accountability and good governance.