Full text of welcome remarks by Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila at the resumption of the 9th House of Representatives for legislative work in 2023
Members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday resumed for the final lap of their tenure in parliament after about three weeks of break from legislative activities due to the festive season.
At the beginning of the plenary. Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, in his welcome remarks, expressed hope that the legislative chamber will meet and exceed expectations in this new year, even as they approach the end of their term in office.
The Speaker further condemned what he described as increasing attacks on political actors and called on his colleagues to adopt the politics of accommodation and brotherhood as leaders in their communities and constituencies.
- Good morning honourable colleagues. I welcome you all back to the chambers after the Christmas and New Year holidays, and I thank you all for being here this morning. Though the House has not been in session these past few weeks, I know that the work has never stopped for many of us, and our obligations have not been any less demanding. Still, I hope you have taken time to rest, recover, and prepare yourselves for the responsibilities that will continue to demand our time, abilities, and efforts.
- When the 9th House of Representatives was inaugurated in 2019, we hit the ground running to discover and present solutions to our country’s problems. Some of our efforts have yielded positive results in some regards, and in other areas, there is still work to do. We must resolve to continue to do the people’s work despite the obligations and distractions of the political campaign season. As we approach the end of our term in office, I am hopeful that we will continue to meet and exceed expectations in this new year.
- Let us begin this new year with a renewed commitment to legislative action that brings us closer to achieving our highest aspirations for our nation. Let us resume with renewed determination to achieve better oversight of government spending priorities through a collaborative effort with the executive arm of government and civil society. And we remain dedicated to the lofty yet clear ambitions we articulated in our Legislative Agenda when we resumed in the 9th Assembly.
- This year, it is imperative that we focus our efforts on completing the tasks we have already initiated and closing out the assignments on which our legacy in this 9th House will be assessed. Several bills still in the legislative process need to be actioned as a matter of urgency, as these bills propose significant improvements across different sectors of our national life. Some of these bills are still in committee, while others are awaiting concurrence in the Senate. We will see to it that we conclude work on these bills so that they can be presented to Mr president during the life of this administration.
- One recurring criticism of the legislature in Nigeria has been the lack of continuity and the absence of tools and procedures for establishing an institutional memory. Government is a continuum; the actions of one administration will continue to impact the country long into the future. As the democratic process leads to continuous personnel turnover, it is vital to have a system that allows future officeholders to understand the decisions made by their predecessors. In the executive arm of government, it is established practice to prepare handover notes. I wish today to propose to the House that we adopt this practice at the Committee level. The House Committee on Rules and Business will lead this effort by formulating guidelines to make this possible.
- Over the last few appropriation cycles, the dire conditions of our national finance have required significant borrowing to finance government operations, sustain investments in infrastructure and national security and improve the living conditions of the Nigerian people. Just as the 9th Assembly has reformed the appropriations process to ensure timely budget passage, we also intend to leave a legacy of transparency and accountability as a standard for the future. Therefore, as part of preparing our reports, we must make a deliberate effort to give a complete account of our oversight activities in the 9th House of Representatives.
- Early in our term, we adopted the Legislative Agenda as a statement of our governing priorities in the 9th House of Representatives. We termed the agenda ‘Our Contract With Nigerians’ to reflect our determination to be held accountable for the commitments we made therein. Despite many challenges, including the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the contraction of our national economy, and a drastic reduction in resources available for development, we have made reasonable progress in achieving the objectives we set in our agenda. It is time to consider what has been done, what we didn’t do, and why.
- The Committee on Monitoring and Implementation of the Legislative Agenda will review activities of the 9th House of Representatives and present a report on the implementation of our legislative agenda to the House. This is necessary to ensure that we have a report card to show the Nigerian people at the end of our term. But just as importantly, this review will allow us to better understand where we succeeded and where we didn’t as a guide for the future.
- Honourable colleagues, as we approach the general elections, there has been a marked increase in incidents of insecurity and vicious attacks on political actors in parts of the country. We must unite to ensure this dangerous trend does not lead to circumstances that threaten the forthcoming elections. The quality of the political conversations in society, particularly in the lead-up to elections, is a determining factor in the electoral outcomes and the quality of governance that will result therefrom. When political discourse seeks to unite the people behind an agenda of shared prosperity, social development, and respect for the humanity of persons, governance will also reflect these priorities.
- ‘’The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government’’. With these words, the constitution obligates all of us who swear to serve in government to do everything to protect the lives and property of all citizens and promote their well-being above all else. This obligation is central to the governing contract between the government and the citizenry. As leaders in our various communities and constituencies, we must adopt a politics of accommodation and brotherhood. And we must ensure that no insecurity threatening our country’s peace can be attributed to our actions or utterances. This is our constitutional obligation and a moral duty from which we must not deviate.
- I wish to acknowledge with the most incredible gratitude the efforts of our men and women in uniform who, at this moment, are stationed in different parts of the country, taking risks and offering the supreme sacrifice to keep the peace. They are the best of us, to whom we owe not only our gratitude but also our continued dedication to the offices we hold. Through our efforts to improve the lives of our people, let us make ourselves worthy of the sacrifices these men and women have made and continue to make on our behalf.
- Honourable colleagues, I welcome you back to the House of Representatives for a new legislative year. I look forward to a successful year of measurable achievement in the joint task of nation-building. And I thank you all most sincerely for your presence here this morning. God bless you all, and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.