By Ahmad Lawan
Dear Distinguished Colleagues, I welcome you all back from our annual summer recess. As usual, the recess was an opportunity for us to be with our families, and spend quality time, to catch up with our loved ones that we missed in the course of our Legislative duties.
Distinguished Colleagues, before we embarked on our recess we had accomplished the targets that we set for ourselves. We passed the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), and also passed the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2010. These were landmark Legislations targeted at enhancing the Oil and Gas Sector in our Country and improving the Electoral system in our dear Nation.
Distinguished Colleagues, as we are all aware, Mr. President assented to the Petroleum Industry Bill on 16th August, 2021 making it an Act of parliament. Also, the President had set up an implementation Committee to start the execution of the provisions of the Petroleum Industry Act. I want to take this opportunity to urge the implementation Committee to expedite action so that our Country will start to reap the benefits of the law. It is equally important that our Committees on Petroleum Downstream, Petroleum Upstream, and Gas to start oversight on the implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act, with a view to ensuring that the Senate discharges its critical mandate of compliance with contents and dictates of the law.
Distinguished Colleagues, both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed the Electoral Act Amendment Bill in July 2021. There are however, some differences between the two versions of the bill. There is therefore the need to set up a Conference Committee between the two Chambers to harmonize the two versions. The Senate Conference Committee will be announced soon.
We will expedite the process to ensure that the National Assembly is able to transmit the harmonized version to the President for his assent. Both Chambers had done a great and patriotic job to increase the integrity and transparency of our Electoral processes and procedures through these amendments.
Distinguished Colleagues, our commitment to the review of the 1999 Constitution as amended is resolute. The Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution had worked throughout the period of the recess. I am aware that the Committee will present the report of its work to the Senate soon. I commend the Chairman and members of this Committee for their sacrifice and sense of duty.
Let me assure Nigerians that the Senate, indeed the National Assembly is concerned with issues that will make Nigeria more a united and stronger Federation. A Nigeria where there will be Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress.
Distinguished Colleagues, the Senate Joint Committee on Finance, National Planning and Economic Matters, Petroleum Downstream, Petroleum Upstream and Committee on Banking, has been working hard on the 2022/2024 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP).
The report of the Committee will soon be presented to the Senate for consideration. This is preparatory to the presentation of the 2022 Appropriation Bill by Mr. President soon.
Let me emphasize that the Senate, indeed the National Assembly is primed and ready to receive and start work on the Bill. The Standing Committees are ready to receive Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) for budget Defence. As in the previous years, all MDAs are expected to defend their budget proposals within October 2021, as this is the only allotted window for the exercise.
Distinguished Colleagues, there is no gainsaying the fact that, the early passage of the 2020 and 2021 Budget has yielded tremendous benefits to our Economy and Country. According to the second – quarter GDP report release by the National Bureau for Statistic (NBS), Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased by 5.01% in the second quarter of 2021 – strongest growth since fourth quarter 2014. This can be attributed to the early passage and subsequently implementation of the Budgets.
The National Assembly is proud to be a major factor in turning around the economic fortunes of our dear Country.
Distinguished Colleagues, let me applaud and commend our gallant Armed Forces for the recent success recorded in their fight against insurgency and banditry in our Country. I want to urge them to sustain the campaigns until the insurgents and bandits are rooted out in our Country.
Distinguished Colleagues, you would recall that we approved the Supplementary Budget request of the Executive in July this year, just before we proceeded for the annual summer recess. The National Assembly approved over N800 Billion for our Security and Intelligence Agencies. While that provision was appropriate and indeed necessary, we should sustain the trajectory of increase in funds and resources to the security sector. Therefore, we should consider a ramp up of more resources for our security agencies in the 2022 Appropriation. This also requires that our Defence and Intelligence related Committees must step up their oversight on the Agencies.
Distinguished Colleagues, the fight against the security challenges in our Country requires continued engagements between the National Assembly and the Executive arms of Government. It also requires continues engagements with citizens, for the necessary and desired results to be achieved. We must therefore remain resolute and focused in achieving those. The National Assembly, indeed the Federal Government has no more serious challenges to tackle than insecurity today.
Distinguished Colleagues, I want to remind us that this Senate pledged to be and remain the Senate that works for Nigerians. We have so far proven that beyond any reasonable doubt. We must therefore remain focused on this altruistic and patriotic path, in order to continue to provide pro – people and life improving legislative interventions throughout our legislative mandate. In conclusion, I urge us all to pray for God’s intervention.
Almighty God, Ruler of Heaven and Earth, we beseech thee to inspire and guide all our counsels and actions, so that we may always walk in the path of justice, love and charity to one another.
Help us with thy grace to do only those things that will promote the unity, happiness and prosperity of Nigeria. Amen.
Once again, I welcome you back.
Sen. Lawan, President of the Senate, delivered the above speech at the resumption of Senate plenary on Tuesday, September 14, 2021