The President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar bukola Saraki, welcoming back Senators of the 8TH Senate on resumption from the 2018 end of year recess on Wednesday, January 16, 2018, reminded them of the challenges ahead in the remaining period of the legislative regime. Saraki noted that the New Year met Nigerians in anticipatory mood, declaring that Nigeria has a date with history in 2019.
The Senate President, wishing the federal lawmakers and their families, a very happy new year 2019, observed that although the political season has swung into full gear, he expressed the hope that they were able to get a bit of rest and some quiet time during the break; and that they have recharged their batteries and ready to dive back into legislative work with renewed vigour.
Saraki acknowledged that though electioneering activities are in top gear, the lawmakers cannot abandon their official duties of lawmaking and governance in exchange for political campaigns.
“As evident all around us, the New Year has met our countrymen and women in an anticipatory mood. Spirits are high, because in this year 2019, Nigeria has a date with destiny. But we also know that despite all of this, the work of leadership must go on; governance must not suffer. We must trudge on and fulfill our mandates as legislators subject to the Nigerian Constitution and the will of the people.
“As we hit this home run, therefore, my distinguished colleagues, we must have our eyes firmly fixed on the unfinished business of the 8th Senate; and that is to bring the legislative agenda to a fitting close and cap our endeavours of these four years with success. We cannot relent or lose steam on this last lap; we must remain focused and finish strong,” Saraki declared.
The Senate President revealed that the 8th Senate has made history in passing 257 bills at the end of 2018, adding that Nigerians expect more from the lawmakers.
“This is an epoch making Senate that had, by the end of 2018, passed an unprecedented 257 bills, many of which are groundbreaking enough to change the game to meet the needs of Nigerians, with the potential to radically transform their lives for the better.
“Nigerians expect us to continue in this vein, and we owe it to ourselves to meet their expectations. The legacy of the 8th Senate will be written in the legislative footprints that we leave, and the foundation that we lay.
“Therefore, we must ensure that we continue to address issues affecting Nigerians, and concerning which they seek our intervention. Issues such as Unemployment, lack of economic opportunities, insecurity and so on – these still require the attention of the National Assembly.
“Every action that we can take to address these issues through the legislative function, we must take; everything that we can do, we must do. We must ensure that we conclude work on all outstanding bills and petitions; and bring successful conclusion to all issues and investigations brought to the attention of this Senate,” Saraki said.
He reminded the senators that the 2019 elections are just over a month away, and that the expectations of Nigerians as the dates draw near, is that they continue to serve as the representatives of the people they voted for.
“In our work in this chamber, we are expected to rise about the partisan paradigm. We should address our minds to, and always channel our efforts to how we can move our country forward. Nigerians want to see leaders who will not succumb to the partisan instinct in lawmaking. They want to see leaders who will bring new ideas to bear on the challenges confronting the country. These include: out-of-school children figures; rebuilding the North East; securing the North West; increasing Girl Child education; as well as how we navigate our way in the economy for higher productivity,” the Senate President stated.
Saraki challenged the legislators that leaders should help reduce the tension in the polity by contributing to an atmosphere of moderate and measured political conversations. He emphasised that expectations of the Executive are also palpable, particularly, with regard to the need to uphold the Constitution and its tenets, especially, as they guarantee the minimum basic requirement of Separation of Powers; the unity of the country and the welfare of the citizens.
“In that respect, it bears reminding that the exercise of power must be anchored in the best democratic principles. The former US President Obama’s Doctrine of Restraint as a key feature in the use of power, is commended to us in this polity at this crucial time. Some of the reports and occurrences in recent times speak to this need for restraint. Those who exercise power should do their best to avoid any action that stands the risk of being misconstrued as coloured by partisan considerations.
“On that note, I wish to lay emphasis on the role of the Judiciary in promoting justice and bringing respect to the country. If the Judiciary is violated or eroded or otherwise brought to ill repute, so do the values attached to its role in a democracy. Everyone in the political value chain should, therefore, do nothing that could raise tensions in the country. Nigerians are looking up to leaders who will douse flames that have the potential to threaten the peace and wellbeing of our country,” the Senate President further declared.
He then, urged the Senators to bear all this in mind as they move towards the end of this historic Senate. “The integrity of the constitution must be preserved at all times; and service to the people in a unified country should be our ultimate goal in all that we do as legislators,” he maintained.
The Senate President also said: “Looking ahead to the General Elections, I wish all contestants and candidates luck in the forthcoming elections, including those here among us. I enjoin us all to bear in mind that it should be a contest of ideas. We should eschew ad hominem approaches to political discourse, and communicate our ideas in a civil manner.”
Saraki further acknowledged that the issue of PVCs remains a concern. He, therefore, called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to give urgent attention to the matter. “Issue has similarly been raised about people buying PVCs; this should also be looked into. Let me take this opportunity to reiterate the need for INEC to bring relevant stakeholders together for a dialogue on a way forward to tackle these issues, ahead of the elections,” he said.
He was of the view that everything must be done and every sacrifice must be made to ensure free and fair 2019 Elections. He added: “INEC is encouraged to engage the parties and be transparent in its decision making. It is important that the people are assured of the Commission’s resolve and commitment to credible elections.”
He issued the caveat: “To all Nigerians, I say this: we must have a country after the elections. We all still have to live among ourselves when the polls have closed and the elections are over. The rhetoric leading up to the elections must, therefore, be mindful of the need for moderation, decorum and respect.
“To those of us who are contesting, let us remember that our biggest offer is to serve. Ultimately, the Nigerian people have a right to choose who will represent them at all levels. It is not a do or die affair. I encourage all to participate in the coming polls and I wish Nigerians a safe 2019 Election.”
Saraki affirmed that as the lawmakers resumed plenary this Wednesday, the work must go on, adding: “and I am confident that we are ready.”