On Tuesday, September 20th, the Senate resumed its plenary activities after its yearly recess. For his resumption speech, the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, delivered opening remarks that centred solely around the economy. Saraki stated that over the next few months, the focus of the Senate would be to save Nigeria’s economy from collapse.
Find below six of the major highlights of his speech:
1. Saraki on Why the Economic Debate is Important
“...the simple question for our debate must be; how do we tame the widespread hunger in the land? How do we save our businesses from collapse? How do we save jobs for the majority and create even a lot more?... How do we arrest this drift so that our businesses can compete and our children can go to school wherever they may find opportunities?”
2. Saraki On Why an Urgent Response is Needed to Fix Nigeria’s Economy
“Therefore, our response to the current challenge must be dictated by the urgency of the hardship that the people suffer on a daily basis. I say this to urge us that we must have an urgent debate on the way forward. But in having this debate we must resist the temptation of drowning the debate with apportioning blames that will neither bring solutions to the problem or reduce the cost of rice, maize or oil in the market.”
3. Saraki on Why a Bipartisan Approach is Needed to Fix Nigeria’s Economy
“Nigerians don’t care about our politics; they don’t care about our political affiliations; they don’t care if we are APC OR PDP; north or south. What they want is for us to lead the way out of this [economic] crisis and deliver on the promises that we made to them.”
4. Saraki on Why the Legislature and the Executive Need to Work Together
“We will work in concert, not at cross-purposes. Our goal is clear; to work together with the Executive to get our economy out of recession. We will proffer our solutions on policy issues, and where necessary enact necessary legislation to ensure that investor confidence returns to the market.”
5. Saraki on What the Executive Needs to Do Immediately...
On Leadership: “The Executive must immediately put in place leadership-level engagement platform with the private sector. This must be one that is pro-business and shows unequivocally that government is ready to partner with the private sector towards economic revival.”
On Assets: “The Executive must raise capital from asset sales and other sources to shore up foreign reserves. This will calm investors, discourage currency speculation and stabilize the economy.”
On Pension Funds: “The Executive must consider tweaking the pension funds policy within international best practice safeguards to to accommodate investment in infrastructure and mortgages.”
On Monetary Policy: “The Executive and CBN must agree on a policy of monetary easing to stimulate the economy we must ensure local government borrowing does not crowd out credit for the private sector.”
On Export Incentives: “The Executive must retool its export promotion policy scheme with export incentives such as the resumption of the Export Expansion Grant (EEG); and introduce export-financing initiatives.”
On the Niger-Delta Avengers: “The Executive is urged to engage in meaningful dialogue with those aggrieved in the Niger Delta and avoid an escalation of the conflict in the region. The National Assembly is very ready to play any role in the process and offer ideas on approaches that will deliver quick win-win in order to move the region and the economy forward.”
On Release of Funds: “The Executive must as a deliberate response consider immediate release of funds to ensure the implementation of the budget for the near short term to inject money into the economy.”
6. Saraki on What the Senate Plans to Do Immediately...
Petroleum Industry Bill: “We must ensure the passage of the PIB as soon as possible to stimulate new investment and boost oil revenue. As we all know, this bill is long in waiting and is very crucial for vital investment in the oil and gas sector. The impasse of not passing the bill is doing great harm to the industry and the Nigerian economy as a whole.”
Mortgages: “Mortgages remain key for us in the National Assembly and we will immediately begin the process of accelerating bills aimed at reforming the subsector for growth and accessibility in a manner that deepens our peoples access to housing.”
Economic Reform Bills: “...the Nigerian Ports and Harbours Authority Act (Amendment) Bill 2016; National Road Fund (Establishment, etc); National Transport Commission Act 2001; Warehouse Receipts Act Bill 2016; Review of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), Investment and Securities Act (ISA) and Customs and Excise Management Act; Federal Competition Bill 2016; and the National Road Authority. In my view, these bills and some of the other economic reform bills we will be considering in the coming days will be critical in the creation of a basic framework to free up capital and provide the opportunities to get us out of this recession.”