Senate President, Bukola Saraki has said that the Senate was tired of having appropriation bills passed into law without full implementation.
Noting that the problem is hindering development, he stressed the need for all hands to be on deck to halt the trend.
Saraki, who also assured that the National Assembly would conclude ongoing amendment of the 1999 Constitution early next year, spoke, yesterday, in Abuja while presenting a keynote address at the 2016 Awards/Dinner for Senators and Journalists covering the Senate, organized by the Senate Press Corps.
Meanwhile, the Senate has begun deliberation on the 2017, 2018 and 2019 Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF, and Fiscal Strategy Paper, FSP, submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari in October.
The Senate President’s comment came ahead of President Buhari’s December 1 presentation of the 2017 Appropriation Bill before a Joint session of the National Assembly, in accordance with the constitutional provision that the President must present the budget for the following year before the end of the preceding financial year.
Pleading for media support for government’s effort at combating recession, he said: “We will also continue to plead that there must be objectivity and truth in your reporting.
We must also continue to educate our good people on the efforts we are making in the Senate. I believe that over the last few months a lot of work has been going on in the Senate showing that it is more business-like in approach and I am confident that during the remaining period of our tenure, we will definitely lay a foundation that others after us will build on.
“In the 8th Senate we keep on talking about the economy and I know that it is very tempting sometimes for the media to continue to focus on what will grab the headlines. I want to appeal to you to blend what is important for the people we represent with the ones that will grab headlines.
Today what is important for the people we represent is how we can get ourselves out of this recession. ‘’We will appreciate if you can work with us so that we can achieve this objective. It is our view that we continue to address how we can improve the economy and we are confident that, this time, all the budget processes that we have put in place will ensure that the product and its quality is one that we will all be proud of.
“Some of the comments you might have heard today and you will hear during the budget process, are not comments that are against government. They are comments that will ensure that the product that we will deliver is a product that Nigerians will be proud of.
“I think we are all tired of having budget documents that at the end of the day, when it comes to implementation, they don’t mean anything.
But when we all come together and put all our best efforts, we will have something that we will be proud of. “And it is also in this spirit that I am confident that this time around, we will also be able to pass the 2017 budget at the earliest time possible than we have seen in the last few years.”
Some of the award categories and the recipients include: Parliamentary Media Award for Leadership – Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume; Lawmaking Facilitator of the Year Award – Sen Andy Uba; Senator of the Year Award – Senator Dino Melaye; Gender Rights Senator of the Year Award – Senator Abiodun Olujimi; Senate Committee Chairman of the Year Award – Senator Samuel Anyanwu; and Outstanding Grassroots Parliamentarian Award – Senator Kabiru Gaya.
Others are: Most Innovative Constituency Project of the Year Award – Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe; Apostle of Peace in the Senate Award – Senator Barnabas Gemade; Parliamentary Advocate for Infrastructural Development Award – Senate Olugbenga Ashafa; Parliamentary Leader of the Decade Award – Senator David Mark; and Parliamentary Bureaucrat of the Year Award – Mr. Olajide Owolabi Adelami.
NASS ‘ll complete constitutional amendments early 2017
On the 1999 constitutional amendment, Saraki said the two arms of the legislature would pass the bill within a few weeks into 2017.
He spoke when the national executive members of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, led by its President, Abubakar Balarabe Mahmud, SAN, visited him at the National Assembly.
Responding to a request by NBA boss for accelerated treatment of the constitution amendment and the Electoral Act, he said: “On the issue of Constitution Amendment, we started very early on this because we know it can be a problem if it comes close to election year.
“Our view is that we have simplified the process. We are working on the earlier document which was completed in the last Assembly but was not signed into law. We try to take important issues first and the members of the committee are working tirelessly on this.
By the time it will be ready, we will send it to the speakers of states assemblies. “Working in collaboration with the House of Representatives, we hope that the document will be similar and reduce areas of difference.
I am looking at the end of this year or the first couple of weeks in January next year or there about, we should be able to debate and pass the amendments and send it to the states.”
On Electoral Act, he said: “We started this process very early and it has gone through second reading and public hearing. Stakeholders have contributed. Some of the issues like postponement of elections, electronic voting, some cases that were not envisaged like the case in Kogi State have been taken into consideration and I believe the sooner we can pass the amendments, the better it is in the interest of Nigerians.”
Saraki urged the NBA to continue to speak out on behalf of the people because “NBA needs to have that big voice and that voice should be loud and clear.’’ The economy On the economy, Saraki said: “We met very early in 2015 with members of NBA and the people in the private sector.
We also met with Nigerian Economic Summit Group and we are already addressing the laws that will ease doing business in Nigeria. We came up with different laws. It is at the back of that, that we came by the economic bills that we have either passed or are being worked upon, like the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, Nigerian Railway Act and others.
We believe we must encourage private sector participation in the provision of infrastructure. We know government cannot do it alone.” Earlier in his speech, Mahmud told the Senate President and his colleagues that the NBA is interested in the amendment of the Electoral Act, especially as regards the postponement of elections on the basis of contrived reasons, Constitutional amendments, Justice Sector Reforms particularly the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Prisons Reforms and the Legal Aid Council.
He specifically said that the Legal Aid Council is in dire need of funds to carry out its duties. Mahmud said postponement of elections due to contrived security reasons is a threat to INEC.