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Expectations As Nigeria’s Bicameral Legislature Resumes

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As members of the National Assembly resume from recess this week, ANDREW ESSIEN writes that expectations are high as to how the elected representatives could help ensure that the nation’s economy gets out of ‘recess’ as well.

Following the controversies that enveloped the elections at both Red and Green Chambers before they went on recess, expectations by Nigerians are high that as their representatives resume, they will immediately get to work on how to get the nation’s economy out of it’s presen t state.

In the not too distant past, the green chambers was in the news albeit for the wrong reasons regarding allegations and counter allegations of alleged budget padding which was in part, responsible for the ouster of the then appropriations committee chairman, Hon Abdulmumin Jibrin even as he has also profusely tried to finger Speaker Yakubu Dogara as the man to blame for all that is wrong with and in the budget.

The “fire on the mountain” ostensibly began when the 2016 budget was returned by the executive branch of government for “padding” and had to be redone before President Muhammadu Buhari eventually assented to it sequel to a meeting of presidency with principal officers of the Senate and House of Representatives and the setting up of a 15-member harmonisation Committee to sort out grey areas.

The blame game is still on going even as concerned citizens wonder when will stop and attention shifted to more pressing concerns even as the people continue to earnestly yearn for a change in the status quo in the modus operandi of their representatives.

The Senate did not have things easy either before it proceeded on the recess as well. For all intents and purposes, all the “good works” by the senate as presently constituted, was consumed by the leadership crisis that bedeviled it and it has had to struggle with this shadow even as analysts say that not much has been achieved because of this issue, hence, the need to move on.

The Senate President and head of National Assembly, Senator Bukola Saraki, has had to be fighting on all fronts, in a battle that many thought will eventually consume his political career. This has in no little measure, arguably overshadowed any form of achievement his presidency has had. From the time he indicated interest in the office, to the period he was elected president of the Senate, in a manner many party faithful describe as a macabre fashion, he has had to be fighting from day one.

It began like a joke when his wife, Toyin Saraki, was invited by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) with regard to several contracts executed by companies said to be linked to her during her husband’s tenure as governor of Kwara State. Subsequently, one Kennedy Izuagbe, a former director of Societe Generale Bank Nigeria Plc and managing director of Carlisle Properties and Investment Limited (companies allegedly associated with the Saraki) was declared wanted by the EFCC for conspiracy and money laundering to the tune of over N3.6 billion. These were only a tip of the iceberg of greater ‘things’ to come.

All hell was let loose when the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) invited the Senate President for trial on a 13-count charge of false assets declaration, a breach of Section 15 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, Cap C15, LFN 2004 and punishable under Section 23 (2) as incorporated under paragraph 18 of Part 1, Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution.

One would have thought that his ‘travails’ would have disappeared after a while but more fights would be fought by him as he also tried to settle into office.

According to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), Saraki made false declarations in his Assets Declaration Form for Public Officers at the beginning and end of his tenures as governor of Kwara State between May 29, 2003, and May 28, 2007; and between May 29, 2007, and May 28, 2011.

The CCB alleged that in some cases Saraki made anticipatory declarations while in others he made wrong declarations not attributable to his income, gift or loan and also concealed certain properties in the form.

From this point on, it was just one story after the next, with calls rife for the removal of the leadership. From one court to another, from one case to the next. When one thought that one case had be concluded, the flood gates of others were just opening even as the media was awashed with one story after another.

Save for the issue at the House of Representatives, all these simmered down with the commencement of the recess. Then, almost as if the economy was waiting for that, the news of recession hit the air waves and the circle started all over again. This is inclusive of the political bickering between the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling All Progressives Congress over the handling of the economy.

But, as the National Assembly resume back to work, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Timi Frank, asked the members of both chambers to urgently treat the current economic recession as a matter of national importance by making recommendations to the executive for the sake of ordinary Nigerians.

Comrade Frank said that Nigerians were anxiously waiting for the resumption of their representatives at the National Assembly so as to join President Buhari’s team in the struggle to bringing succour to the current economic hardship in the land.

This was followed by a dismissal of the call by the opposition PDP on President Muhammadu Buhari to resign, saying most Nigerians still believe in the leadership of President Buhari and the APC.

Frank said: “I think it is shameful and unheard of for the degraded PDP carcass to call for Mr. President’s resignation. It is clear that PDP is not in tune with what is happening all over the world.”

In a statement he signed in Abuja, the APC chieftain said the economic recession is a global problem, even as he called on Nigerians not to take the party serious adding that “it is expected of leaders at all level to ensure the well being of their citizens” which, he said APC is committed to.

“I want commend the leadership of the Senate under Senator Bukola Saraki and the House of Representative ably led by Hon. Yakubu Dogara for their commitment to ensure that APC government succeed.

“I must at this point in time tell the NASS leadership not to shine away from telling the executive the bitter truth even if it will cost some Ministers and managers of our economy their jobs for the sake of Nigerians and the betterment of our economy. In the light of this I want to support the promise made by the Senate President recently that upon resumption, the National Assembly will make tough recommendations to Mr. President. Nigerians are waiting.

“Both Senate and the House of Representatives should employ the service of experts on what to do urgently to rescue the nation out of recession before it gets to depression, God forbid! Even our opposition lawmakers at this point should forget about their political affiliations, and join hands with their leadership for the sake of Nigeria because Nigeria first.

While calling on all Nigerians to continue to support the government and APC, he added that: “There is no doubt that the APC government will succeed and bring the expected changes under President Buhari but folding arms when actions are needed will be tantamount to evil. Nigeria shall be great again under APC.”

Analysts are of the opinion that this is the period in history, a rare opportunity especially for the national assembly to put its footprint in the sands of time by working assiduously to see that the economy is back on its feet and running.

They must bring their wealth of experience to bare and truly earn their titles as distinguished and honourable representatives of the people should they be interested in representing their people at various levels come 2019. The clock is ticking, and ever so loudly.

 

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