The Senate And An Economy In Recession

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While the Senate was on recess, the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, told the nation that the economy was in recession. But before the official declaration, Nigerians, who are actually wearing the shoes, knew that something was wrong with the economy as cost of virtually everything was, and still is, on a tailspin. The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has just said that he and his colleagues of the upper chamber of the National Assembly, who are resuming duty after a long break, would probe the cause of the recession. According to him, it was necessary to know why in spite of budgetary provisions, many more citizens have receded below poverty line.

He pledged that Senate, on resumption, will respond to the economic crisis with a number of measures including getting managers of the economy to give account to the people, making tough recommendations to the president on needed changes, formulating necessary legislative framework for economic recovery and undertaking wide consultations across the private sector. He also said that the legislative body needs to know why the promises of external borrowing have not materialised, why devaluation has not helped to strengthen the naira, why inflow of foreign currency has continued to dry up and interest rate is still very high.

As if in response to this inquiry, Adeosun has just urged the Central Bank of Nigeria to lower benchmark interest rates so as to lower debt servicing costs for government as one of the ways of reflating the economy.

Almost at the same time, a former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, gave some insight on how the economy can find its way out of the woods. She insisted that effective handling of spiralling inflation, foreign exchange problem, fiscal deficit and debts control were key to resolving the current economic crisis.

This was just as the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo blamed the whole problem of recession on militants who are sabotaging oil operations in the Niger Delta. However, another expert had claimed that Oil and Gas contribute about 15 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and, to that extent, whatever was happening in that sector cannot wholly be blamed for the recession.

In our opinion, all these postulations will become helpful if they succeed in restoring normalcy to the socio-economic life of the average Nigerian buffeted on all sides. Harassed citizens of the country will appreciate it if they see more action and hear less talk. They are beginning to feel that the political class and, in particular, the legislature that works less and earns more, is part of the confusion in the system.

Starting with the Senate, a public opinion analyst claimed, rightly or wrongly, that what a senator earns in one month can comfortably feed 132 children. That, in our view, is the issue. The lifestyle they choose to adopt does not reflect, in any way, the sufferings Nigerians are experiencing. Their taste for foreign luxury items, cars and all, quest for foreign travels as well as other matters that pander to their concupiscence, are what ought to be probed. They prefer the comfort their numerous holidays give them to sitting down to do the work for which they were elected.

If the lawmakers are serious about ending the economic recession, we urge them to summon an uncommon courage to check some of their excesses, increase their work schedule and cease collecting allowances for any conceivable role they play in the course of performing their constitutional functions. It is pertinent to emphasise that if the lawmakers are genuinely  committed to rebuilding of the economy, they should first give account of what they have been able to accomplish since they were inaugurated in June last year.

We strongly feel that Nigerians are getting fed up with the rhetoric and shenanigans of political leaders and are demanding practical steps to alleviate the hardship in the land. The Senate must lead the charge if they are not to be dismissed like modern Nero who fiddled while Rome burnt. There is no time for finger pointing and grandstanding. They answer to the probe they seek is in them.

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