The hope of the immediate past Senate Leader, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, of becoming the 9th President of the Senate brightened yesterday with five senators from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) backing his candidacy.
Lawan, who was humbled by the presence of the PDP senators, unveiled a proposed legislative agenda in Abuja, which he tagged “A National Assembly that works for Nigeria.”
But the ceremony erupted into jubilation following the appearance of PDP senators, leading to backslapping and radiant camaraderie.
The PDP Senators were Abba Moro (Benue South), Mathew Urhoghide (Edo South), Cliford Ordia (Edo Central), Gershom Bassey (Cross River South), and Lawali Anka (Zamfara West).
In his address, Lawan said he was presenting a “blueprint for a Senate and National Assembly that will meet the expectations of Nigerians.”
He listed seven objectives of the legislative agenda to include the following:
” Reposition the Senate to carry out its constitutional duties of legislation, oversight and representation in an open and transparent manner.
” Strengthen the internal operations and processes of the Committees of the Senate towards efficient service delivery
” Take legislative action to improve national economic conditions, including public finance management and national security architecture, and to reduce poverty, unemployment and infrastructure deficits
” Propose and implement a national planning and annual budget process that fosters collaboration between the Executive and Legislative arms of government.
” Continue with legislative action to bring to closure all outstanding legislation including the Electoral Act and constitution amendment bills
” Deploy the use of information and communication technology in the conduct of Senate’s legislative and administrative business
” Provide effective public communications and ensure engagement and collaboration with Civil Society Organizations and constituents
He said the agenda has two segments.
The first part, he said, is to ensure that senators perform optimally and effectively for the progress of the country.
He said: “Secondly is about what individual senators think about the country and how to make the country great and purposeful.”
Lawan said his vision is to unite the Senate as an institution by ensuring inclusiveness, justice, fair play and respect for all political parties that are represented in the Senate.
He underscored the need to have a consultative and a focused bi-cameral legislature whose sole preoccupation is the business of Nigeria and the welfare of Nigerians.
The Senate President hopeful said that they are conscious of the challenges the country faces but not unmindful of the fact that the challenges will not be easy to address.
For him, the journey to address the myriad of challenges facing the country requires sacrifice, perseverance, determination and brotherhood.
He was however convinced that “once we remain focused and united, we can do a lot.”
He said: “We are faced with new security challenges. In 2015 when the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari came, the major security challenge was Boko Haram. Boko Haram was squarely confronted and substantially decimated
“With new security challenges, we must all think out of the box how we can intervene with experts who know how to intervene through legislative support.”
On the economy, he said they intend to provide necessary legislative intervention to grow the economy.
He also stressed the compelling need to ensure early passage of the appropriation bill to create the much needed stable budget cycle.
Not passing the budget on time, he said, does not augur well for the country.
He said budget presentation by President Buhari to budget defence by ministers and the processing of budget document will have a timeframe.
Lawan, who recognised the fact that it takes two to tango, said the Executive, especially ministers, should be brought on board to defend the budget of their ministries on time.
He expressed optimism that the Executive would be prepared to work with the legislature to stabilise the budget cycle of the country.
On education, Lawan regretted that the country has the enviable record of having the highest number of out-of-school children in the world.
He noted that though the exact number of out-of-school children in the country was not known, the figure would be established and strenuous effort would be made to reduce the number.
“We must make government work. Out of school children are not only a social problem for us, they are also a security challenge to the country.”
He said that out of school children are readily available to be recruited as Boko Haram insurgents and kidnappers.
He said, “We have to make the difference. In 2023, we should be able to say that we have done well. We have to put on our thinking cap to address the challenges facing our country.
“The economy has been growing at two or three per cent. Our economy need to be better than that. Our economy has to be diversified to create more jobs for our people.
“Kidnapping has upstream and downstream sectors. Those who kidnap are different from those who negotiate for ransom. We have to deal with the issue.
“The Nigeria economy must be diversified. We have to look at the entire value chain from growing to marketing.
“There will be no dichotomy between parties in the Senate. There is already amalgamation in our fold here. There are PDP, APC and YPP. With this kind of consensus, we will go far.
He said that their objective is to make Nigeria, an economic growth hub and the most sought-after business destination in Africa.
According to him, this will be achieved through legislative and policy coordination with the Executive Arm of the Federal Government.