The senate resumed plenary on Tuesday after taking two whole months off. While the distinguished lawmakers were enjoying their extended break, the Nigerian economy slid into a recession, inflation reached record setting levels and unemployment numbers rose. But those things did not constitute an emergency, so the lawmakers snoozed on.
They finally returned on Tuesday and in an address to his colleagues, senate president, Bukola Saraki, voiced an urgent need to tackle the nation’s economic woes.
“It is clear to me that when people are desperately hungry, what they need is leadership with a clear vision; leadership whose daily actions reflects the very urgency of the people’s condition,” he said.
If only Saraki’s actions as well as those of his colleagues in the last year have reflected the urgency of the people’s conditions, perhaps Nigeria would have been in a much better place. Nigerians can’t shrug off the feeling that a valuable time window was missed as senators fought among themselves over leadership of the upper chamber and later headship of so-called juicy committees. Lawmakers continue to earn humongous sums shrouded in secrecy and Saraki has flatly refused to honour his promise made to Nigerians more than a half dozen times in the last year that he would open up the books so Nigerians can see how monies are being spent by the national assembly.
That did not stop the senate president from offering suggestions to the executive on Tuesday on what needs to be done to “show Nigerians, the international community and investors both local and international that we are ready to reform and do business.” He offered nine suggestions:
1 He said that the FG needs to instill market confidence by immediately putting 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.”
2 Echoing the views of Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, in a recent interview, Saraki said the executive needs to raise capital from asset sales and other sources to shore up foreign reserves, calm investors, discourage currency speculation and stabilize the economy.
“The measures should include part sale of NLNG Holdings; reduction of government share in upstream oil joint venture operations; sale of government stake in financial institutions e.g. Africa Finance Corporation; and the privatization and concession of major/regional airports and refineries,” he said.
3 Saraki asked the executive to consider tweaking the pension funds policy to accommodate investment in infrastructure and mortgages. That is a view which was well received when it was suggested by the minister of power, works and housing, Babatunde Fashola, in a speech last January.
4 “The Executive and CBN must agree on a policy of monetary easing to stimulate the economy and harmonise monetary and fiscal policy until economic recovery is attained. We must ensure local government borrowing does not crowd out credit for the private sector,” Saraki said.
- He said the export promotion policy scheme should be retooled with export incentives such as the resumption of the Export Expansion Grant (EEG); and introduce export-financing initiatives.
6 Saraki advocated for dialogue with “those aggrieved in the Niger Delta” and “avoid an escalation of the conflict in the region.”
7 “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,” he said.
8 He also called for support for the agricultural sector and the agro-allied businesses to boost value addition and job creation.
9 Finally, he said the executive needs to devise immediate strategies to ease the suffering of the ordinary people across our country, with particular attention to citizens in IDP camps. “The images emerging from this zone of deprivation and hunger is no longer acceptable. Government should accelerate interim measures to provide social safety-nets to our people and assuage current high levels of misery in the land. Such intervention should seek to fully execute the social spending framework already provided in the 2016 budget,” he said.