September 25, 2023
- Senator Opeyemi Bamidele,
- Leader of the Senate,
- Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Today, the National Assembly, the truest custodian and guardian of Nigeria’s democracy, resumes plenary after a 49-day annual recess. Contrary to what most people believe, annual recess is not a period of recreation or vacation for us as representatives of the people across 109 senatorial districts and 360 federal constituencies nationwide. Rather, it is a time when we go back to our constituencies; render account of our representation and aggregate inputs from our constituents.
That was exactly what we committed our energy, resources and time to between August 8 and September 25 when we were on annual recess. Again, we have resumed plenary, prepared, ready and armed with first-hand feedback central to the development and progress of Nigeria, a federation that exude the hope of black nations beyond the shores of this continent.
We recognise that we are at a critical time, a truly challenging time when our economy is inherently susceptible to a vicious global economic crisis that does not even spare the world’s greatest economies. We note with concerns foreign exchange instability, which has been driving up prices of goods and services nationwide. We also understand insecurity, especially in the North and its implication for food production, affordability and sufficiency.
Just after our inauguration, both chambers have been busy, indeed hard-pressed, responding decisively to our national challenges one after the other. We also have considered and approved different requests from President Bola Tinubu aimed at resolving these challenges. We have been treating all these requests consistent with our mandate under Sections 4 (1-4) and 147 (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
As representatives of the people, we are utterly committed to these provisions, bringing the bills that were duly enacted by the National Assembly to the President for assent. This has led to the signing of the Electricity Act, 2023; Data Protection Act, 2023; Judicial Officers Act, 2023 and Access to Higher Education Act, 2023. Each of these legislations is designed for the purpose of addressing our inherent internal challenges in one area or the other.
Besides, we promptly considered the request of the President to extract N500 billion from the 2022 supplementary budget aimed at cushioning the effect of subsidy removal and providing palliatives for the vulnerable. We also treated with a sense of responsibility the request of the President to screen ministerial nominees that now constitute the Executive Council of the Federation in line with Section 144 (5) of the 1999 Constitution. While screening the nominees, we were sitting from morning to dusk, sacrificing our comfort, leisure and free time in pursuit of the general welfare of our people.
By these interventions, the President has been able to constitute the Executive Council of the Federation and initiate pro-people reforms that his administration has been implementing. This is a clear demonstration of robust executive-legislative collaboration, which we must, cautiously and consciously, culture and nurture for the purpose of deepening our democracy, attending to issues of national interest with speed and creating a socio-political environment that will truly place Nigeria on the pedestal of greatness.
So much has been achieved so far between the time we embarked on our annual recess and now. A lot more is expected to happen now that we have returned from constituency assignments. We have come back with feedback from over 220 million constituents nationwide. We are now prepared to process them already aggregated nationwide. We are equally ready to mainstream those feedbacks into various development, economic and fiscal policies that the Tinubu administration will introduce in the near future.
The coming days promise to be truly engaging and even hectic for different reasons. First, we are expecting the President to present the 2024 appropriation bill, which we all believe, will chart a clear part to national peace, progress and prosperity. We strongly believe the bill will come with empirical and practical antidotes to all our challenges. After the presentation of the bill, every committee of both chambers will be busy scrutinising and vetting the budget proposals of all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) consistent with Section 80 of the 1999 Constitution.
Second, we are equally under obligation to interrogate and screen former Chairman of the Board of Directors of Citibank Nigeria, Dr. Oluyemi Cardoso, whom Mr. President recently nominated for the position of Central Bank Governor. Mr. President has nominated Dr. Jamila Bio Ibrahim and Mr. Ayodele Olawande respectively as the Minister of Youth and the Minister of State for Youth. Each of these ministerial nominees are required to be meaningfully engaged before they can serve in the Executive Council of the Federation.
As pointed out earlier, Nigeria is obviously at a critical moment given circumstances that place households under economic pressures and diverse issues that still complicate insecurity, especially in the North and South-east. In spite of the internal challenges we may be facing today, the world is waiting for Nigeria, not just as Africa’s most populous country, but also as its largest economy and democracy. As a nation of purpose, we too can no longer wait for the world as shown in recent foreign trips from which the President just returned.
Again, investors – domestic and foreign – are excited with the gradual emergence of a new political and economic order in Nigeria, the kind that prioritise the people; that incentivise the investors and that place the highest value on human dignity, shared prosperity of our people and the rule of law. This is evident in the outcomes of Mr. President’s foreign trips to the 2023 G-20 Summit held in New Delhi, India between September 9 and 10, 2023.
At this historic summit, Nigeria is perhaps the biggest beneficiary as indicated in the resolutions of different bilateral meetings held on its sidelines. The President led a team of passionate leaders comprising ministers and captains of industry to this summit with an unambiguous purpose. At the end, Nigeria graciously secured significant investment commitments. India’s conglomerates and multinationals alone signed pledged $14 billion in investments.
This does not include what Canada and South Korea also pledged at the historic summit that sparked endless arguments at home on whether G-20, an intergovernmental forum of 20 largest economies in the world, is complete without Nigeria, especially when South Africa and African Union have been accorded the permanent membership status. I will not dig deeper into this aspect of our national life due to paucity of space.
Besides the G-20 summit, the President just returned from the United States where he attended the 78th United Nations General Assembly. His speech at this summit brought back Africa, not just Nigeria, to the epicentre of global conversation again. The takeaway from the UNGA is loud and clear: Nigeria, indeed Africa, can no longer wait for the world to solve its myriad of internal challenges.
But the global actors, as the President canvassed, must stop the heinous exploitation and pillaging of Africa that has been ongoing since European invasion of Africa in the 19th century and its integration into the global capitalist order subsequently. This message is clear enough. The world has heard us well. Nigeria, the indisputable giant of Africa, is standing with other nations to redefine our history from crisis to calmness, from despondence to development, from dictatorship to democracy and from penury to prosperity.
Beyond the benefits of the foreign trips, the President has initiated ambitious economic reforms, which aims at opening up Nigeria to the world; attracting foreign direct investments and creating limitless opportunities for our people irrespective of where they reside. This, I believe, will take the centrestage in the 2024 expenditure framework that Mr. President will soon lay before the National Assembly for consideration.
Even before then, the reforms have been reflected in the review and realignment of MDAs. Unlike predecessors who worked at different fronts to make Nigeria great, the President has prioritised the blue economy by creating the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy. To our critics, this initiative is not the priority of Nigeria to turn away the tide of penury and unemployment.
However, secondary statistical evidence reveals the contrary. First, according to the World Bank, the blue economy annually values $1.5 trillion globally, provides over 30 million jobs and supplies a vital source of protein to over three billion people. By 2030, based on the recent forecast by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the blue economy will double in volume to $3 trillion.
Second, Nigeria sits directly on the South Atlantic. By implication, Nigeria runs an economy that largely depends on the sea. Apart from accounting for over 65% cargo in West Africa, our oil production mainly takes offshore. Aside, our maritime space hosts several oil, gas and communication installations with huge contributions to our GDP. This space, I strongly believe, deserves more than passive interests. That is what Mr. President has already shown by creating a ministry to supervise the activities of the maritime actors and leverage the sector to further create opportunities for our teeming population
The same applies to the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy, which Mr. President created to harness the energy of our youths. As shown in recent reports, our creative industry currently values over $10.4 billion with the potential to grow to $14.8 billion in 2025. Aside, this industry employs over 4.2 million people and will create 2.7 million more jobs by 2027. These figures simply suggest that the creative economy is a way to go and certainly deserves special attention that the President has already accorded it.
All these statistics obviously justify all the pro-people and progressive reforms the President has been initiating and pursuing since his assumption of office. As a people of purpose curiously yearning for real economic development and opportunities, the Presidency needs our support as much as our prayers to pull Nigeria out of doldrums and place her on the path to greatness and progress that cannot be reversed or truncated.
As the representatives of the people, we also recognise all the reforms that the President has been promoting. We also recognise that some of these initiatives will require the input of the National Assembly by way of legislation. As we resume plenary today, we are under obligation to consider all the requests that the Presidency will be initiating henceforth with due diligence and not dissension, with collaboration and not conflict and with shared responsibility and not rascality.
I am confident all the members of the National Assembly across the political divides are ready to objectively support all the reforms of the President with a view to resolving diverse internal challenges confronting us as a federation; creating vast opportunities for our teeming young population and charting a sure path to greatness for our fatherland in all ramifications.
- Bamidele, the Leader of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, writes from Abuja