By Henry Umoru, Dayo Johnson, Demola Akinyemi & Joseph Erunke
ILORIN — The Senate President, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, said in Ilorin, yesterday, that the Federal Government, led by All Progressives Congress, APC, has no excuse not to fix the nation’s ailing economy.
This came on a day President of Catholic Bishops, the Most Rev Ignatius Kaigama, challenged President Muhammadu Buhari on the current economic hardship facing the masses.
Saraki, who spoke at a town hall meeting with his constituents in Ilorin, said no responsible leader would abandon his followers in time of distress to wallow in suffering as being experienced currently by Nigerians.
He noted that his business in government was to improve the lives of the people, stressing: “If it is for myself and family, I don’t have to be in government.”
Tasks members of economic Team
He also warned that members of the National Economic Team must buckle up and be ready to proffer solutions to the challenges confronting the economy, saying any of them not willing to offer personal sacrifice would have scores to settle with the Senate.
Urges Nigerians to exercise restraint
Saraki, who admonished Nigerians to exercise restraint over ongoing efforts to find solution to the problems, assured that the Senate under his leadership, would not rest until solution was found.
He said: “It is a challenge to fix the problems and improve the nation’s economy. We have no excuse not to fix Nigeria’s economy but we need to be more patient in our agitation.
“It is important and of necessity to bring about solution. No responsible leader that will allow his people to suffer just because the economy is not doing well.
“Until we find solution to Nigeria’s problems, we will not rest. It is a challenge to improve the nation’s economy, and that is the primary reason people voted us into power. We can no longer engage in blame game; we are here to fix the problems. By the special grace of Almighty, we shall succeed.”
He also expressed concern that Nigerians were in the habit of aiding the economy of other nations with unbridled patronage of foreign goods at the expense of locally made products.
He said the National Assembly had provided requisite legal frameworks to strengthen the campaign for patronage of made in Nigeria goods.
On crisis over Senate leadership
On the crisis over Senate leadership, Saraki said those orchestrating his travails should withdraw from the plot as all evidences in public domain had vindicated him.
He stated further that anyone hatching a plot to pull him down was embarking on a fruitless adventure, saying rather than nursing political vendetta, efforts should be geared towards stabilizing the polity.
His words: “Those orchestrating my travails are wasting their precious time. What has been presented so far in public domain showed that we have nothing to hide. All they are doing is just to distract us, truth has begun to emerge.”
He also noted that members of the Senate made him the Senate President, saying: “When we got to the Senate, my colleagues felt that I, as an individual, Kwara State and Kwara Central, decided to make me the Senate President. For the first time in Kwara State, we are making history by producing the Senate President.
“The highest position before now for the state was the position of the majority leader held by my late father, Dr Olusola Saraki. The Senate presidency does not belong to Bukola Saraki, it belongs to the entire people of the state, but with particular reference to my people of Kwara central.
“The legacy we left behind as governor of Kwara State for eight years is there for people to see. No contractor gave any kick back to me as governor, and my being governor was to improve the lives of the people. And that is exactly what we did by laying a good foundation for the people to feel the impact of good governance.”
On renewed hostility in N-Delta
Speaking on the renewed hostility in the Niger Delta, Saraki stated that only dialogue would stem the rising militancy.
Explaining that the evils in the region had grounded crude oil production from 2.2million barrels daily to 900,000 barrels per day, the Senate president maintained that engaging the concerned people in the area in talks would arrest the situation, adding that the same method was used during Yar’Adua’s government, which worked.
He also advocated that teachers salaries become an item in the capital expenditure in the budget of states and the Federal Government in order to ensure prompt payment of salaries to teachers.
Saraki added that it was useless to build classrooms and equip laboratories when teachers, who would impact knowledge, were not happy because they were owed salaries.
Catholic Bishops challenge Buhari on current economic hardship
Meanwhile, President of Catholic Bishops, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, has challenged President Muhammadu Buhari on the current economic hardship facing the masses.
He spoke at the second plenary of the opening mass of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigerian, CBCN, 2016 held at the Scared Heart Cathedral Church Akure, Ondo State.
Kaigama said the President had a lot to do to bring back the good old days for Nigerians.
“A lot should be done by the Federal Government to alleviate the current economic hardship on the masses,” he said.
He, however, assured that better days were ahead, considering promises from the President.
“When we met with the President in May, various challenges facing us as a country were raised and he assured us that he would act soon,” he added.
Kaigama, however, advocated an all-inclusive governance in a bid to fast-track national development
Mimiko calls for true federalism
In his reaction, Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State appealed to the Bishops to join in the call for the restructuring of Nigeria to reflect true federalism as the only panacea for the growth and development of the country.
Mimiko said government had a responsibility to curtail religious bigots in the country and urged religious leaders to continue to pray for the nation
He said: “The problem of corruption facing Nigeria can be addressed with the right policy in place but inter-religious conflicts may lead the country into more danger that might be difficult to overcome.
“Government has responsibility of bringing these bigots to book. We are not comfortable with what the bigots are doing.What they are doing is most worrisome in Nigeria. Church has major role to play by praying for Nigeria “
Mimiko charged churches to always stand up when they see abuse of the secularity in Nigeria.
He said: “We must stand to resist the few bigots, who want to destroy Nigeria,” noting that deepening inequality in the society also fuels radicalism in the society.”
The governor also called for true federalism, saying: “Nigeria’s Federal Government is biting more than it can chew with the larger percentage of the resources at the disposal of the Federal Government to the detriment of the federating units.”
Look beyond party affiliation, Ekweremadu, Mark tell Buhari
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, also, yesterday, urged President Buhari to, in the spirit of Eid-el-Kabir celebration, look beyond the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and constitute a special economic squad to rescue the country from the present economic meltdown.
Ekweremadu also called on all Muslims to use the occasion of the Eid-el-Kabir to pray for the nation’s quick recovery from its current economic recession, expressing confidence that Nigerians, working together, could heal the nation’s economy.
Ekweremadu, in a statement signed by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Uche Anichukwu, noted that prayers alone were not enough since Islam advocated both work and prayer, stressing that the present economic challenges were not beyond redemption, but could actually become the nation’s turning point away from an oil-driven economy to real prosperity, if the right policies and structures were put in place.
He said: “I warned long ago that elections had come and gone and we should move from politics to governance. It is time for governance and we must bring all capable hands on the deck, irrespective of political, religious or ethnic backgrounds.
“Nigerians are facing hard times; and all they are interested in are positive results and urgent succour. They don’t care whether you are All Progressives Congress, APC, or Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and whether you are North or South. The good news is that capable hands abound in the country. We must assemble them and give them both the mandate and liberty to help the president’s team to revamp the nation’s economy.”
Commends security agencies
Ekweremadu, who also commended the nation’s security agencies for the security arrangements put in place to ensure a hitch-free Sallah celebration, stressed that the war against insurgency and crime was beyond partisan politics because the terrorists and criminals don’t consider party, religion or ethnicity in their orgies of violence and blood-letting against the nation.
He added: “My heart goes out in a special way to the men of the Nigerian Armed Forces, who are waging the war against insurgents in the North-East. Through the successes of Operation Lafiya Dole, which has been able to consolidate on the efforts of the last administration, they have made it possible for the Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, to begin their homeward journey. This is commendable and their families deserve all the love we can give at Eid-el Kabir.
“I commend the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai; Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin; and, indeed, the entirety of the nation’s Armed Forces for the progress in this regard. It shows that Nigerians always win whenever they come together with determination on any matter whatsoever.”
Similarly, former Senate President, David Mark, said if the present government must get out of the economic quagmire, Buhari must reach out to other Nigerians outside his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, to help solve the problem.
According to him, Nigeria has a reservoir of intellectuals and renowned economists who can be engaged to fashion out a blueprint needed to get the nation out of the quagmire.
Mark said it had become very imperative for the administration and Nigerians to come up with strategies that would help Nigeria as a country overcome the present economic woes.
He said: “This is not an issue of political allegiance or loyalty. This is the struggle to save our nation. In this battle to salvage Nigeria from economic woes , every one must be his brother’s keeper.
“This is a war against hunger, disease and squalor. It demands the input of all, irrespective of religious or political affiliations. It’s a war that must be collectively fought for our survival.”
Senator Mark, who urged Nigerians to renew their indomitable spirit and rise to the current socio-political challenges and economic recession, said: “We cannot afford to give in to failure on account of economic recession. The only option we have is to evolve strategies to over come the odds.
“Bad as the situation is, the difficulties have its positive sides as they demand our creativity to think outside the box for survival.”
Mark in a statement signed by his Media Adviser, Paul Mumeh, tasked the government to lead the way by creating an enabling environment for citizens to pursue and realize their ambitions unhindered.
He said: “No one can pretend or shy away from the realties on ground that our country is facing hard times. What is required now is to confront the challenges honestly and genuinely.
“One of the ways to face the task may of a necessity require government to take a hard look at its policies and programmes and possibly review it in tandem with the present circumstances.
“Senator Mark believes that Nigeria has a reservoir of intellectuals and renowned economists, who can be engaged to fashion out a blue print that is needed to get us out of the quagmire.”