June 4, 2017

Beyond Propaganda: Promises Made, Promises Kept

By Chuks Okocha

One popular maxim in journalism  is that facts are sacred but opinions are free. It is based on this   paradigm that the second anniversary of the 8th Senate under the leadership of Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki would be reviewed.

Despite the  distractions and  propaganda, the facts   on ground show that the 8th Senate   has indeed taken its   legislative duties and interventions   to higher levels in terms of keeping promises and  moving the country forward. The Senate has been able to demonstrate that when facts are separated from  propaganda, it will be clear that the legislative institution is delivering on its mandate.

Statistics show that the 8th Senate has done better than its predecessors since 1999 in terms of works done. For instance, the Senate just last week broke the jinx over the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) with the passage of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), 17 years after it was first presented before the parliament. The bill is in line with the agenda the Senate set for itself after its inauguration in June 2015. By this action of the 8th Senate, the bill, when concurred by the House of Representatives and assented to by the President, is expected to   create a conducive business environment for petroleum operations

Also, for the first time in the last one decade of budget processing, the 8th Senate kept to its promise to open the budget of the National Assembly for public scrutiny. It changed the   narratives of the secrecy of the National Assembly budget by moving from one-line budget item, to a 33 page budget details. Sponsored Civil Society Groups, who believed the promise to open up the budget will never be done, were caught pants down when the National Assembly budget was made open. What else is transparency, if not this promise made and indeed kept.

While there have been inadequate appreciation of the role of the legislature in our democracy, one can argue that the situation is understandable.   But a retrospective mind would recall that in any military rule, whether in Nigeria or any other country that has had the misfortune of military involvement in politics,   the legislature is usually the missing arm. Indeed,   both the executive and the judiciary arms are what comprised the government in a military setting. However. It is obvious that none   of these two arms is as representative of the peoples’ interest as the legislature.

So, within the prism of the role of the legislature,   the 8th Senate under Saraki has proved and lived up to expectations despite all odds. On a comparative note, in the 5th Senate,   a total of 370 bills were considered, 360 of the bills passed first reading and 196 passed   the second reading. Whereas in the 6th Senate, 225 bills were processed and in the 7th Senate 526 bills were considered in four years. But in just two years, the 8th has received 394 bills,   which almost doubled what other sessions has done in four years.

Still on the legislative interventions of the 8th Senate, when it assumed legislative duties and to its chagrin, discovered the ripe off on the economy through the fragrant abuse of the waivers import duties on rice importation. The Senate took the initiative   by setting up committee that came out with the revelation of how much the nation bled under the import duty regime. The ripe off from the import duties stood at over N447 billion. The abuse of the import duties on rice dates back to 2013

From available records, the Senate, at press time, has received request from the presidency to screen 196 presidential nominees,   out of which 185 were successfully screened. In fact,   it is on record that the 8th Senate gave 100 percent clearance to the ministerial list.   None of the ministerial nominees despite protests from some quarters was dropped.

The facts of the matter is that only nine out of the presidential nominees did not scale through the Senate screening for appointments into their substantive offices.   These include the nominee for office of chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC),   Ibrahim Magu and two ambassadorial nominees.   Still on interventions and promises kept,   within the period under review, it was through the legislative efforts of the senate that the fraudulent activities in the implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) was discovered and over N20 billion was saved from the implementation of the   policy. The same is the position with the fraud in the NNPC to which some top oil magnates are undergoing interrogation for their role in this economic sabotage ranging into billions of Naira.

  • Okocha is Special Assistant to the Senate President