Welcome Address at Resumption from Christmas/2017 New Year Recess
WELCOME SPEECH BY RT. HONOURABLE YAKUBU DOGARA, SPEAKER HO– USE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA ON THE OCCASION OF RESUMPTION OF THE HO– USE FROM CHRISTMAS/NEW YEAR RECESS, 10TH JANUARY, 2017
It is my pleasure to welcome us all back from the Christmas and New Year 2017 recess. I hope we used the period, as always, to brief our constituents, interact with them and recharge our legislative batteries for 2017. Permit me to seize this opportunity to offer thanks to the Almighty God for his grace, protection, guidance and for seeing us through the year 2016 and also for bringing us back safely.
2. The year 2016 presented us with its peculiar challenges especially in the area of security and the economy. It was the year in which our dear country eventually slipped into recession resulting in grievous social stress for the citizenry; it was also the year in which terrorism in the North East, militancy in the South South, the despicable phenomenon of kidnapping as well as the flash of agitations bared their murderous fangs – visiting death, pain and anguish on the populace. In all these, it is gratifying to note that the fundamentals of nationhood remain strong, robust and promising. We commend the gallantry, ingenuity and professionalism of our armed forces and security agencies, the political will of the Buhari-led government and the unbending resilience of the Nigerian people.
3. Many developments in the polity require legislative and executive responses. It was during this break that our citizens woke up to heartwarming and cheering news when the military authorities declared they had captured the most strategic major stronghold held by Boko Haram terrorists. While we applaud them for their sacrifices and commitment that resulted in this military triumph, we must hasten to add that the war against terrorism is still on; our citizens must remain vigilant against targeting of soft targets by fleeing terrorists as they attempt to terrorize the populace.
There has also been outbreak of violence resulting in wanton killings and destruction of properties in Southern Kaduna, Birnin Gwani, parts of Zamfara State. Same was the order in Benue, Plateau and some other states. Before we went on break, this House by Resolution mandated the Leadership to meet with Mr President on the challenges posed by these senseless killings. Having met with Mr President, I am happy to report that I am satisfied with the response of the President on these matters. I share the view that finding solutions to these crises must not be left to Kaduna State Government alone or Mr President. An enduring solution can only be attained if all of us – all Nigerians regardless of ethnic groupings – northerners, southerners, Christians, Muslims, politicians, the apolitical, traditional rulers and religious leaders accept the fact that we are responsible and rise to confront and rid our communities of these evils. On the part of Government, I’m more than hopeful that the effect of the presidential intervention, particularly in the Southern Kaduna crisis will soon be felt.
4. We must make it abundantly clear that no matter the level of grievance, no individual or group of individuals has the right to kill innocent citizens or to take up arms against the nation state. Nigeria’s worst enemies are these hate mongers and merchants of death who seek to turn this nation into the primitive state which in the words of British born Philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, in his famous work, Leviathan, is a state of, “continual fear and danger of violent death: and the life of man; solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. For our nation to make true progress, these enemies of the state, just like Boko Haram members, must be crushed.
5. As the year 2017 rolls by, we should expect great challenges once again but with renewed determination and faith that things shall surely get better with God on our side. In this regard, I wish to remind us that perhaps the most critical and urgent task before us is the pending 2017 Appropriation Bill.
My Honourable colleagues, the economy must be our central focus in 2017.
Measures to exit Nigeria out of recession must be the critical aspect of our legislative activities.
The 2017 Budget remains the major tool to rejig our economy. This is in addition to other fiscal and monetary policies. The recent fiscal measures including import prohibition of certain items and the increase or decrease of tariff on some items should receive appropriate legislative scrutiny to ensure that the economy and the interests of our people are protected. We must ensure that we take no prisoners in accomplishing this task.
6. We must brace up and work assiduously and conscientiously to give Nigerians a budget that will not only lift us out of recession but kick start the needed expeditious journey into Nigeria’s prosperity. We pledge to reform the budget process. To this end therefore, we would ensure that the procedure and process of consideration and passage of the 2017 Budget is transparent, inclusive and professionally handled. The details of the Budget should be debated and passed in Plenary to avoid those needless pitfalls that normally characterize the budget process.
7. 2017 is perhaps the year to pass critical bills before active politicking starts. Critical bills designed to stimulate and streamline our economy such as the Public Procurement Act amendment, Federal Competition Bill, Petroleum Industry bill, etc will receive expeditious consideration. Important Bills on Constitution alteration and Amendment to the Electoral Act also deserve expeditious consideration and passage.
8. The recent spate of impeachment of Speakers of Houses of Assembly of States gives cause for grave concern. While we recognize the constitutional right of the legislature to conduct its internal affairs including the right to hire and fire it’s leadership, it presents a different scenario where such leadership hiring and firing is rife with accusations and insinuations of external influence and also devoid of extant procedure. Leaders everywhere can only function efficiently where there is certainty that commendation is the reward for good leadership and sanction the consequence of inept leadership.
The Nigerian legislature needs to be afforded an opportunity to blossom if our democracy is to ever mature into adulthood.
9. On the external front, particularly within the ECOWAS subregion, recent events call for both joy and concern. There have been peaceful elections and transition of power in Ghana to the delight and pride of all Africans. However, in Gambia, even though peaceful elections took place, the outgoing President Yahya Jammeh, has recanted his pledge to hand over power peacefully after losing the elections. The situation in Gambia constitutes a serious dent on the rising profile of the development of democracy on the African continent.
10. We wish to commend the President of Nigeria and indeed the leadership of ECOWAS for their principled stance on the matter. The recent official position that ECOWAS will ensure peaceful transition in The Gambia is most reassuring. We understand this to imply peaceful transition simplicita but also the enforcement of peaceful transition should the need arise. As a foremost democratic institution, the legislature will stand firmly behind the government of Nigeria as well as ECOWAS in ensuring that no individual leader on the African continent engages in conduct prejudicial to the growth of Africa’s democracy.
11. Honourable Colleagues, I urge once again that we rededicate ourselves to the task of pulling our country out of recession and restoring total peace as a prerequisite for attaining the greatness which our nation is destined for.
12. God bless you all and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.