The Senate recently reeled out a 20-point agenda to assist the Federal government in addressing the economy. MBACHU GODWIN NNANNA dissects the issue.
Disturbed by the dwindling economic recession facing the country, the upper legislative chamber recently came up with what it called a 20-point solution agenda to assist the executive arm of government in addressing the challenge.
The debate was however, predicated on the lengthy speech read on the floor of the Senate by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki as an address of welcome to his colleagues, in which he raised 14 point recommendations on how to find immediate solutions to the current economic challenges in the country.
In one of the recommendations, Saraki enjoined the executive arm of government to increase the dwindling foreign reserve by selling some important national assets including part sale of the Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG) Holdings and other resources.
The Red chamber had in a two days robust debate on the state of the economy rejected the proposed sale of national assets by the Federal government as an option. Leading debate against the sale of national assets, deputy senate president , Ike Ekweremadu and former Benue State governor and senator representing Benue North West, George Akume had argued that the country is not bankrupt and wondered why anybody should contemplate selling the nation’s assets as an option.
Ekweremadu said, “I have heard about the issue of selling of our assets. I need to caution that other countries are not doing the same. United Arab Emirates does not even allow you to the oil wells talkless of selling them. And of course a country like Saudi Arabia, their budget each year is run by investments from their oil revenue while other countries are investing.
Senator Akume also kicked against the recommendation by Saraki for government to sell some national assets.
He said, “we are making a mistake here. What we are intending to do is to very unpatriotically ensure that those who are within the bracket of the stolen dollars will still come to buy. I believe that this is not the time to strip these assets.
The senate in its unanimous resolution to distance itself from any idea of sale of nation’s assets, said it was totally against the move and advised the executive to look in wards.
Reading the recommendation of the senate adhoc committee on harmonisation of contributions by senators, chairman of the committee sen Abdulahi Yahaya (APC Kebbi) noted that the senate has made some recommendations which according to him will be useful to the executive in addressing the economic recession.
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, in an additional prayer called for the senate to urge the Federal Government to renegotiate terms of cost of production & profit sharing for Joint Ventures.
Speaking after deliberations on the report, Senate President, Bukola Saraki who disclosed that the recommendations of the senate will be handed over to the president, Muhammadu Buhari for further consideration and implementation. said: “Democracy is in action we will monitor the recommendations, we will do oversight & pass necessary bills on our own part. We have done our own parts in setting the agenda & our commitment to work with the executive on the 20 points agenda.”
Part of the senate recommendations include: “that government should engage in constructive dialogue with the militants who are making oil production difficult.
Any positive move to restore peace in the restive Niger Delta region as well as increase the nation’s ability to earn more money at this point will enjoy the support of the Senate. We need to earn more foreign exchange and inject more money into the system through the funding of development projects to reflate our economy and put more people to work”.
The Senate had in its recommendations also asked the President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint a Special Adviser that would lead the government engagement team in dialogue with the aggrieved Niger Delta Militants to ensure the protection of Nigeria’s oil and gas assets.
In the 20-point solution, the Senate stated: “This team should include Senators from the zone, and should oversee and advice on all the interventions and negotiations that are necessary to bring peace and stability to the Region”.
It tasked the Federal Government to ensure that all cases of unwholesome practices in the export of crude oil are vigorously pursued and dealt with decisively. It further mandates the Federal Government to ensure that all cases involving unaccounted oil exports are pursued with vigour and culprits brought to book.
According to the Ad-hoc committee set up by the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly to har > We don’t have to keep a mole in APC; we need to weed them out immediately monize the two-day debate by members on the economic crisis, it urged the Federal Government to among other things, “engage in meaningful and inclusive dialogue with the aggrieved Niger Deltans to avoid an escalation of the conflict in the region, ensure protection of the Nigeria oil pipelines and the resultant increase in oil production, sales, and economic boost”.
The report of the ad-hoc committee stated that the engagement of the militants in dialogue is necessary because of the falling oil revenue from an average of about $110 in 2014 to $30 in January, 2016 and $46 today.
Accordingly, the report said, “this fall in revenue was further exacerbated by the vandalization of the nation’s oil asset in the Niger Delta region that nearly halved the nation’s oil production and export from 2.1 million barrels per day to just about 1 million barrels per day.
“All this was happening in the absence of any saving from the high oil prices of the last decade that saw the nation’s foreign exchange reserves plummeting from more than $60 billion dollars in 2007 to about $24 billion.”
In recommending dialogue, the Senate said that it is necessary, “In order to shore up our foreign reserves, Government should explore every avenue to restore the oil production target of 2.2 million barrels per day.
“Peaceful means should be immediately crafted and adopted to stop the vandalization of petroleum and gas assets in the Niger Delta Region. Government must engage in meaningful and inclusive dialogue with the aggrieved Niger Delta Militants to avoid an escalation of the unrest in the region and ensure protection of our Nation’s oil and gas assets to facilitate increase in oil production and boost revenue there from”,
Similarly the senate in its recommendation asked the president to review its controversial treasury single Account (TSA) policy as well as rejig its economic team.
As the senate moves to proffer solution on the economic recession faced by the country, it remains to be seen how the presidency will harness such views in tackling the challenge, although some political pundits have expressed the opinion that given the intervention of the senate, the country will overcome the recession.