As part of its contributions to efforts to find immediate solutions to the current economic recession in the country, the Senate on Tuesday commenced debate on the issue with its President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki making a 14-point recommendation to the Federal Government on how to make the crisis the shortest ever in history.
The Senate’s roadmap out of the recession was contained in Saraki’s speech, to welcome his colleagues back from their annual vacation. Going by the importance attached to finding urgent solutions to the recession, the plenary session commenced at 10:10am after the presiding and principal officers of the Senate filed into the chambers by 9:55am.
The recommendations by Saraki which will form the basis of an elaborate debate on Wednesday by his colleagues include:
*The Executive must immediately put in place leadership-level engagement platform with the private sector.
*Government must raise capital from asset sales and other sources to shore up foreign reserves. This will calm investors, discourage currency speculation and stabilize the economy. The measures should include part sale of NLNG Holdings; reduction of government share in upstream oil joint venture operations; sale of government stake in financial institutions e.g. Africa Finance Corporation; and the privatization and concession of major/regional airports and refineries.
*Consider tweaking the pension funds policy within international best practice safeguards to accommodate investment in infrastructure and mortgages.
*The Federal Government and CBN must agree on a policy of monetary easing to stimulate the economy and harmonise monetary and fiscal policy until economic recovery is attained.
*Re-tool its export promotion policy scheme with incentives such as the resumption of the Export Expansion Grant (EEG); and introduce export-financing initiatives.
*Engage in meaningful dialogue with those aggrieved in the Niger Delta and avoid an escalation of the conflict in the region.
*Consider immediate release of funds to ensure the implementation of the budget for the near short term to inject money into the economy. Similarly, the agricultural sector and the agro-allied businesses should be directly supported to boost value addition and job creation.
*While government works on the medium to long-term plans, immediate strategies must be devised that would ease the suffering of the ordinary people across our country.
*Consider immediate release of funds to ensure the implementation of the budget for the near short term to inject money into the economy.
*The agricultural sector and Agro-allied businesses should be directly supported to boost value addition and job creation.
* Both legislature and executive must co-operate to ensure the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) into law as soon as possible to stimulate new investment and boost oil revenue.
Saraki added that while the executive is working on the above recommendations, the National Assembly should support it with necessary legislations and oversight activities such as:
*Accelerate bills aimed at reforming the mortgage sub-sector for growth and accessibility in a manner that deepens people’s access to housing, jobs and economic activities.
*Work on the National Development Bank of Nigeria (Establishment) Bill 2015 which will provide long term cheaper source of funds to the private sector.
*Quickly commence work on the amendment of the Nigerian Ports and Harbours Authority Act (Amendment) Bill 2016; National Road Fund (Establishment, etc); National Transport Commission Act 2001; Warehouse Receipts Act Bill 2016; Review of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), Investment and Securities Act (ISA) and Customs and Excise Management Act; Federal Competition Bill 2016; and the National Road Authority. These bills and some of the other economic reform bills will be considered in the coming days.
*Explore the possibility of backing certain key government policies with legislations that have time limitations. This will help give confidence to investors to go into certain areas of the economy and invest without the fear that such policies will suffer reversals and their investments lost.
According to him, the Senate will through an exhaustive debate find the way forward and work together with the executive to get the country out of recession as soon as practicable.
“We will work in concert, not at cross-purposes. Our goal is clear; to work together with the Executive to get our economy out of recession. We will proffer our solutions on policy issues, and where necessary enact necessary legislation to ensure that investor confidence returns to the market,” Saraki said.
While saying that the Senate will “go immediately to debate the state of the economy and come up with economic measures that will be submitted to the Executive. This, we will do, along with passing the necessary legislation we have identified”.
Saraki added: “I must hasten to add in my own opinion that the Executive must begin to take the needful steps to show Nigerians, the international community and investors, both local and international, that we are ready to reform and do business
“This chamber is ready to receive and consider expeditiously additional proposals from the Executive to create a new Nigerian economy and get us out of this recession as quickly as possible,” Saraki said.
He further reminded his colleagues that the economic recession needs the input of all to redress it irrespective of party affiliation.
“I must at the point like to re-emphasise the fact that we need togetherness to tackle this problem and it will be naïve to consider the problem we face today as the problem of the administration alone, or that those who brought us to this situation should see us out.
“That would be doing a disservice to our people who elected us to help them out when they are in need. This problem is our collective problem. It does not matter if we are APC, PDP, or whatever affiliation we may have politically or socially.
“As leaders, we must respond positively to the challenge and thinking out of the box. Hence, we cannot allow our personal interest or comfort to becloud our perception.
“We cannot afford further distraction and fixation to politics that would not and does not add food on the table of our people, or add one mega-watt of electricity to our grid. Everywhere you go, there is hunger in our land and our people want solutions to their problems,” he said.
“I do not think anybody in this chamber has gone through more political persecution than myself since the inception of this government, but I will be the last to fold my arms and say that the current economic problem is not my problem. No, it is”, he stated.
The Senate President said while he remained humbled by the support he has enjoyed from his colleagues, he had no choice but to again call on them to join him in supporting the Executive to make the current recession the shortest in the nation’s history.
“I remain humbled by your unflinching support and solidarity to my leadership. I, today once more seek that support. If you believe in my leadership as you have always shown, this is the time to follow me further for the sake of our beloved country to do what is necessary to ease the pain of our people by working with the Executive to get us out of this situation.
“Let me conclude this address by reaffirming my belief that while we face a grim present and an uncertain future, we have within our country, the capacity to make this the shortest recession in our history. I have no doubt that Nigeria shall rise again.
“I remember during my Sallah interactive session, a young student said to me that he had lost hope in the possibility of a promising future for the youth in Nigeria. This made me realize the weight of our responsibility to get us out of this recession and give hope to our teeming youth who are looking up to us in this Senate. We cannot afford to fail this generation.
“In this vein, I must urge you my colleagues that it is time to think outside the box and move outside the comfort zone and make immense sacrifices to pursue ways to fast-track the passage of bills.
“We will be relying on your courage, bi-partisan spirit, endurance, personality, long hours of plenary sitting that could sometime last into the night if necessary, diligent oversight and prompt committee reporting.
“These are some of the ways we must use to show that we are ready to lead by example in defense of our national economy. In the same token, we may have to fast-track some of this bills as the exigencies of the time demand in order to avoid anything being in the way of our progress out of recession.
“I believe we can make the recession we face today the shortest in our history and use the lessons coming out of it to consolidate our development. But it all starts now, if we all can believe” Saraki said.