News & Features
The rich also cry
After seven weeks of annual recess, members of the National Assembly resumed their constitutional duties of lawmaking, representation and oversight.
Interestingly, the National Assembly Complex now wears a new look with the installation of aluminium ceilings, fixing of tiles on the walkways, renovation of the Protocol Office, fixing of new light fittings and painting of the lobby and chamber.
However, the renovation did not include the installation of broadcast equipment in the hallowed chamber which would have seen cameramen of broadcast stations not standing in the chamber to get their shots but through functional central pool units using latest television technologies such as Ultra High Definition.
Another indication that life has returned to the National Assembly was the influx of hangers-by who besieged the lobby of both chambers to meet lawmakers for one favour or another. Some of the hangers-by included those sacked by Senate President Bukola Saraki during the recess. Recall that 100 political aides were relieved of their appointments in August this year by the Number Three Citizen.
In what is a clear indication that the rich also cry, not all lawmakers visited their constituencies in the last annual recess, no thanks to the present economic woes facing the country despite its exit from recession.
This reverberated on the first day of legislative sitting when senators resumed plenary. At a closed door session on Tuesday which lasted for about two hours, senators opened book of lamentation to decry their inability to visit their constituency due to paucity of funds.
Upon resumption from executive session, they reviewed the performance of the economy and issued a wakeup call to the Executive arm of government on the need to increase the funding of the 2017 budget to avoid the economy from sliding back into recession.
Two separate motions which were passed by the upper chamber on the issues of recession and budget implementation raised critical questions about the genuineness of government’s intention in reviving the economy.
The two motions were sponsored by All Progressives Congress (APC) senators.
The upper legislative chamber also expressed dismay that a total amount of $9 billion has been lost in stabilising the value of the naira.
One of the motions titled: ‘Inadequate releases in the 2017 Budget and the need to expedite releases in Order to Stimulate the Economy’ was sponsored by Gbenga Ashafa (APC, Lagos State) and co-sponsored by six others.
Earlier this month, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) had announced that the country had exited recession after it reported that the economy grew at 0.55 percent in the second quarter of 2017.
But in their separate contributions, senators expressed worry that failure to expeditiously release the capital component of the 2017 budget to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) might return the country to recession.
Ashafa urged the Federal Government to maximise the upcoming dry season in funding the budget infrastructural projects contained in this year’s budget tagged ‘Budget of Economic Recovery and Growth’.
Senate thereafter summoned the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun and her counterpart in Budget and National Planning Udoma Udo Udoma, to appear before it to explain the failure to release money to fund the budget. The ministers are expected to appear before the Joint Committee on Finance and Appropriation on Tuesday this week.
Another motion sponsored by Yahaya Abdullahi (APC, Kebbi State) urged fiscal authorities to drastically reduce the accumulation of domestic debt in order to free the market for better access by the private sector.
The motion which was unanimously passed by senators lamentated that “relatively stable exchange rates of N365 to the dollar (parallel) and N305 to the dollar (official) was achieved at a great cost to the nation” adding that “the Central Bank has spent nearly $9billion to support the Naira”
Asking the Executive arm of government not take anything for granted and should do everything possible to avoid relapsing into another recession, the Senate “urged the national economy managers to remain focused and ensure that the current weak growth of a mere 0.55percent is built upon and increased substantially in the months and years to come”.
It equally urged the fiscal and monetary authorities to come together and harmonise fiscal and monetary policies with a view to drastically reducing the high interest rate that has adversely affected borrowing for investment by the real sector of the economy.
However, lawmakers rejected two resolutions. They include: urging the CBN to transfer its operating surpluses to the government instead of operating as another fiscal institution in order to avoid the incidence of the Federal Government going into debt to finance capital budget as well as charging the apex bank to revert to its traditional core mandate and responsibility as the Banker of the Federal Government, supervisor of the Banking industry, stabilizer (guardian) of the National currency and as the institution in-charge of our monetary policy and its institutions, and curb its foray into direct development funding.
OWEDE AGBAJILEKE, Abuja
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