One of the legacies the Senate President wants the 8th National Assembly to leave behind is the delivery of a new and acceptable constitution to Nigeria.
Dr. Bukola Saraki made this known in Lagos on Friday at the commencement of a retreat by the lawmakers to address controversial areas in the 1999 Constitution.
The Senate President is optimistic that this can be achieved as early as the first quarter of next year, and the lawmakers expect their findings will help provide answers to questions regarding true federalism in Nigeria.
Addressing the gathering, the Deputy Senate President, Mr Ike Ekweremadu, stressed the need to always conclude constitution amendment processes far ahead of election seasons.
He said: “It reduces the contamination of an otherwise patriotic exercise by personal, political or other considerations.
“In keeping with the matching order of the Senate President at the inauguration of this committee, we hope to conclude the process of the constitution amendment exercise by December 2016,” Senator Ekweremadu said.
Earlier in his opening speech, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, told the lawmakers to consider the experience of the past and reasons for the delay of the forth alteration.
“I will like you to kindly, for us and for all Nigerians, deliver a new constitution to this country by the time we open a chapter to the beginning of 2017.
“I think that if we so do, we will be leaving a legacy for ourselves,”he stressed.
Several issues are confronting the nation and some lawmakers gave their opinion on the sideline of the event on the issue of restructuring the nation.
While some said Nigeria had too many states than it could afford, others said the nation must have a leadership that should deliver the dividends of democracy to Nigerians.
Cost of running Nigerian states was another issue that was raised by some of the lawmakers.
The Nigerian constitution bears huge burden and a lot of loopholes that many Nigerians believe if not address would hurt the nation badly.
In 2014, the administration of Goodluck Jonathan brought people from different parts of Nigeria together in Abuja for a national conference to deliberate and find a lasting solution to the nation’s challenges and implementations that could address agitations.
Former President Jonathan had promised to forward the deliberations of the national national conference to the National Assembly but could not do that before he lost in the presidential election of 2015.
A former Nigeria President, Olusegun Obasanjo, is optimistic that a brighter future awaits the socio-economic and political development of Nigeria, under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari despite the current challenges facing the oil-rich nation.
The former President made the observation on Friday while having a chat with the national leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students who paid him a courtesy call in his hilltop residence in Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State.
While assuring Nigerians of his readiness to continue to work for the success of the country, former President Obasanjo, however, urged the citizens to play their parts in the Nigerian project, asking them to meaningfully criticise the administration where necessary
The leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students led by its vice President, Mr Oluwatosin Ogunkuade, was in Abeokuta to ask for the continuous leadership quality of the former president in the onerous task of national development.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives in Nigeria has sought aid from the Canadian government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help address the devastation in the north-east caused by insurgency.
The Speaker, Honorable Yakubu dogara, made the appeal at a meeting with a delegation from the Canadian High Commission and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Mr Dogara said the region was in dire need of assistance to address its challenges.
The delegation from the Canadian High Commission was led by the High Commissioner, Perry Calderwood.
Mr Calderwood said his country had always enjoyed good relations with Nigeria and that they look forward to sustaining the relationship.
The Speaker thanked the Canadian government for its contribution to Nigeria’s general elections held in March and April.
At the meeting with a delegation from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr Dogara also appealed for support to re-develop the north-east.
The group led by the foundation’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Sue Desmond-Hellmann, assured the Speaker of the foundation’s support, but said that the group was in the National Assembly in connection with some legislation such as the health bill.
The Speaker assured the delegation that the National Assembly would remain committed to addressing the concerns of Nigerians and ensuring that Nigeria met its obligations with the international community.
At a meeting on June 19 with a delegation from Bauchi State led by the State Deputy Governor, Mr Nuhu Gidado, the Speaker assured them that he would use his position to seek foreign aid for the re-development of the region that has been devastated by the activities of the Boko Haram terrorists.
He had at the meeting stressed that with the economic challenges facing the oil-rich nation the development of the north-east would not be achieved without foreign support.
The north-east has seen over five years of insurgency that has left close to two million persons homeless and over five million persons traumatised, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Counter-terrorism operations against the Boko Haram terrorists have continued in the region.
The terrorist group and trying to establish and Islamic State and end western education in the region.
Nigeria’s Vice President-elect, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, on Friday outlined the tasks of the incoming administration, stressing that the support of all Nigerians is needed to actualise the expectations.
Professor Osinbajo was speaking at the Platform, an event held in the nation’s capital, Abuja, designed to facilitate growth in the areas of personal capacities and productivity.
Speaking on the ‘Relationship between Business and Governance’, the Vice President-elect touched on most sectors of the Nigerian economy that the All Progressives Congress-led government would focus on to bring the needed change they had promised to Nigerians during their election campaigns.
“Passionate About Change”
“We are truly passionate about change and the time has come for us to be part of making sure that the change comes.
“Poverty in Nigeria is so disheartening. Nigeria needs immediate fixing.
“The vast majority of people are poor and alienated from all the good things that the government ought to produce for them and it appears that we are well down the ladder.
“With change comes great expectations. Very high expectations.
“We believe in change and the need for a change in the way our economy is run. We are those called upon to fix it,” Professor Osinbajo said.
He emphasised the position of the President-elect, General Muhammad Buhari, on the need to ‘kill corruption’ in Nigeria, saying that the nation’s major source of revenue – the oil and gas sector – needed greater governance and transparency.
“If you read the PWC report, it is clear that in the oil and gas sector, in the NNPC, there were just all sorts of things going on there.
“A lot of money was spent without appropriation.
“We need greater governance in our revenue earning sector.
“We need greater transparency in the oil and gas to be sure that those who are responsible for securing the earnings are honest and that the whole process is transparent for all to see… Taxation, customs and the maritime sector,” he said.
In the area of unemployment, the Vice President-elect said the rate of unemployment of graduates, which he put at 80 per cent, was worrisome.
He stated that unemployment would be reduced through establishment of policies that would further empower companies in Nigeria, and creating more jobs for the unemployed.
According to him, the government will explore technology parts, with the private sector partnership.
“We will provide some infrastructure in technology that some businesses in technology can use,” he explained, stressing that his administration would further make Nigeria a knowledge-based economy.
On the power sector, the Vice President-elect said his administration would adopt the Power Academy template of the Lagos State government. The Academy is a collaboration of the Lagos State government and Siemens. They provide training to individuals to grow the sector and Professor Osinbajo said the template would further deepen the technical knowledge of Nigerians in the area of energy management.
Nigeria’s economy became Africa’s number one economy after it was re-based in 2014, with the entertainment industry showing huge investment potential.
Professor Osinbajo said the entertainment industry had not yielded as it should due to piracy, which he said would be tackled.
“Entertainment is big in Nigeria and we have to invest in helping those in the entertainment industry in Nigeria. One of the greatest investments we can make is in protecting intellectual property.
“Piracy is a major problem of that industry. People in the industry said, unless they are invited to performances they cannot make money from the sales of their CDs and DVDs.”
He also said his administration would look at small businesses and training of entrepreneurs to empower them to grow their businesses and provide employment.
‘A Killer Disease’
The process of registering businesses in Nigeria is clogged with bureaucracy that had created an opportunity for individuals in the sector to make money and enrich themselves.
But Professor Osinbajo said the incoming government would look at eliminating the ‘toll gates’ in the process, which he said was a means of eliminating bribery and corruption.
He said: “I want to suggest that corruption is a killer disease and we have to deal with it the same way we dealt with the Ebola virus.
“Toll gates are opportunities for bribery and corruption. Those responsible for registration that have set up these toll gates made it so to exploit people trying to register their businesses.
“It is obvious that there is a real connection between corruption and the terrible lack of social services that we have. As a nation, we have to come together to deal with it. On the side of government, people will be made to understand that there will be consequence for corruption.
“People seem to get away with corruption and that sends a bad message”.
The criminal justice system is also another sector that the Professor of Law said had contributed to the prevalence of corruption in Nigeria, stressing that the incoming government would look at strengthening the system and ensure that every Nigerian seeking justice gets it.
He also pledged the government’s commitment to reducing the cost of governance, through running a ‘lean government’ that would ensure that the recurrent expenditure would be reduced.
Recurrent expenditure in Nigeria is about 70 per cent of the nation’ budge, but the Vice President-elect pointed out that reducing the cost of governance would free up funds for useful investments.
Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State and the Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, say Nigeria’s political leaders’ misplaced priorities is slowing down the progress of the nation blessed with so much resources.
The governors made the observation at the first Kukah Centre Policy Debate held in Abuja on Wednesday.
Governor Fashola lamented that although Nigeria was blessed with abundant resources, there was a tendency to pay selective attention to national advancement and cohesion.
On his part, Governor Lamido said the problem of the country was caused by attempt by the leaders to appropriate public offices to themselves and their associates at the expense of the people they were expected to serve.
The governors lamented the impact of poor leadership on the country and called for a change of attitude and said that the leadership needed to do something to revive the sense of nationalism of all Nigerians so that they could work together in tackling the challenges facing Nigeria.
They said they are not bothered by who takes over from them but expressed hopes that the work they had done would speak for them now and in the future.
It was the first policy political debate organised at the Kukah Centre, a platform for key policy makers to dialogue with the public.
It was indeed a dialogue as members of the public interacted with the two state governors on policy issues affecting their states and Nigeria, at large.
The debate was moderated by the founder of the centre and Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Kukah.