6 March 2018

Nigeria: Speech Delivered by Nigeria's Senate President to Ghana Parliament

Photo: Premium Times
Senate President Bukola Saraki.

Address delivered by the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Dr Abubakur Bukola Saraki, CON MBBS, to the Parliament of Ghana at a symposium commemorating 25 years of parliamentary democracy, on 'the future of good governance in Africa - Monday, March 5, 2018.


1.  I t is wonderful to be here in solidarity with lawmakers  of  the  Parliament of Ghana  for  th e  symposium commemorating 25 years  of p arliamentary democracy .  I bring  warm  greetings   from  the people of  Nigeria .  We  congratulate you on  this milestone .   Much as   the independence of Ghana s erved as a pointer  to us that Nigeria's own liberation was not far behind, we celebrate  this  silver jubilee  with you   in the knowledge  that our s  is  round the corner .

2.  I  thank the House for th e  honour  done  to  me,  the Nigerian National Assembly  and my country,  to  give this address  on ' The Future of Good Governance in Africa' . M y profound gratitude   to the  Rt. Hon. Prof. Aaron Michael Oquaye, Speaker of Parliament, fo r  his  gracious invit ation . When we met  at the 137 th  Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union  (IPU)  in Russia last year , you  said that  you would  invite  me  here  as a way of   cementing the legislative  relati onship between  our two countries, and you kept your word .   I commend you.

3.  Mr. Speaker, I must also, specially congratulate you because your personal story and involvement in de mocratic struggle and the outcome of so many years of sacrifice,  represents the unique character that makes democracy the best form of government. Who would have imagined that you would, today, be  here as  the custodian of Ghana 's  democracy? yours is a shining example why we must  never relent and  remain unflinching in our pursuit  of a virile  democracy  across Africa. I congratulate you.

4.  I have  reflected  over  the  longstanding relationship between  our countries ; and the budding foundation and collective vision of our leaders past and present . It is 59 years since Dr. Kwame Nkrumah's historic visit to Nigeria  -  in 1959  -  in th ose  heady days after the  first  All African People ' s Conference, which Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe hailed as the beginning of a Federation of Independent West African States .  Noting  that Ghana and Nigeria's  struggles were identical in many respects, Dr. Azikiwe  had  declared that, " The very diversity of our peoples, and customs and languages, means that we have much to contribute to each other ."   He   looked forward to  our two countries  becom ing " models of honest and democratic government " capable of giving  hope to all  of  Africa.

5.  Typically, when we hear of a 'special relationship' between nations, it is with regard to Britain and America; and as the Reagan  and   Thatcher era  showed forth ,  these are relationships  that  outlive governments.  O urs, too, is a special  relationship,  which should outlive us and be a reference point of special relationship in Africa. The onus and l eadership rests on us. What we do now, lays the basis for  the continent's  future .

6.  Here  the n is the  imperative of  unity between  our two nations  and   in  the region.  With  unity and democracy as   standard, we  can  lay the ground work  for good governance and development.  We  are thus presented with the  opportunity to work for democracy, using the instrumentality of  p arliament.

7.  Honourable colleagues, i t is  hardly a  coinciden ce  that  every country in ECOWAS is governed by a democratically elected government.  Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia and The Gambia have  seen  peaceful transfers of power  from  incumbent s  to  the  opposition. We have crossed the  Rubicon in West Africa ;  and   I  have no doubt that   ECOWAS  has helped catalyse  the  thinking ,  that democracy  is  the way forward  for  Africa.

8.  The legislature ,  by reason of its composition ,  represents the interest of the people; and serves as counter-balance to executive power . Parliament is therefore the best representation of the diversity of the  nation , and the fulcrum for  harmoni s ing initiatives that express the will of the  people , while providing clarity on how best to implement those initiatives.

9.  If Africa is to be fully integrated into the global economy,  its constituent  nations   must be governed by the rule of law, and  we  have to  commit to making the  required  adjustment now. The strength of democracy starts with the strength of parliament. It is our responsibility  to instil  in the body politic the time-honoured principles of  participation, transparency and accountability,  and to fight corruption, always  making the space  for stakeholder  participation . This is the modern model of governance.

10.  Honourable colleagues, you will agree with me that parliaments are a stabilising force in democracy, especially with regard to our oversight responsibility. We must be courageous; even when some of our initiatives fly in the f ace of special interest, ours is  to do what is right for our people.  To do this , we must defend democracy. We have seen for ourselves the beauty of democracy in its infancy. That should give us the inspiration to steer it to a level where it can compete favourably with older democracies in the developed world.

11.  Let me use this  opportunity to re-echo my long- held belief that democracy is not a destination, it is a journey. We  cannot therefore take it for granted. Unless we are eternally vigilant and alive to our duties to provide our people with effective and responsible governance which guarantees that we listen to them at all times and ensure that their needs are met we run the risk of derailing our hard-end democracy in the region. The recent events in Zimbabwe make this eloquently clear that bad governance is the Achilles heel of democracy. To ensure democracy is well and strong in the sub region, the legislature which is the most critical institution of democracy has a very vital role to play. If we play our role properly, we can expect to be back here celebrating 50-100years of uninterrupted democratic governance, nothing can be taken for granted in democracy and events across the world point to this fact.

12.  As a community of democratic West African states, ECOWAS makes it that much easier to build consensus; and the organisation can serve this purpose  very effectively on security and the economy. As many regional challenges indicate, our people suffer when the needed policies are not in place. We simply have to put the right policies in place in ECOWAS. In Nigeria, Boko Haram insurgency and Herdsmen-and-Farmers conflicts come with regional dimensions. These are further aggravated by porous borders that advertise the weakness in trans-national security, while facilitating irregular migration and human trafficking. There is a need to strengthen our security apparatus so that together, we can fight terrorism. It is a threat to government, education and economic development.

13.  We have much to build upon, my honourable colleagues. Trading relations between Nigeria and Ghana have begun to peak. Collaboration between the Nigerian film industry - Nollywood - and Ghanaian actors, directors and producers, remind us that age-old competition in football and even music – for who can forget the glory days of E.T. Mensah and his co-travellers in Highlife? – all of that, can be channelled in truly great and creative directions.

14.  The Pan-African vision of Joseph Casely-Hayford's National Congress of British West Africa was only one great beginning in regional cooperation. We  may  recall some  institutions that thrived during  the pre-independence era. The West African Airways Corporation, West African Frontier Force, West African Currency Board and many others. The West African Examination Council (WAEC) has stayed  relevant down  the years. It is my belief , therefore,  that we can achieve the unity and cooperation needed to build even more effective institutions, and strengthen them for the challenges of today.

15.  We are the richest continent in resources and yet we are the poorest, because we have allowed ourselves to be pigeonholed as the supplier of raw materials to the world. The leaders of our two countries are clear in their stance on the raw materials pivot of our economies. President Muhammadu Buhari has said that, " Our vision is for a Nigeria in which we grow what we eat ." And President Akufo-Addo is unequivocal: " We must add value to [our] resources, we must industrialise and we must enhance agricultural productivity ."

16.  The  two leaders have  identified  th is   flaw in  our economies , and  we in parliament must  support them with appropriate legislation in order to  realise their  vision .  African p arliaments  have  to  come  together to  cross-pollinate ideas about  how  to move  the continent  forward.  There is a n urgent  need to fast-track development so  that  our people can feel the impact  of   responsive government.  But   what is the place of law in the development trajectory of Africa?  I t is by guaranteeing freedoms, rights and opportunities.

17.  T he rule of law and accountability  are the  hallmarks of democratic legislature .  We  must , therefore,  begin to look at the implications of laws passed across the continent.  I ntegration   is about frameworks, and this is  large ly legislative in nature.  There is a relationship between the laws we make and the development our people can see.  We cannot shirk the responsibility  of creating  a more integrated African development paradigm.

18.  Honourable colleagues, l et  me   use this  opportunity  to call for collaboration in ECOWAS. The  economic community already has the framework;  it  is lef t for  us to make it  work for  regional integration , and even  us e it   to actualise  the African Union (AU) agenda .  ECOWAS has the capacity to drive the economic prosperity of Africa; and in order to have a  diversified economy,  long term issues can not  be driven by policy but by legislati on, which we are responsible for .  We must rise to the challenge, so that we can get our people out of poverty. And whatever is to be done in ECOWAS, our two countries should be at the driving seat.

19.  L et us  stir up that  spirit  of regional integration and cooperation that  moved  this  great  continent  once.  I t is  in this  vein  that I propose  the creation of a legislative platform comprising the leadership of  our two legislatures ,  one  where cross- national  dialogue  can   flo urish ,  and recommendations made   to  aid  integration and development.

20.  Africa's population of 1.3 billi on will double by 2050, and  youths will account for more than half of that increase.  W e  already  have the largest concentration of young people in the world, according to the United Nations. Half of Uganda's population is under the age of 15; almost 80 percent are under 30. Here in Ghana, 57 percent are under the age of 25, according to the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE); 18-35 year olds  constitute  about 65 percent of the population. As for Nigeria, we are set to become the third most populous country on earth by 2050, surpassing the United States; no fewer than 68 percent  of us  are in the 18 - 35 age bracket.

21.  And yet, the demographic dividend that is expected to accelerate the growth of A frica is undercut by the apparent capitulation of frustrated youth. We are  witnessing  the phenomenon  of young Africa ns trek king  through the Sahara Desert  and on  to the Mediterranean  Sea  into horrors including slav ery and death .  Of  irregular  migrants in limbo in Libya, Ghanaians number 59,870, while 44,608  of them  are Nigerians.  O ur youths do not see a future  for themselves  on the continent and  are willing to  go  elsewhere or die trying .  We  must  reverse this unfortunate  trend; and we  can only do  so  by making our  continent  a place of opportunity .

22.  Honourable colleagues, i t is  unacceptable that Africa's t rad e with Europe far outstrips t hat  between African nations. British foreign investment in Africa total l ed $54.1 billion in 2014 . China had an estimated 2,650 projects ongoing on our continent  in 2015 .  Meanwhile , Africa's share of the global trade stands at 3 per cent , i n ter-Africa  trade is  11 per cent  - t his  is  unsustainable.  The  attention of British investors is expected to shift  from Africa  to Europe ,  post-Brexit .  In the United States, the  clamour  is all about America First.  Let us ask ourselves: w hat about  Africa?  N ot a moment can be spared  in our efforts as Africans  to cover our flanks in trade. W e must  devise  an economic model that produces and manufactures primarily for the African market ,  and  then  use that as a basis  upon which  to engage with the wider  world.  Africa's engagement with the wider world will be stronger where the world perceives that  the legislature is actively involved and on the same page with the Executive.

23.  Travel within Africa  is  another  area of  concern . If we do not make the necessary investments in transportation ,  and remove  encumbrances  that make it easier for Africans to travel across Europe   than within Africa itself, we would not be able to take full advantage of the  opportunities that abound on  our continent.

24.  Happily,   t he expected launch of  the Continental Free Trade Area  by the AU ,  later this month ,   should  open up the continent to  greater integration,  particularly   in  trade between African countries.  The Lagos - Tangiers  H ighway  P roject; the Trans Sahara  Pipeline and new Railway projects to connect  East African countries ,   are all encouraging developments .  W e are in Ghana,  and so I cannot fail to   commend  the vision behind the proposed Ghana Railway  P roject that  w ould link  you  to  your norther n  neighbours in  Cote d'Ivoire, Togo and Burkina Faso.

25.  T he recently launched  Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM)  is also heartening; it   will  open up transport routes for 12 African countries  and  create  over  150,000 jobs, boosting Africa's GDP by  an estimated  $1.3   billion. Taken together with the  agreement by a number of  African countries  to  ease visa requirements for African nationals , the  benefit to  continental economy is immense .   However, there is the   need to  take a critical look at challenges in some ECOWAS treaties that  are open to abuse , and  review  to ensure we   achieve desired results .

26.  I  strongly believe that  our  people's talent   for innovation and enterprise makes them   our most valuable  resources   –   it is our role therefore, to  give  them opportunities to translate these into going concerns. This  will create wealth  and  enable  us to compete globally.  The world community is moving at lightning speed in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), and in overall modernisation as well as renewable sources of energy. Africa cannot afford to lag behind. Government has to perform in a way that gives confidence to civil society as well as the private sector, in order to stimulate economic growth  and security . We must work to make the sub-region a place of investment. We must generate wealth for the people of Africa .

27.  It is to this  end ,  that  the 8 th   National Assembly  under my leadership has, s ince its inception, prioritised the passage of  landmark  economic  laws   to enable SMEs to grow and prosper,  including : the  Warehouse Receipts Bill ;  Secured Transactions in Moveable Assets Bill ;  Credit Bureau Reporting Bill ;   we have also targeted laws to stimulate agriculture as a way of steamrolling our diversification agenda through the passage of the Commercial Agriculture Credit Guarantee Scheme and the  Institute of  Soil Science Bill, the Food Security Bill etc. we have pursued as an overarching policy the revamping of our industrial base through the made-in-Nigeria initiative under   the  Public Procurement Act  (Amendment) Bill ;   and the  Federal Competition Commission Bill . We are reviewing  our company law regime through  the  Companie s and Allied Matters Act (CAMA)  and the   Inve stments and Securities Act (ISA )  in order to reduce the regulatory burden of Nigerian businesses and create a globally competitive market regulatory regime in Nigeria .

28.  Outdated  infrastructure related laws have been  review ed and bills passed to increase  private sector participation in those sectors. Among these are:  the Nigerian Railway Corporation Bill ;  the  Federal Road Authority (Establishment Etc.) Bill ;  the  Nigerian Ports and Harbours Authority Act (Amendment) Bill ;  and the  National Roads Fund (Establishment) Bill .  Creating an economic regulatory  framework for the  infrastructure laws is the National Transport Commission Bill ,  which   is on the verge of being passed.

29.  Anti-corruption is a very important focus  for us ,  to cleanse the Augean stables and strengthen  institutions . We have staye d the course with laws such as : t he  Whistleblowers Protection Bill ,  Corrupt Practice s  and Other Related Offences Act (Amendment) Bill ,   and  the  Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill .   A day or so  ago, the Auditor-Ge neral of the Federation welcomed  the  passage of the  Federal Audit Service  Commission  Bill , and described   the legislation a s 'historic'.

30.  We are also focusing a great deal of attention to the modernization of our electoral system to make it more accountable and insulated  it  from politically influence.   The National Assembly  passed the  # NotTooYoungToRun  Bill   to reduce the age limits for running for office by a wide margin, to open the window of political participation wider to incorporate our youths in the mainstream of governance. deepen democratic participation .  C onstitutional amendments  have  also  been concluded, the aim of which is  to  strengthen our electoral processes ,  to ensure  credible elections .

31.  It is incumbent on us to make clear promises , therefore,  and  to  deliver on them. If the people do not feel that they are governing themselves, it is not good governance no matter the goods we deliver. Our  two nations  can forge  ahead by sharing experiences, building upon valued discourse s about the way the world works,  and how to m ake our people beneficiaries as well as  contributors to the great leaps of this century.

32.  I would like to touch on  the importance of education. If  we are to deliver good governance to the next generation of Africans,  and  if the demographic dividend  is  to come to fruition , education is key . We must invest in primary, secondary and tertiary education  – up to the 26 percent of the national budget  as  recommended by the United Nation s . It must be mandatory for every child to go to school ;  we should ensure  that  th ere are incentives for those that  send their children to school, and penal ties for those that  do not . We have to pull every one of our citizens out of the cycle of poverty and ignorance, and education is the means by which to do so.

33.  L et me  say  that my vision for   Africa is an optim istic one. I am very upbeat about the continent, I am very upbeat about the future.  There is much to build on. Greater educational, scientific and technological interaction can lay a basis for our part of the world to match the rest of the world. Democracy is not just about elections; it is about putting knowledge at the disposal of a people determined to take their future into their own hands.

34.  In closing, permit me this iteration, that if the African continent is to be a success story – or even the AU for that matter, ECOWAS must play a key role. And for ECOWAS to lead the charge, Ghana and Nigeria must step up to the plate, and fulfil their leadership role on the continent. So, my  colleagues,  let us take the first step on that journey today, and do so together.

35.  Thank you for your attention. Long live the Parliament of Ghana. God bless the beautiful peoples of Ghana and Nigeria.



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