7 June 2019

Nigeria: 8th NASS Most Persecuted, Harassed in Nigeria's History - Saraki, Dogara

Photo: 8th Senate of Nigeria
"The 8th Senate pursued its legislative agenda to reform the economy and build a country that creates opportunity for all. It is an honour to preside over this Senate" - Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki.

Outgoing Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, yesterday, said the 8th National Assembly witnessed all-time persecution and political harassment in the history of the legislature in Nigeria and stressed the need for the 9th NASS to be independent.

Dogara also expressed concern over the future of Nigeria due to the alarming rate of insecurity across the country.

The duo spoke separately at the valedictory sessions of the 8th Senate and House of Representatives.

He, however, stated that the 8th Assembly has been a huge success with unprecedented records set in legislative duties.

Dogara said: "The 8th House holds the record as the most persecuted and harassed parliament ever in Nigeria's history. Some of our members bear the scars of reckless deployment of institutional prerogatives. We witnessed sieges and invasion by state operatives.

"Some members suffered witch-hunts, house arrests and false accusations. We are also witnesses to the barrage of uncharitable criticisms and assessments bandied on daily basis in the media by hired mercenaries who masquerade as analysts.

"Most of these analysts are ignorant of the fact that the parliament was not designed to be an altar of praise for the executive but a co-equal branch to serve as a check on executive power."

Nigeria losing the war against insecurity - Dogara

On the state of insecurity in the country, he feared that the country was losing the battle.

"It appears we are losing the fight against violence and as if that is not bad enough, the situation is so dire that known statesmen are becoming petrified and speaking up in ways that may further rend our national fault lines. It is like we refused to hear the whispers and now the screams are threatening our eardrums.

"This is a national problem that we can only solve if we pull ourselves together and not apart; regardless of political persuasions or creed. The challenge is to get the leadership that throws politics and partisanship out of the window. Leadership that reins in all our best human and material resources to confront these menacing challenges.

"Yet, instead of uniting to confront this very danger, all one hears are sermons of divisiveness and permutations for 2023 elections."

Dogara charged members-elect of the 9th National Assembly to be determined to raise the bar of the records of the 8th National Assembly, especially on the issue of flawed elections.

8th House passed 1643 bills, 1588 motions, 1192 petitions

Also speaking, Chairman, House Committee on Rules and Business, Edwards Pwajok informed members that the House considered 1,643 bills, 1,588 motions, and attended to 1,192 petitions among others.

N'Abba, Etteh, Ihedioha, others speak

Speaking at the valedictory session, former speakers of the House commended the 8th Assembly and charged the incoming 9th Assembly to build on the legacies left behind by their predecessors.

Those who spoke include Alhaji Ghali Nabba, Patricia Etteh, and Governor Emeka Ihedioha of Imo State.

Some other dignitaries who attended the session were Governor Sierrke Dickson of Bayelsa State and former speakers before the return of democratic rule in 1999.

Lawan or Ndume is next Senate president --Saraki

In the Senate, Saraki said with the unfolding scenario, the position of Senate President in the 9th Senate would be occupied by the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan (APC, Yobe North) or former Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume (APC, Borno South).

Speaking in Abuja during his valedictory speech to the senators to end the 8th Senate, which started on June 9, 2015, Saraki stressed the need for a better working relationship between the executive and the legislature in the 9th Senate, adding that the executive should note that the legislature has the statutory power to work on the budget proposal and not to see the Legislature as rubber stamp, adding that there must be principle of separation of powers.

Saraki, who stressed the need for democratic institutions to be strengthened, said that the 9th Senate should improve on the 8th Senate, adding that it is only when our institutions are strong that democracy can be strong.

Saraki said: "It is also important that I make some comments about Legislature-Executive Relations. My own take is that if the Executive sees the National Assembly's work on the budget as interference despite the provision of the constitution, then there will continue to be problems between both arms of government. If the presidency refuses to have engagements and consultations with the leadership of the National Assembly before the President submits the budget to the legislature, then there will continue to be frictions."

"If the Executive sees the failure of a few of its appointees to secure confirmation by the Senate as a disagreement, then the relationship will not improve. If the Executive encourages its appointees who fail to secure Senate confirmation to remain in office, then there will continue to be disagreement. If the Executive believes the Legislature is a rubber stamp without the right to question its actions, then it will be a subversion of the Principles of Separation of Powers and Checks and Powers.

"My advice is that both arms of government have a role to play in our quest for good governance and their leadership should work for co-operation and fruitful engagement. At this juncture, I must express my gratitude to the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu. History will be kind to you and Providence will shine upon you. I am sure you never thought you would be Deputy Senate President in an APC majority parliament, but it happened. Nobody made you Deputy President of the Senate, the Almighty willed it.'

"I thank Majority Leader Ahmed Lawan; you have made your mark here and the record reflects it. I also thank former Majority Leader Ali Ndume; you also made your mark. Between the former Majority Leader and the current one, it is clear that one of you will be President of the Senate. Whoever emerges, I wish you the very best of luck. This I know: whatever the capacity, we should always do our best to serve the interest of the people. We should also have it in the back of our minds that power is transient."

Account of stewardship

Meanwhile, the 8th Senate rounded off its legislative activities with the no fewer than 60 Senators who attended the valedictory session giving an account of their stewardship in the last four years.

Senators who spoke were returnees including Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, Leader of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan; Ibn N'Allah, Deputy Senate Leader Senator Adeola Solomon, Senator Dino Melaye and some non-returning senators, including the Senate President Bukola Saraki.

In the 8th Senate, 66 are going, while 43 are new ones.

The session which was presided over by Senate President Bukola Saraki lasted for over 6 hours, as both returning and non-returning Senators hailed the remarkable achievements that were recorded by the 8th Assembly.

According to the presentations, the Senate passed over 300 bills, out of which 45 bills were rejected by President Muhammadu Buhari during the period under review.

Some of the non-returning Senators who spoke were Senator Barnabas Gemade (Benue), Olusola Adeyemi (Osun Central), Shehu Sani (PRP-Kaduna), Magnus Abe (APC-Rivers), Ben Bruce (PDP-Bayelsa), George Akume (APC-Benue), Samuel Anyanwu (PDP-IMO), among others.

The Senators separately urged the incoming Senators to strive towards deepening democratic principles, as well as have a cordial relationship with the Executive and put national interests above personal ones.

In his speech, Senator Lawan, who also enumerated the achievements of the 8th Senate, however, noted that: "One thing we didn't get right was our inability to reduce the number of out-of-school children which is14.6 million."

Lawan who expressed optimism that the 9th Senate can achieve better feats through effective discharge of its Constitutional functions underscored the need for a cordial working relationship with the Executive arm of government.

In his contribution, former Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, APC, Borno South said: "My greatest concern is the independence of this institution, which is not to say that we should not work in harmony with the other arms of government; but it is incumbent on us not to compromise independence of the legislature which I see as the most dangerous thing coming our way in the next Senate. The only difference between the rules of the military or any form of tyrannical rule is this institution or legislative arm of government. We need to support other arms of government but must avoid doing so by acquiescing or compromising the principle governing independence of the legislative arm of government."

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