New Telegraph - President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, yesterday said that he was yet to see the right policies being put in place to end the recession Nigeria is experiencing. He said that the Economic Team of the President would be held accountable for the recession. Saraki said the Senate would summon the Presidential Economic Team on resumption next week for full briefing.
At that session, he vowed to ensure that Nigerians are told the truth about the economy, adding that the federal legislators would advise President Muhammad Buhari ‘accordingly’ on any member of the Economic Team that is perceived as not doing well.
The Senate President noted that since his involvement in politics in 1999, he has never seen the type of suffering that Nigerians are going through at the moment. Saraki served as a Special Assistant to President Olusegun Obasanjo on Economic Matters in 2000, elected governor in 2003 and served till 2011 when he was elected to the Senate.
Saraki, who spoke with newsmen in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, after observing the Eid-el- Kabir prayers, expressed concern that the current economic recession is biting people across party, religious and socio-economic classes. He told Buhari that there is need to create a broader and bolder economic plan with input from both legislative and executive arms of government, the private sector and professional groups. All the groups, he said, must work together to put in place interventions that will create more jobs, strengthen the naira, bring more investment into the country and attain fiscal responsibility.
He said the major preoccupation of the Senate, upon resumption on September 20, would be on finding solutions to the economic recession. “We are going to have an exhaustive and comprehensive debate on fixing the country’s economy when we resume next week.
Already, all the economic priority bills are being analysed and collated so that we can hit the ground running when we resume. We understand the pains that Nigerians are feeling and we do not take this for granted. “Additionally, the Senate intends to invite everybody involved in the management of the economy to address the Nigerian people through the parliament on the steps that are being taken to get us out of this mess. We fully intend to hold all those involved in the economic management of the country accountable. However, we will do so in a manner that is transparent and beneficial to the country as a whole,” he said.
Saraki said the Senate would advise the president to do away with some of his cabinet members perceived to be incompetent. He said: “I can assure Nigerians that we in the Senate are not going to cover anybody up; Nigerians would know the truth and we would ensure that solutions are going to come and where people are not capable of delivering, we will advise the president accordingly on what needs to be done.
“This matter has gone beyond what they call ‘man knows man’; this matter affects everyone and nobody is too large or big to be sacrificed in this process. People are truly suffering and I think for the period that I have been in politics I have not seen this type of suffering.” When asked if it would be possible to give Nigerians a time frame to exit the recession, Saraki said any such promises would be insincere.
His words: “I am not going to join anybody in saying that the thing will be over by tomorrow, one month or so. No, I am not going to do that because I am not convinced yet that we have put the right policies in or the right laws or the right solution. All I am concerned about right now is let us find the solution, let us agree on those solutions and let us hold those who are responsible for implementing those solutions accountable.
“Once we have agreed on the solution, then I will be able to say yes, with those solutions, then we are going to get out. Like I said, we have a serious financial deficit in our budget; we are banking on external borrowing, almost $3 billion, but I don’t think one dollar has come in. So, if one dollar has not come in, how are you going to finance the budget? So when you start giving a timeframe, I don’t think we are being sincere.
It is as we implement the solutions that we can now say this is the possible time frame. But for now, the solutions, in my own view, have not been put in place. “And one of those indices is what I called confidence; there is a lack of confidence, whether you want to accept it or not.
People are not investing in our economy and with that, we are going to have challenges. We believe these are the areas we as Senate will be focusing on, to have a robust debate. We are going to bring in people who are resourceful to come and tell us the way out.”
The Senate President said it was equally important to begin to formulate and actualise both legislative frameworks and executive policies to minimise the effects of the recession on Nigerians, stating that it was also important for the parliament to start asking questions that will lead to plausible solutions.
According to him, “We need to ascertain our actual level of borrowing and what effect the devaluation of the naira has had on our economy. Doing this will help us to understand where we are, so that we can determine where exactly we want to go from here. “In every crisis, there is always an opportunity for positive reforms. In this regard, in order to solve this crisis, all hands must be on deck. Ideas should be sourced from all quarters. All arms of government, people of different political beliefs, from all socioeconomic backgrounds and every part of Nigeria must work together at this time.”
He called on political leaders across the country to shelve their differences in order to get the economy back on track. “What we all need to understand is that this recession is not only an All Progressives Congress (APC) problem or a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) problem. This recession does not identify with any party. Hence, we need to tap into the expertise of our best economic minds – wherever they are around the world – to come up with plans that both the executive and the legislature can evaluate and implement,” Saraki stated.