Senator Bukola Saraki, one of the major contenders for the position of Senate President in the eighth Senate when it begins, on Friday mentioned two reasons why he thinks history would not forgive the seventh Senate which ended on Thursday.
One of these reasons is the Senate's shoddy manner it handled the tragedy which marred the recruitment of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS).
The second was the Senate's passing of 46 bills in just 10 minutes as it hurried to up the number of bills passed in the last four years.
Saraki lamented that the Senate refused to act on the report of a committee instituted to probe the NIS incident in which up to 20 applicants died in 2014.
Saraki said the outgone Senate missed the opportunity of that ill-fated occasion to show leadership and properly set a new standard of responsibility in the conduct and attitude of Nigeria's public office holders.
He appealed to Senators that would make up the eighth Senate to have the true interest of Nigerians at heart in all their dealings and show that they have the vigour and drive to work harder through enriched deliberations to pass important bills that form the core of its agenda rather than be seen as a last minute assembly where important bills are rolled through the process in 10 minutes.
He also lamented that throughout the four years, the Senate could not pass important bills like the Petroleum Industry Bill, the Federal Competition Bill and the NOSDRA Bill amongst many other bills that have the regulatory potential of changing the way the Nigerian economy operates.
In a statement he personally signed, Saraki said: "The story of the last administration will not be complete without a reference to how we have conducted Senate. This verdict again will lie with the Nigerian people. Democracy in any country requires a strong and virile legislature. Sustainable socio-economic growth is a product of both process and content of legislation. Looking back we can path ourselves on the back in the way we had handled some of the thorny moments but we must also look back and agree that in certain respects we need the incoming Senate tomake amends.
"Why Nigerians all over the country and beyond still question the effectiveness and efficiency of the National Assembly as a legislative body that can help deliver democratic dividend and rule of law in Nigerian today is because in their assessment the activities of the National Assembly has not fully converged to their expectations.
Nigerians are unanimous in pointing to the fact that the level of accountability, transparency, certainty, competitiveness, continuous improvement, efficiency, innovation, integration, evidence -based decision-making at the National Assembly still leaves much to be desired.
"While congratulating ourselves for making this far, if we cherish the pre-eminent position the constitution places on the National Assembly, then I think this valedictory occasion can also be used to draw our attention to where we didn’t cut it and sensitize the in coming 8th Senate to roll up its sleeves and deliver to make up for the gap.
"Historically speaking, the legislature has largely played a very important role in shaping the direction of government not only through legislation but also through how it relates to and with the executive. Why independence of the legislature must be cherished at all times is to ensure that the legislature can continue to maintain clarity of thought and leadership in the manner in which the executive utilizes its powers. This is to ensure that there is probity, equity.
"The 1999 Constitution vests enormouspower of the Federation on the National Assembly. These powers are so vested so that it can oversight the executive; ensure the balance of power; effectively represent the views and aspirations of all its constituencies; be accessible to the people and ensure prudence in the use of public resources and insist that the laws it makes are effectively executed in a fair and impartial way.
"In the last four years we have had far reaching oversight investigations to secure the constitutional directives of government, protection of rights and freedoms, reduce corruption, and engender accountability in public office. Some of the watershed moments of this present Senate has been the investigation into the fuel subsidy management regime which lead to the exposure of monumental corruption in the running of the regime which may have caused Nigeria over one trillion naira in over invoicing and criminal collusion. The legislative process is a marathon; we are passing on the baton to the new Senate to finish some of our unfinished businesses. I believe that we have not fully and conclusively dealt with this matter to ensure that there is reform and that those indicted are made to pay back and face punishment. The same could be said on the crashed Dana Airline, CBN alleged unremitted funds investigations and many others. I believe this and many other issues, which we have gone far in dealing with, need to be pursued to a logical conclusion. By logical conclusion I do not mean to institute other investigations is there is no need to. Again, the essence is not to witch-hunt any individual but to ensure that the mistakes we leave behind are not repeated and that our laws are strengthened to cure the mischief. Take for instance, can we beat our chest to say that with the conclusion on investigation into the Dana air crash, we have now put in place legal, regulatory and institutional measures to forestall a reoccurrence or a better and more secure aviation systems? Can we say that with the fuel subsidy investigation and report we have, that we have plugged the loophole and the era of collusion, fraudulent practices which has seen the government lose over N500b to 1trillion naira of Nigeria money needlessly to unscrupulous marketers and government officials have come to an end or even that it is better?
"This 7th Assembly has to its credit passed several landmark legislation including Amendments to the 1999 Constitution broadening the independence of the state legislature, separating the office of the minister of Justice from that of the Attorney General of the state and the FG among others. Other positive highlights in terms of quality legislation would include the passage of the National Health Bill. These are milestones. But we know that we could have done better. Nigerians are not happy that we could not drive the economic reform a little better than we did.
"While we have not done too badly, they have a point. What remains unsaid here is that the National Assembly especially the Senate needs to do more to meet the yearning of the people. Nigerians want to see more. Here I would need to talk directly to the new Senate; There is need to reform our budget processes to make them more transparent, we need to incorporate the civil society to participate and share information in an atmosphere of corporation.
"Nigerians want to see that having come this far, the Senate as an institution can acquit itself better by raising its own level of productivity. First the Senate must develop and promote a coherent national agenda of its own that it will put priority on and pursue to support and underpin the direction of the government. We did not see this or start in this manner in the 7th Senate."Nigerians want to see more passion and commitment. The new Senate must now learn and show that it has the vigor and drive to work harder through enriched deliberations to pass important bills that form the core of its agenda rather than be seen as a last minute assembly where important bills are rolled through the process in 10 minutes. My view is that it was important that we pass those laws but I have my reservation on the rail-roading of over 40 bills in 10 minutes. History will not be to kind to us on this count.
"This is made even a little steeper by the commentary that must follow that after another 4 years the national assembly was not able to pass such water shed bills like the PIB, the Federal Competition Bill and the Nosdra Bill amongst many other bills that have the regulatory potential of changing the way our economy operates.
"It may be harsh to say we haven’t done well at all, of course I believe we have. But if we have to tell ourselves the home truth we have missed the cut on the level of our overeaching effectiveness, especially so with regards to amending laws that impact on the revenues and expenditures of the state, budget reforms, infrastructure financing and deployment, accountability instruments and agency laws. It also have not carried its integrity far enough to secure its independence which may have emboldened the police on the 20th of November 2014 to invade the precincts of the Assembly, desecrating it in a manner never seen before within the precincts of the Assembly.
"The 7th National Assembly allowed itself to be enmeshed in fights and political wars that only served selfish purposes and party politics with little general public good. The result of which was the further dilution of public perception of the Assembly and the weakening of its general influence and authority.
"One critical role the assembly all over the world is expected to play is the role of balancing power and checking that the executive is not allowed to use its overbearing influence to deny citizens their rights and limit their freedoms. We have had several opportunities to cause the executive to implement our resolutions and ensure full implementation of budgets but never took any.
"As a policy defining institution, the 7thAssembly did not do much to advance responsible governance. I remember sadly the events of some of our youths who went to seek employment from government and lost their lives needlessly in a government arranged employment test, we missed at this occasion, the opportunity of that ill fated occasion to show leadership and properly set a new standard of responsibility in the conduct and attitude of our public office holders.
"Finally, my words of advise to the new Senate. The new Senate must show itself of being capable of putting the Nigerian Nation first above party interest and make the policy of national development the priority agenda of the Senate at all times. The purpose of the National Assembly should not be to maintain the status quo; ours will be to shape the future for the benefit of the entire country not only a part of it.
"This is at the heart of our vision and Nigerians demand this today. I pray that the new Senate will not take its assignment of lawmaking as business as usual. It should bebold, visionary and proactive. It should be Senate, indeed, a National Assembly ready to buckle down to hard work to deliver on our core mandate of lawmaking, and fast track legal and legislative interventions that will help Mr. President deliver on his policy direction. An Assembly devoted to delivering laws that would engineer greater inclusive development, expand personal security and freedoms and foster National cohesion and unity."