1. Let me commend the leadership of the 10th Senate and the management of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) for coming up with this lofty Programme which is not only timely, relevant, useful, and instructive but also taking place in a beautiful environment which in itself represents the prospects that are abundant in our country.
  2. A retreat that aimed to “deepen participants’ knowledge of public financial management, fiscal policy, and tax reforms”, “develop the strategic legislative objectives of the 10th Senate and strategies for achieving them “ and “provide an opportunity for participants to consider and make input into the Legislative Agenda of the 10th Senate” is not only desirable at this stage of the new legislative session but to borrow the words of Victor Hugo, it is “an idea whose time has come”. I associate myself with the noble objectives of the retreat.
  3. A retreat like this is what you need for a new Senate whose members come from different backgrounds and experiences so that all members can understand the germane issues of the day and therefore be in a good position to contribute effectively to debating the issues and devising necessary legislative actions for dealing with the issues.
  4. I am happy that one of the envisaged outcomes of this retreat is the development of a Legislative Agenda. From my experience in the 8th Senate, it is possible for the Senate to just routinely sit and conduct its affairs for the next 43 months remaining in its tenure and not be able to point out a set of goals that it has systematically, dogmatically, and effectively accomplished. Also, one of the best ways to get the Senate to record sound and acclaimed achievements is to have an agenda that guides its actions, determines its focus, and propels its flight.
  5. And just as we did in the 8th Senate when we developed the Legislative Agenda in the first six months and got it approved on November 17, 2015, you are set to create a compass that guides and guards the ship of the 10th Senate. The Legislative Agenda, if well developed and faithfully adhered to, will help you to maintain your gaze on the issues that matter. It will help you to keep your eyes on the ball and not drop the ball at any point. With the Legislative Agenda, the 10th Senate can always be remembered for the positive impact it will make on the identified issues.
  6. Just as we did between 2015 and 2019, the issues that should form the fulcrum of your Legislative Agenda are not significantly different from what was obtained then. The economy remains the biggest challenge that our country has today and that is why the designer of this Programme focused on enlightening the distinguished senators on the indices and what they mean. Good enough, our session is dealing with “Economic Growth and Development in Nigeria: Context, Challenges and Prospects”.
  7. The greatest challenges confronting our economy today, in my view, include – One, poor macroeconomic indices like poor economic growth rate compared with population growth. Two, high inflation rate. Three, high unemployment rate among the youth. Four grossly devalued naira amid a volatile exchange rate. Five, rising public debt. Six, rising national insecurity. Seven, a fractured polity. Eight, endemic corruption. Nine, low productivity, and ten, poor social services, especially in the education and health sectors.
  8. In trying to confront these national challenges, the National Assembly must lead the way with creative initiatives by prioritising bills, motions, and oversight plans that have to do with these issues. I believe that in reviving the economy, the National Assembly has more to do than the executive because the laws are more important in dealing with these issues than Executive Orders. This is because, for people who are investing, the gestation period goes beyond four years. So, they need the necessary laws to reassure them that their investment is safe and there will be no arbitrary change of policies that can imperil their investment.
  9. In the 8th Senate, because we prioritised the economy as the key item on our Legislative Agenda, we found out that many laws are not only obsolete and not in tune with today’s economic context but they are even hindrances to the growth of the economy. We identified them and set out to amend them. Though we were not able to achieve all we set out to do because of the circumstances of the period, the job is left for this tenth Senate to look at where we stopped and take off from there.
  10. Let me give you an instance, to create jobs, the prompt amendment of the Public Procurement Act is inevitable. Amending that law in such a manner that it enables local producers to increase production and get more patronage from the government is imperative. This will empower the local manufacturers to employ more people. It will reduce the high request for foreign exchange by those foreign companies who get contracts for most of the public works. It will propel local production and promote patronage for Made in Nigeria goods. We tried to do this during our time but our efforts were frustrated. The ball is now in your court to achieve that.
  11. The international community that our governments run to for help looks at the body language of those of you in the legislature before they can help the country. The international community wants to see that lawmakers are ready to back the executive policies with appropriate laws and are ready to do the necessary oversight work to compel the executive to comply with the law before they offer help. I will give you an instance. When the US adopted a policy not to sell military equipment to Nigeria because of allegations of abuse of human rights leveled against our military in compliance with Leahy’s Law, it took the intervention of the 8th Senate to get the American government to change their minds. We gave a guarantee and assurance to a group of visiting American senators that through oversight we would deal effectively with the complaints on human rights. It was after the exchange of visits with the US Senators that their government sold 14 pieces of Tucarno Jets to Nigeria to fight terrorism. That is the power of the legislature.
  12. Let me quickly mention that our economy still has a good number of prospects and the Senate must help to focus on how to turn them into good solutions to our problems. We must stop being a mono-product economy. (A) We must look at other resources that can rapidly and radically diversify our economy and multiply our foreign exchange earning capacity beyond oil. For example, we have a good prospect of turning our gas deposits into money. Smaller African countries are making huge money from their gas deposits because they have better laws governing the process of exploitation. Even, there is more money to be made from domestic use of gas. As the legislature, you need to be up and doing in creating necessary and clearer laws to make this possible. (B) The same thing applies to our solid mineral deposits. They can yield so much money that can be used to turn around the economy, fund infrastructure, repay our local and foreign debts, and strengthen the naira. (C) Also, commercial agriculture and other Afro-allied industries can help us tackle inflation, food crises, and unemployment. (D) Our mostly youthful population can be converted into a productive army that adopts innovative technology to solve problems and enhance productivity. (E) The Fintech and creative arts sectors can be used to further conquer the world by deploying them to earn foreign exchange and to create employment for the youths. (F) Again, the housing sector is one area that we can use to stimulate the economy, get more people to work, and cater to the shelter needs of our people.
  13. However, these prospects will only remain possibilities and not turn into reality if you, Distinguished Senators, do not create the legislative framework for these sectors to experience a boom. You must examine our statute books and overhaul their provisions to expand the potentials of the aforementioned sectors and make them tangible safe nets for bailing out our country.
  14. Distinguished Senators, I want to acknowledge that the 10th Senate has a unique advantage that you must utilise to make a good name for yourselves. Yours is the first Senate serving with an executive arm in which the President and Vice President had served in the Senate chambers. You will enjoy a good relationship, co-operation, and understanding with them. When the right laws are passed, they will easily assent to them. That is unlike what we experienced in the 8th Senate when for personal and egocentric reasons, the executive was deliberately frustrating the positive efforts of the legislature and needlessly refusing assent to bills passed by the legislature.
  15. Also, the Senate, as the upper chamber in our national legislative architecture, is the stabilizing factor. Unlike in the Green Chamber where members are believed to be relatively younger, the Senate is expected to give direction and lead the way in rebuilding the nation, particularly during the crisis period like we are in now.
  16. Therefore, before you depart Uyo tomorrow, the leadership of the 10th Senate should determine what are the priorities on your legislative Agenda. You must decide who and who will drive that agenda. You must decide how issues that have to do with the legislative priorities must always dominate the Order Paper and most likely, you need to set out a legislative day every week in which no other issue can compete with the Legislative Agenda priorities on the Order Paper, except there is a national emergency.
  17. The 10th Senate should plan to have interactive sessions with all stakeholders in the relevant sectors that constitute the priority areas in your Legislative Agenda so that you can agree on what their challenges are, what they require the Senate to do to help them prosper and progress, what laws they want to be amended and how best they can be helped for them to also help the country.
  18. I also believe the legislature should devise a means to use its oversight functions to reduce the cost of governance. It is generally believed that the cost of government contracts for public projects is overpriced in our country. There is too much waste in government. The legislature should therefore use the power of oversight to block the loopholes and fix the leakages, thereby bringing down our expenditure and the cost of borrowing.
  19. Distinguished Senators, it is important to ensure your bills, motions, and advocacy jobs focus mainly on issues that affect the daily lives of ordinary people. This is the way to get the people to better appreciate the relevance and importance of the legislature. You must also engage more with the people. Start presenting your institution as one that is seeking to solve the problems and working hard to improve the standard of living of the people.
  20. I hope that I have set the right tone for the presenter and discussants. I expect their presentations to help us identify in clearer terms the challenges and prospects and what role the legislature is to play in solving the problems and translating the potential into actual solutions.
  21. Thank you all and may God bless our country.


Abubakar Bukola Saraki MBBS CON (pronunciationⓘ; born on 19 December 1962) is a Nigerian politician who served as the 13th president of the Nigerian Senate from 2015 to 2019.[1][2] He previously served as the governor of Kwara State from 2003 to 2011; and was elected to the Senate in 2011, under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), representing the Kwara Central Senatorial District, and then re-elected in the 2015 general elections