By Okiemute Esiri
“We in the National Assembly have been working with the veto arm of the government, so far, so good. We do so consciously, we do so purposefully, we do so patriotically because we believe that both arms of government are voted in to serve the people.
“And where we will have to disagree with the veto arm of government, we’ll do so. We have done so before and if it becomes necessary to do so, we will do it again,” Ahmed Lawan -President of the Nigerian Senate
The Senate President who was Special Guest at the commissioning of New Evans Ewerem Way in Imo State noted that the two arms of government are working in tandem to see that the dividends of democracy are duly provided for the Nigerian people.
“But where we have no cause to differ, where we have no cause to say ‘No!’ we will not differ and we will not say no because that is what will serve the people of this country.
“We don’t care if the opposition will say ‘this rubber stamp assembly,’ you had an assembly that never saw anything good in working together, what did the people get, nothing.
“As a person, as the chairman of the National Assembly, as the president of the Senate, I don’t care if you say what we do is rubber stamp but you know inside you, inside your heart, that we are not Rubber stamp; we are there to make sure that the people of this country get the best deal from the government that they vote in.”
The separation of powers in democracy is to ensure that one arm of government does not dominate the others and that none abuses its powers.
Also while it is ideal to recognize their inter-dependence, an enlightened legislature in endorsing every aspiration of the other arm does not do it mindlessly.
The 8th senate under Bukola Saraki, is seen by majority of Nigerians as the best senate since 1999, its firmness also created a frosty relationship with the Executive Under Buhari.
Evidently, there is sufficient information on why the 9th National Assembly is configured to seemingly align with the perceptions of those that dismiss it as a rubber stamp of the executive. Among others, the legislators through the senate president, Ahmad Lawan, have vigorously had to defend itself that if choosing to have a harmonious relationship with the other arms, primarily for the overall benefits of the masses; is the basis for such negative label, that they are ready to wear it with dignity that Nigeria may work again.
Now, Let’s X-ray the narrative about Nigeria’s rubber stamp legislature, there are two closely-related perspectives that are fundamental.
Firstly, an individual, a group and organizations are rated based on what is known about them. Then secondly, despite the amount of available information, certain persons are inclined to select only those that suit their dispositions. So head or tail, entities are judged objectively or subjectively depending on varying tendencies.
One glaring and contencious issue the executive had with the 8th senate is the approval for overseas loans without providing necessary details for which it was not granted.
The first and clearest indication that we have a rubber stamp senate was immediately the 9th senate was constituted they would pass a $29.96 billion loan request by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The president had sent the same request to the eight Senate under Bukola Saraki in 2016. He had requested for about $30 billion.
The then lawmakers, however, rejected the request as majority voted against it when it was brought for consideration.
A former lawmaker, Shehu Sani, had explained in an interview that the eight Senate rejected the President’s loan request to save Nigeria from sinking into the dark gully of a perpetual debt trap.
Mr Sani, who was the chairman of the Senate committee on local and foreign debt, said the eight Senate did not want the country to be recolonised by creditor banks.
Nigeria’s external debt in 2015 was $10.32 billion and it escalated to $22.08 in the second quarter of 2019 – which is 114 per cent. Had the eight Senate approved that loan request, Nigeria’s external debt could have catapulted to over $52 billion and that is not sustainable, he said.
While reacting to the 2016 rejection, Mr Lawan, who was then a senator, said the Senate was right then to have rejected the loan request.
The Projects to which these loans are being acquired are invisible in the eyes of the ordinary Nigerians who have continued to endure the hard economic impact of today Nigeria.
According to dataobtained from the Debt Management Office (DMO). Nigeria’s total debt as of Q3 2020 stood at N32.2trn from N12.6trn as of 2015. Nigeria’s debt increased by +155.56% in Q3 2020 from N12.6trn in 2015. Nigeria’s debt to revenue ratio as of Q1 2020 was 99% in other words of the N950.56 billion retained revenue of the Federal Government, N943.13 billion was used to service debt, although this improved slightly in May 2020 as the debt-to-revenue ratio dropped to 72%.
Nigeria’s ballooning debt profile is a major source of worry for the economy and its fiscal stability. The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened Nigeria’s rising debt profile. A recent report released by an international rating agency, Fitch, shows that although Nigeria’s economic outlook has been upgraded to stable, its new investment grade of B is not an investment grade. A rising debt profile with no clear viable outlook regarding revenue is of major concern.
The senate has rubber stamps every request of this present administration, What is your take on the 9th senate? Rubber stamp or Not?
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