ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE AND CHAIRMAN OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, HIS EXCELLENCY, SENATOR (DR.) ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI TO THE JOINT SESSION OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY ON THE PRESENTATION OF THE 2016 DRAFT APPROPRIATION BILL BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PRESIDENT MOHAMMADU BUHARI, PRESIDENT AND COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF THE ARMED FORCES OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA.
It is my pleasure on behalf of my Distinguished and Honourable colleagues to warmly welcome you and your entourage to this joint session of the National Assembly.
Mr. President, your coming to this hallowed chamber in person today to present the 2016 draft Appropriation Bill, bears eloquent testimony to your profound respect and commitment to the ideals of our constitutional democracy and the dictate of the rule of law. This is the first time in a few years that the President of Nigeria has personally performed this constitutional task. It highlights the importance you have attached to building a smooth working relationship with the National Assembly. This is a positive gesture that is not lost on all of us.
Mr. President, the National Assembly is acutely aware of the challenges we face today as a nation both in terms of the economy and security. In addition to this, the price of oil is at a 7 year low and the dwindling government revenue consequently. This notwithstanding, in order to meet with the aspirations of Nigerians across all works of life, we expect that the budget must de-emphasis recurrent expenditure and prioritize the upgrade of infrastructure in order to achieve economic recovery and generate employment for our teeming population. The 2016 budget must also be bold and pragmatic in providing transparent incentives and conducive environment that will prime private sector-led development, encourage local production and promote made-in Nigeria goods.
Mr. President, the National Assembly is conscious of the yearning of Nigerians for quick delivery of democracy dividends. The National Assembly has a critical role to play and we recognize this role. On the budget we are willing and ready to provide the scrutiny necessary to pass only a budget that can be implemented comprehensively to the letter. We are ready to move swiftly and speedily to pass the 2016 Appropriation Bill. The swift passage of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper already points to our commitment and resolve towards this. I would like to use this opportunity to thank all my colleagues in the Senate and the House for their steadfastness and patriotism in this area. We will apply same but in the light of the great importance of this document we will not short-circuit scrutiny on the altar of expediency.
I acknowledge that the task of implementing the budget is primarily that of the Executive. But our recent experience has shown that even with the best of intentions, too much discretionary powers over budget matters are inimical to accountability. It is also true that impunity and corruption thrive best when the democratic safeguards for checks and balances collapse and accountability institutions abdicate their responsibilities. In this regard, the 8th National Assembly intends to discharge our oversight responsibilities fully.
I therefore, want to implore Your Excellency to support us in this important task by ensuring that members of your government promptly respond to invitations for clarifications when they are required to do so by the National Assembly. Mr. President, if only half of the unfolding allegations regarding financial misappropriation under the previous administration are true, they would already be sufficient evidence of the dangers that we face when public officials treat accountability institutions with disdain and oversight activities with irritation. I am confident that your avowed commitment to the rule of law and accountability would have no accommodation for such behavior. On our own side, we want to assure you that we shall only pursue that which is provided for by the laws and strictly within the ambits of the law.
Mr. President, I wish you to assure you that both chambers of the National Assembly are united in our support for your administration. We both recognize that even as we seek to maintain the integrity and independence of our respective Chambers, that autonomy must be embedded within the overriding responsibility we all have, to improve the quality of lives of our people and make them proud once again to be Nigerians. We recognize that a harmonious National Assembly is essential not only to Legislative progress, but also for the Executive to function effectively.
I therefore invite Mr. President to take advantage of this relationship, which we have not had for a couple of years, to push through some of the necessary reforms that would promote our economy. It is in this light that the National Assembly is also prioritizing the passage of laws that further enhances our business environment and promotes accountability in governance.
Let me assure you Mr. President, that with the 8th National Assembly you have got a partner. An ally to help you steer the ship of State in the right direction for growth, transparency, accountability, equal opportunities, inclusion and fairness. We will stand by you and work with you to see Nigeria become the pride of all Nigerians home and abroad and earn the respect it deserves in the global arena.
With these few words, I hereby invite Your Excellency to deliver your speech and lay the 2016 budget proposals for the consideration of the National Assembly in accordance with Section 81 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
I thank you and extend the season’s greetings to everyone.
PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE
(Tuesday, 22 December, 2015).