By Glory Jacob,Outlook Media ABUJA.
WELCOME ADDRESS BY THE CHAIRMAN OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, HIS EXCELLENCY, DISTINGUISHED SENATOR GODSWILL OBOT AKPABIO, CON, ON THE OCCASION OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE BUDGET TO THE JOINT SITTING OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY BY THE PRESIDENT, COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF THE ARMED FORCES OF NIGERIA, HIS EXCELLENCY, SENATOR BOLA AHMED TINUBU, GCFR, ON WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2023
On behalf of the RIght Honourable Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Distinguished Deputy Senate President, the Right Honorable Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Distinguished Senate Leader, Principal Officers of both Chambers, Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members of the House of Representatives, I, with great honor and privilege, welcome an alumnus of this great Assembly, our reformation Ambassador to Aso Rock Villa, the esteemed President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR, to the Joint Sitting of the National Assembly for this crucial budget presentation session. We extend the same sentiments to our esteemed Vice President, His Excellency Senator Kashim Shettima, GCON, Secretary to the Federal Government, Senator George Akume, the Chief of Staff to the President, the Right Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila and, indeed, all Honorable Members of the Cabinet and other members of the President’s entourage here present.It is said that no matter how high the eagle flies, its talons keep pointing to the earth. Your Excellency, we know that no matter how high you rise, your heart will always point to this Assembly. Mr President, the United States has been a democracy for 247 years. But it was only when it marked its 185th Anniversary that it succeeded in producing two former senators (J F Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson) as President and Vice President respectively. But within 24 years of our democracy, we have achieved what took USA 185 years to achieve. Not only do we have two former Distinguished Senators serving as the President and Vice President of our dear country; we also have other alumni of this Assembly in positions of public trust: Secretary to the Federal Government, Senator George Akume; the Chief of Staff to the President, Rt Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, and other Senators in the Cabinet.Mr. President, Distinguished and Honorable Members, maintaining a cordial relationship with the the Executive Arm has always been a requirement of the law, but now, given that our Old Boys now run the Executive, a good relationship with the executive is a must. Never have we had so many bridges and connection points between these two arms of Government. So we will coninue to walk hand in hand and see eye to eye with the Executive Arm, while ensuring that the principles of separation of powers as well as checks and balances as enshrined in our Constitution are observed in the overriding public interest.Mr President this is your maiden trip to these Hallowed Chambers to deliver your maiden budgetary estimates as the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is a significant milestone in our nation’s journey towards progress and development. The presentation of the budgetary estimates sets the course for our nation’s fiscal policies and priorities for the coming year. It is an opportunity for us to deliberate, scrutinize, and collaborate in order to ensure that the budget aligns with the needs, hopes, and aspirations of our people.Therefore, the National Assembly bears a great responsibility in the task of reviewing and approving the budget. We fully understand the weight of this responsibility, and the impact our decisions will have on the lives and welfare of the Nigerian people. It is our duty to ensure that the budget reflects the principles of transparency, accountability and inclusiveness. Consequently, we will certainly conduct a thorough and meticulous review of the budget estimates.I would also like to express our gratitude to the President for his tireless efforts in driving economic growth, promoting social welfare, and enhancing the security of our country. His patriotic efforts give us hope, his antecedents comfort us, while his courage to take decisions motivates us. In our people-focused legislative agenda, we place a strong emphasis on national security, recognizing it as a cornerstone for progress. These challenges demand a united front. We remain steadfast in our determination to work collaboratively with the executive to address and overcome the security challenges confronting our nation. In this National Assembly, the death of any Nigerian equates a loss of a constituent. So when ever we lose anyone to insecurity, it is the sound of the ambulance passing by our window. We believe that insecurity can and must be stopped and it must be stopped by all Nigerians rallying around and supporting Government’s efforts. We also want to seize this opportunity to appreciate our Armed Forces for fighting for us and sometimes paying the supreme sacrifice for us. We need to acknowledge the specific achievements of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration so far. Those who doubted him, initially, forgot his track record as the Governor of Lagos State, Nigeria’s melting pot. They forgot his various economic reforms that helped attract investments and promoted economic growth; improved the ease of doing business; promoted pro-business policies; and attracted foreign direct investment, not to mention today’s robust internally generated revenue which he grew as the Governor of Lagos from N600 million to N50 billion. Nigerians believe you are the man for the job of fixing our economy.Already we have seen significant economic reforms. Starting with the courageous removal of the petroleum subsidy which had become an albatross for our nation. He also took steps to unify the multiple foreign exchange markets, signed the 2023 Electricity Bill into an Act, not to mention other good works.Mr President, Sir, as the removal of the petroleum subsity caused some discomfort in the nation, you responded with compassion and doled out palliatives to assuage the effects on the people. We the elected representatives of the masses of this country took note of the responsiveness your government.We have also taken note that these bold decisions taken so far by this Government have created some measures of economic discomfort for some Nigerians. We plead for continued support for the Government to actualise the long term benefits of these policies. The pain of today is like the pain of childbirth, when the result (the baby) manifests, we will rejoice and forget the pains. However, we hope these budgetary estimates contain provisions to ameliorate the sufferings that the economic measures has exacted on our fellow citizens whom we represent here. The Tenth National Assembly is fully aligned with the President’s dreams for our country. Our plans encompass comprehensive legislative actions that will contribute to nation-building, economic growth, and social development. Through strategic reforms, we aim to create an enabling legal environment for sustainable progress and growth.Mr President, Distinguished Senators and Honorable Members, the two chambers of this Assembly are the two wings upon which not only the executive will soar but our country would rise as well. There is unparrarrel unity between the two chambers. Recently, the House of Representatives set forth its legislative agenda and that of the Senate will be out in due course. Both Chambers believe that we need to encourage the Executive Arm to unbundle some agencies for effectiveness, and merge agencies of Government which job definitions or or roles overlap for greater effectiveness. We deem it necessary for our country to go back to agriculture as a way of stopping the overdependence on crude oil. A monoeconomy is putting all our eggs in one basket. It is a risk we have taken for too long and we cannot continue to tempt providence..We also believe that education should be prioritized and something done to stop frequent closures. If we do not checkmate the braindrain, the drain will numb our brains. This is why we must open the door of education, because when you open the door of education you close the door of the prison. We also want to plead with the Government to do all within its powers to reduce our high debt profile. We know that Mr President inherited this worrisome burden. But then the mark of a great leader is that he fixes the problems wherever they exist Mr President, as we embark on this budget presentation, let us reaffirm our commitment to responsible governance, fiscal prudence, and the efficient allocation of resources for the benefit of all Nigerians. Together, with the spirit of unity and collaboration, we can overcome challenges and usher in an era of unprecedented development through reinvigorated revenue generation and fiscal prudence.We will continue to support the war against corruption and collaborate with anti-graft agencies to ensure that we do not continue to lose money that could be used to develop our people. The Tenth Assembly will always stand with the people, protect their constitutional rights and fight for their welfare. We are glad that you share these sentiments for our people and had codified these in the Renewed Hope Agenda. This Agenda resonates with us as an instrument the people endorsed by voting you into office. Our legislative agenda constellate around it and we believe its faithful implementation would agur well for our nation, and put our country on a new growth trajectory. Mr. President, we reiterate and assure you of the National Assembly’s readiness to support your administration. Our legislative agenda reflects our dedication to the Nigerian people, and we look forward to achieving remarkable milestones for our great nation under your purposeful leadership. However, from whom much is given, much is expected, and we will try to perform the oversight functions expected of this Assembly and ensure that the tax payers money is used to benefit the taxpayer.In conclusion, we assure you that the proposals you have come to present will be diligently considered accordingly. We approach this moment with a sense of duty, unity, and purpose. To ensure maximum attention to the review of the Year 2023 Budget performance and the consideration of the Year 2024 Budget Proposal, we request that Mr President would mandate Honorable Ministers and Heads of Agencies to avoid any travelling engagements that would prevent them from honoring our invitation to promptly appear before our committees to defend their budget estimates.As we embark on the journey of reviewing the 2024 budget, let us remember that our actions today will shape the future of our nation. Together, let us work towards a budget that reflects the aspirations and dreams of every Nigerian citizen for a greater country.Once again, I extend a warm welcome to our President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, and express our gratitude to all Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members for their dedication and commitment to the service of our country.Thank you, and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.