Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki has told the visiting European Union (EU) delegation that the National Assembly was working on some legislations aimed at propelling Nigeria out of the current economic recession.
He also commended the EU for monitoring the 2015 general elections in Nigeria, which he said has set new standards for other African countries to emulate.
Saraki, according to a statement by his Special Assistant on Print Media, Chuks Okocha, told the EU delegation on Democracy Support and Election Coordination Group led by Mr. Santiago Fisas that the legislators know that without good economy that can sustain improved standard of living of the ordinary citizens, the legislature would not be seen to have succeeded.
He said the Senate, for example, has identified 11 economic recovery bills which can help to create a veritable environment for private investment to thrive, jobs to be created, infrastructure to improve and the national Gross Domestic Product to rise.
“We are focusing on the economy. We are working on how to continue to improve on economy. We are making all efforts to get us out of recession. We have our economy recovery plan. We are also looking at some priority Bills, infrastructure sector that will help to enable private sector participation which will bring more money for government in the social services sector, like education and health.
He also commended the role the EU role played during the 2015 General Elections in Nigeria stressing that “for the first time we have been able to transfer power from one party to the other and in a peaceful manner. I think it has sent signal all over Africa. There was a peaceful transition in Ghana as well. It was almost done in Gambia, but I don’t know what happened but we finally did it.”
According to the Senate President, “It is clear that what ever we have done well in Nigeria, it has an effect all over the continent. I hope that is the beginning of smooth transition. I want the EU to continue with the role you played and we thank God that it went well, I commend you and hope that it will encourage you to come back when next needed.”
“Let me also thank EU for picking our member in the National Assembly here as one of your partners , I know that in achieving that, Nigeria sees it as a positive move, and that you recognise us as an important partner.
“I discussed widely with some of our colleagues in the House of Representatives. They talked about democracy and election issues and as a government, I am sure they might have mentioned it to you, we are at the final stage of reviewing some of the existing laws that guide our elections.
“We have learnt some lessons from the 2015 elections and we would see how we can improve on existing laws and see that new amendments when passed, will strengthen our democracy. Our focus is on the humanitarian crisis in the North East. We are also making an attempt on parliamentary actions on what we can do on gender issues.
“There has been stop and start but I know we will get there. We are addressing that also. So, in the area of partnership, I hope you have been discussing with some of our colleagues on framework with the area of focus we can look at, where there can be partnership and can also be support for legislators. I think that will help us because we are going towards a period of time where we are looking at some of our laws that have been existing for more than two three, four decades with a view to review them.
“With what is going on now, it is time we brought those laws in line with today’s economy. So, this will help you determine the kind of support the legislators need to help them address the challenges ahead for the country.
“By and large, we talked about open parliament. For the first time, I think by next week, we are going to have a public hearing on the budget process to enable members of the public to have a say in the making of the Appropriation law. It has never happened before. We have not done this before. What we used to do is when we get the budget, we send it to the Committees for defence. Now, we are engaging the public to improve the participation of the public in the budget processes”, Saraki explained.
Earlier, leader of the EU delegation, Fisas said their visit was to explore better ways of enhancing the partnership between the European Union and the Nigerian Parliament, particularly on how to deepen democracy, Human Rights, poverty alleviation, gender parity, Civil Society and Media interaction and how to find solutions emanating thereof.
“We believe that relationship between states and the parliaments are important for the growth and development of democracy and development”, said Fisas who added that already the EU Parliament has entered into similar partnership with other countries like Ukraine, Georgia, Honduras, among others.
He said the EU knew the importance of Nigeria in Africa and that fact informed the extension of its hands of fellowship to Nigeria’s parliament.
Also speaking during the meeting, Senator Kabiru Gaya who was recently elected Vice President of the Inter Parliamentary Union of the African Group said the delegation had already met with the Speaker of the House of Representatives and other officials of the National Assembly.