By Aminu Tambuwal
It is my great pleasure to welcome you back after the Christmas and New Year break. I do hope that the holiday, though pretty short, has been invigorating because there is so much work to do.
As we begin a new year, we hope to be able to improve remarkably on the modest efforts we have
made towards raising the quality of legislation in this country and the way we have handled issues arising from our oversight functions. Fellow colleagues, this Honourable House has a contract with the Nigerian people to make sure they reap from the gains of our hard earned democracy and as you all know our goal has always been to fulfil that mandate to the best of our capacity.
When we came in we promised to pursue an aggressive legislative agenda that will reposition this House not just as a key branch of government determined to deliver on its mandate, but as a veritable defender of the rights of the people. These include their right to life wherever they choose to live. Their right to gainful employment. Their right to quality education and medical care. And their right to worship without fear or recrimination.
We did not create these rights. These are the fundamental rights of every citizen and the enabling vehicles thereof as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We are under oath to defend these rights and we have resolved to succeed whatever the challenges.
We began with the simple premise that the House of Representatives or rather the National Assembly, more than any branch of government, is the repository of the peoples trust, their representatives in government. It is on that basis that we have always acted the way we have; always concerned with the way the affairs of our people are managed.
We believe that in order to achieve all these we should amend the Constitution and make it a document more attuned to the needs and yearnings of our people. Consequently, we decided to hold Public Hearings in every federal constituency in the country. From the overwhelming response of the people, we are convinced, more than ever before, that the work of the Seventh Assembly would not be complete until we can provide Nigerians with an amended Constitution.
While we acknowledge that no single document can satisfy the expectations of the over 160 million people, we hope that we can arrange our affairs in such a manner that the overwhelming majority of Nigerians would be reasonably satisfied. We are convinced now more than ever before, that a situation where majority of the citizens continue to live in abject poverty while an insignificant minority corner the commonwealth is not only unjust but unacceptable. In this regard we shall continue to adopt a pragmatic and functional approach to ensure that the war against corruption is removed from the realm of rhetorics by exercising absolute diligence in our oversight function so as to enhance transparency and accountability in both high and low strata.
We all noticed the general feeling of optimism over the early passage of this year’s budget. It was proof, if any was needed, that the National Assembly and the Executive Arm will always work together for the well-being of our people. We take the promise by Mr. President that the budget will be carefully implemented seriously and we are resolved to help ensure that this happens.
Let me note in passing that the budget for the National Assembly, which encompasses the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Management of the National Assembly, the National Assembly Institute and the National Assembly Service Commission, has never been increased in the last few years. We have, in this way, striven to lead by example in the efforts to curb costs despite the fact that the National Assembly has been growing and evolving into an even more dynamic legislative body.
In the consideration of the 2013 Appropriation we took due cognizance of the job creation element encapsulated therein and reinforced in appropriate deserving cases. It is our conviction that rather than continue to lament over our mono product economy, we must take concrete steps to stimulate the private sector which is better placed to create jobs more rapidly. We can further do this by way of a revolutionary approach to agriculture as well as massive attack on our infrastructure deficit, especially power, transportation and vocational development.
We have endeavoured in the last one and a half year to re-invigorate the Committee System in the House to ensure that they function as the engine room of the House, being the major vehicle through which thorough work is done on bills before they get passed into law. Over time, Parliaments all over the world have evolved in such a manner that committees have become indispensable in the law making process. Indeed, the quality of a law is invariably tied to the quality of work done on a Bill at the committee stage.
Therefore the leadership of this House is determined to ensure that our committees get all they need to function properly.
As we strive to bring the House of Representatives at par with best practices the world over, we shall be reconstituting a number of parliamentary friendship groups and adding a few more in the coming days. These parliamentary groups will be announced soon.
Let me also commend the media, Civil Society Organisations and our development partners for their invaluable cooperation. We shall continue to partner with every group that has the interest of this country at heart. Above all, let me commend all Nigerians for their patience, tolerance, perseverance and faith that the end shall be better than the beginning.
Fellow Members, let me again thank you all for your sacrifice and dogged determination to render excellent service to our fatherland and wish us all God’s guidance. Once again, Happy Xmas and New Year my Honourable Colleagues.
Being remarks by House of Representatives Speaker Tambuwal to welcome House members back from the Xmas and New Year break on Wednesday, January 16, 2013.