•  Presidency to sign budget next week, says Dogara 

By Damilola Oyedele and James Emejo in Abuja

The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki at a special session to mark the second anniversary of the eighth Senate yesterday declared that the unity of Nigeria was not negotiable and “must be defended by all, in spite of numerous agitations.”

Also yesterday, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara hinted that the 2017 budget which had been transmitted to the Executive by National Assembly may finally be signed into law early next week.

“This Senate must stand clearly and act clearly to defend the country. The unity of this country is not negotiable. We must defend the unity of this country. It must act clearly on the fact that there is only one Nigeria which is not negotiable, and against division of this country. We must live by example and I want to commend all of us for the roles we have played in this area,” Saraki said.

The Senate President added that the next two years would be more challenging and called on the lawmakers to show leadership to every part of the country.

“Anybody that toys with that is somebody that we will fight to defend the unity of this country. We must eschew bigotry, tribalism and see each other as one and together build a new Nigeria of our dreams,” Saraki added.

The Senate President further urged Nigerians to be patient with President Muhammadu Buhari adding that the government is sincerely disposed to turning things around in a much more enduring manner.

He also expressed appreciation to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo for providing leadership and character and leading with conviction.

Speaking in the performance of the Senate in the last two years, Saraki said the eighth Senate has passed 96 bills and 72 petitions in just  two years, eclipsing the highest ever in the history of the National Assembly, a record held by the 5th Senate after passing about 65 bills and 6 petitions respectively within the same time period.

“Though we inherited a legacy that created in some minds cynicism and despondency, we were undeterred irrespective of an unending barrage of virulent attacks and unprovoked aggression, the 8th Senate matched on, together erasing records and setting new ones,” Saraki said.

He added that the Senate would remain steadfast in exposing corrupt practices and plugging leakages in ministries, departments and agencies of government.

“We need to be bold and stand for the rule of law,” he said.

Other lawmakers harped on the unity of Nigeria.

Senator Shehu Sani (Kaduna Central) noted that there was a pressing need for the Senate to make a statement on the agitations and calls for secession.

“I believe we have been able to work together over these two years despite the turbulent start. The challenge before us is what we can do to address the political, social and economic issues before us. The next two years will be tougher because of moves for secession,’’ Sani added.

In his speech to mark the second anniversary, the Deputy Senate President lauded the leadership qualities of Saraki, which he noted, had steered the Senate right despite the trials he had faced.

Ekweremadu expressed appreciation for the support he has received from all the lawmakers.

Dogara: Presidency to Sign Budget Next Week

Dogara, who also spoke during a special session to mark the second year anniversary of the 8th House of Representatives said the House had kept to its promise made to Nigerians at the beginning of the legislative session to ensure transparent deliberation and passage of the 2017 Appropriations Bill.

In his appraisal of the House within the period, the Speaker noted that the cohesion within the lower chamber constituted a major achievement of the 8th House.

He said: “Without this, all else would have fallen apart as valuable hours of legislative business would have been dissipated on the management of internal squabbles.

“This we achieved, by always placing patriotism above partisanship which is key to the unremitting exemplary maturity that is seen on the floor, week in week out.”

He said a total of 1,064 bills had so far been introduced out of which executive bills accounted for 50 bills; while Senate bills transmitted to the House were 21 as well as 993 bills from private members.

However, Chairman of the Editorial Board of THISDAY Newspapers, Mr.  Olusegun Adeniyi while commending the National Assembly for finally opening up its finances said some of the actions of the lawmakers dent the image of both the House and the Senate.

He said most of the perception problems currently confronting the House were largely self-inflicted and originated from the lower chamber.

He said a situation where members fought and threw irresponsible tantrums on social media was damaging to the House reputation.

Speaking on “Image Perception of the Legislature: Causes and Possible Solutions”, Adeniyi, who was the guest speaker of the august occasion, among other things, criticised lawmakers for voting billions of Naira for new cars at a period when the economy is undergoing a recession and majority of Nigerians experience difficult times.

He further cited a general perception that many of the House members are idle and hardly in Abuja to make contributions to bills.

As a way out, he recommended that members’ attendance list be published henceforth while instituting and enforcing sanctions for non-attendance.