Saraki calls for purposeful leadership Dogara advocates strong institutions to checkmate dictators Egmont group suspension: Osinbajo meets senators to avert Nigeriaâ€™s expulsion
Omololu Ogunmade and James Emejo in Abuja
Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo on TuesdayÂ said Nigerians deserved better dividends of democracy from the leadership, advising that positions and tenures of political office holders, particularly in the executive and legislature, must not be wasted on conflicts and divisions.
Speaking in Abuja at the opening of the 16th Commonwealth Speakers and Presiding Officers Conference (CSPOC) with the theme: â€˜Presiding Officer in a Challenging Societyâ€™, he said there were numerous challenges that need urgent solutions, particularly the quest to provide the ordinary Nigerian with improved living standards rather than needless conflicts between both arms of government.
He added that the leadership canâ€™t afford to betray public trust in that regard.
Osinbajo, however, took a swipe at both traditional and social media practitioners for fueling the seeming disharmony between the executive and legislature.
He cited an instance whereby a newspaper headline portrayed him as threatening the leadership of the legislature, humorously questioning how that could have been possible.
The acting president said: â€œOn a lighter note, I donâ€™t know the experience of presiding officers from other nations of the portrayal of the relationship between the executive and the legislature by the press. Here in Nigeria, what makes news is conflict between the executive and the legislature.
He said rumours of wrangling and quarrelling usually catch the attention of both traditional and social media platforms.
Nevertheless, Osinbajo said present circumstances in which the ordinary Nigerian finds himself demanded that the political elite show a â€œmeasure of humanityâ€ as well as empathise with them in order to assuage their sufferings.
He said the changing times further placed a burden on the executive and legislature to craft measures aimed at improving the lives of the poor.
The acting president blamed the current political and economic predicament on the failure of the leadership, adding that political offices should be seen as opportunity to brighten the future of the electorates rather than for personal aggrandisement.
He said: â€œWhen we work together, we can better the lives of our people.â€
Osinbajo further buttressed his position by arguing that government was able to decimate the Boko Haram insurgents as a fighting force largely because of the good working relationship which had existed between the executive and the legislature, whereby virements were speedily approved by the latter for purchase of military hardware to withstand and conquer the terrorists.
Nonetheless, he said government has recorded significant successes in various programmes recently undertaken to achieve self-sufficiency for the country.
Osinbajo said investments in local rice production have reduced import bill by 80 percent while rice yields had also improved from 3.5 metric tons to 7.5 metric tones.
He assured ns that the country would achieve rice sufficiency by 2018.
His comments came on a day the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, said Nigeria in particular and Africa at large needed purposeful leadership in addressing its numerous challenges.
He said at a period of widespread public distrust in public officers and lots of public misconceptions of the functions of political officers, a call to higher service and accountability could go along way to turn the tide.
Saraki said partnerships were critical for repositioning the continent for political and economic milestones.
Also speaking at the occasion, chairperson of the conference/ Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, lamented that the executive has hardly reciprocated the gesture of cooperation extended to it by the National Assembly in its effort to ensure smooth running of government for the delivery of dividends of democracy to Nigerians.
He urged legislatures across the continent to free their people from dictatorship by building strong institutions that would drive socio-economic development and lift the people out of poverty.
According to him, Africaâ€™s problems could best be solved by erecting formidable institutions to free people from the â€œshackles of the strongman,â€ adding that the parliament cannot also perform its job without strong connections.
He also said there was no need for squabbles as the continent is confronted with diverse developmental challenges.
Dogara noted that Africa is in a hurry to develop, stressing that this could only be achieved when strong institutions are build to replace weak ones that had been deliberately put in place by dictators to ensure that leaders remain stronger than the people.
He said good governance could only be achieved through cooperation and collaboration between the legislature and the executive for the smooth running of all government institutions in the race for development.
The speaker argued that the legislature as the first institution of democracy must make sacrifices in the interest of the people and support the executive to enable it deliver the peopleâ€™s needs and aspirations, while at the same time, maintaining its independence.
Meanwhile, in a rather emotional remarks to Nigerians leaders, Deputy Speaker, National Assets of Cameroon, Hon. Emila Monjowa Lifaka, said many African countries currently look up to the success of Nigeria and celebrated the â€œlong time brotherly relationship between Nigeria and Cameroon.
Saraki said the legislature was the only arm of government which conducts its business in the open, hence the special interest which itâ€™s activities had generated in recent times.
He, however, pledged the National Assemblyâ€™s unflinching commitment to partnership and collaboration with the other arms of government.
Meanwhile, concerned by the threat posed to Nigeriaâ€™s financial system by its suspension from Egmont Group, Osinbajo yesterday met with members of the Senate Committee on Financial Crimes and Anti-corruption in the State House, Abuja.
The meeting was meant to provide a forum for both the presidency and National Assembly to reason together on possible ways of addressing the matter and consequently avert its final expulsion from the group.
The senators were led to the meeting by the committee Chairman, Senator Chukwuka Utazi.
The meeting was confirmed to THISDAY by a top presidential source.
Egmont Group is a network of 152 financial intelligence units (FIUs) across the world.
The Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), prior to Nigeriaâ€™s suspension at the July 2017 meeting of the Egmont in China, represented Nigeria in the group.
The country was suspended following Nigeriaâ€™s failure to grant operational autonomy to NFIU, a situation which the group has objected to for years.
Nigeria was also accused of divulging confidential information and constant leakage of sensitive intelligence to the Nigerian media, contrary to global best practices the country signed up for.
The group also issued a December 2017 ultimatum to Nigeria to address the issues that led to the suspension or be expelled, which will attract international sanctions against Nigeriaâ€™s financial system.
Following the suspension, the Senate accused the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of aggressively resisting all efforts to grant the requisite autonomy to the NFIU to allow it meet its mandate, technically and logistically.
The senators further said the Ministries of Justice, Finance and Interior did not complement the efforts of its Committee on Anti-Corruption to avert the suspension, despite pleas and correspondences for action.
Consequently, the Senate last week commenced moves to grant legal, operational and financial autonomy to NFIU as a process leading to its separation from EFCC.
Utazi had last week, accused the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, of contributing to Nigeriaâ€™s recent suspension from the group by his interference in the operations and staffing of the NFIU, despite claims that the unit was autonomous.
He said Maguâ€™s alleged meddlesomeness led to the exit of many competent hands from the NFIU.
The Senate therefore directed its Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes to prepare and submit a draft bill for the enactment of a law that would create a substantive and autonomous NFIU and make it autonomous with powers for the employment, reward, training, promotion and discipline of its workforce independently.
The committee was mandated to submit the draft bill in four weeks.
It was in pursuit of its assignment that the committee held a meeting with Osinbajo in the Villa yesterday.
The Egmont Group is the highest inter-governmental association of intelligence agencies in the world with membership by 152 countries.
It provides a platform for sharing criminal intelligence and financial information bordering on money laundering, terrorism financing, proliferation of arms, corruption, financial crimes, economic crimes and similar offences geared towards the support of local and international investigations, prosecutions and assets recovery.
Nigeria was fully admitted into the coveted body in 2007, after operational admittance in 2005, in what was considered one of the biggest achievements of the Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
Some of the agencies that benefit from the activities of the group include the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigerian Customs Service, Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the EFCC, Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) among other relevant governmental agencies.
The countryâ€™s membership paved the path for the removal of Nigerian banks from the blacklist of international finance.
The blacklisting had prevented the banks from engaging in correspondent banking with foreign institutions and also denied Nigerians access to foreign credit cards.
â€œNigeria relies on the Egmont Group for assistance in the investigation of the crimes listed above (corruption, money laundering, terrorism financing, financial and economic crimes), as all bank accounts and other assets of suspects are made available to the country wherever they are located in the world.
â€œBe informed that one of the immediate effects of Nigeriaâ€™s suspension from the group is that the Egmont Secure Web, (ESW) is currently shutdown against Nigeria.
â€œThe implication is that Nigeria can no longer exchange sensitive information with other member countries in order to carry out our investigative and regulatory responsibilities as they affect local and international investigations.
â€œWe observe that apart from the suspension of Nigeria this July, the group has given Nigeria up to December 2017 to address the issues raised in the suspension or be expelled, which will attract international sanctions against Nigeriaâ€™s financial system.
â€œNigeria can ill-afford to be blacklisted as the implications are dire, not only to our aspiration for membership of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) into which so much energy, time and resources have been invested but the country will also be listed in the G8 list of Non-Cooperating Countries and Territories (NCCT).
â€œBe informed that if expelled, the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) Implementation Reviewing Group will be served notice against Nigeria, and most countries, including the United States, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, etc., would alert their financial institutions and services through the issuance of advisories such as the Financial Criminal Enforcement Network Advisory and Foreign Assets and Cash Directive, to warn them to apply extra care and diligence in transacting with Nigeria and Nigerians.