Chuks Okocha in Abuja
The President of the eighth Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, who is also the board chairman of the Africa Political Institute, yesterday publicly spoke glowingly of his tenure as the Senate president, stating that his life in the Senate was devoted to making the parliament relevant to all Nigerians.
He said: “My life in the eighth Senate was devoted to making the parliament relevant to Nigerians of every social class and in every field of endeavour. I worked for us to have a ‘People’s Parliament’, and that was what we had.
“I know it was the best way to get the people to understand, support and get involved in the work of the parliament. I have the belief that we will be securing the future of our democracy if this is achieved. The parliament remains the critical barometer to measuring the success and growth of democracy.”
Speaking yesterday on the International Day of Parliamentarianism, which was organised by the Nigerian Youth Parliament, Saraki said: “In 2018, I visited Russia to attend the 137th Session of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and decided to use the occasion to meet Nigerian students there. There and then, I saw myself confronted with the case of stranded students on federal government scholarship whose tuition fees and allowances had not been paid for many years by the government. On my return, we invited all relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and raised the issue. And they promised to resolve the issue. That is how significant a parliament should be to the people.”
Continuing, the former Senate president said: “The National Assembly under my leadership was the first to implement the provision of the law on Basic Healthcare Provision Fund when we included in the 2018 budget one percent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to be devoted to primary health care. It was part of our plan to ‘Make Nigeria Stronger’ by helping to maintain a healthy citizenry. The then Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, described that move as a ‘Game Changer’. From Bill Gates to Bono, the musician, to the Director-General of World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Tedros, it was commendation galore for the eighth Assembly.”
According to Saraki, “When we passed the Disability Bill and included a provision that makes it mandatory for public buildings, roads, and sidewalks to provide for facilities that guarantee the right of People Living With Disability to have easy access, we were making the parliament relevant to that constituency. We also passed the Senior Citizens Centre Bill 2016, which was to set up care facilities across the country for the aged. That was to make the parliament useful to our old people.
“If you also look at some of the laws we passed in the eighth Senate, they were meant to positively affect the lives of different strata of the Nigerian society. When we amended the UBEC Act to ensure that the free education programme covered the entire secondary school years instead of just basic education, we were reaching out to parents and their wards. We also ensured the amendment included reducing counterpart funds to be paid by states from 50 percent to 10 per cent so that state governments could easily access the funds for infrastructure development in schools.”
Giving details of his stewardship, Saraki, said: “For example, when electricity and data consumers complained about the planned hike in data prices, we got across to the regulatory agencies, NERC and NCC, and engaged them constructively to stop what would have been an additional burden on the people.
“We introduced the OpenNASS campaign in which we had a website providing information on the initiative, highlighting the role of the legislature in deepening governance and democracy.”