Speaker Abbas: Rekindling Hope in Nigeria

Speaker Abbas: Rekindling Hope in Nigeria

By Idowu J. Bakare

In the face of economic hardship, high-level insecurity, near social unrest and opposition harassment, Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas has found a new way to push back against the ‘forces’ that are threatening to undermine the stability of the government. As a major stakeholder and number 4 citizen, going by the national order of precedence, Rt. Hon. Abbas has a lot to be worried about. Daily, he is inundated with troubling reports of hunger and anger from the 360 members of the House of Representatives whom he presides over.

As the people’s parliament, the Green Chamber has a reputation to have intervened in critical issues of national interest at crucial moments. This time around, the harsh economic realities are beginning to threaten peace, security and social stability.

Speaker Abbas with his colleagues has come out to lend his voice to douse the tension. “We are acutely aware of the rising security challenges affecting different parts of the country,” he said.

At an unusual World Press Conference recently addressed by Abbas, the Speaker acknowledged the pain and suffering of every family that has been a victim of brutal crimes and needless violence.

“Let it be known that your cries have not fallen on deaf ears and your tears have not gone unseen. We stand in solidarity with every Nigerian affected and commit to deploying robust legislative measures to empower our security agencies, ensure justice, and restore peace and order in our communities,” he said, in reference to the renew wave of banditry and kidnapping across the country.

While acknowledging the government’s efforts, the Speaker noted President Bola Tinubu’s commitment to improving the security situation and enhancing the capability of the armed forces.

“On Tuesday this week, I attended the induction ceremony of the T-129 ATAK helicopter and the King Air 360i aircraft into our esteemed Air Force. The acquisition of these state-of-the-art aircraft clearly indicates the government’s dedication to investing in the security infrastructure of our nation. It reflects a proactive stance in adapting to the dynamic challenges of modern warfare and a commitment to providing our armed forces with the best tools to defend Nigeria and our people,” he said.

The Speaker recalled that on November 8, 2023, the President signed the N2.176 trillion Supplementary Appropriation Act to strengthen Nigeria’s security architecture and address Nigeria’s critical infrastructure deficit, amongst other considerations. These investments in the face of global economic downturn and budgetary constraints attest to the government’s determination to end insecurity in Nigeria,” he argued.

While recognising and commending the patriotic and courageous efforts of the security agencies, Rt. Hon. Abbas advocated for “changes where necessary.” The Speaker hinted on a forthcoming Legislative Summit on Security will address. This summit, which comes up in a matter of weeks, will, among others, allow us to hear directly from the key stakeholders in the sector and come up with legislative measures to modernize our security system and improve its operational efficiency and effectiveness. As emphasized in our Legislative Agenda, the time has come for us to demand greater transparency from our security agencies and full accountability for all the funds spent and earmarked for spending in the sector. We kick-started our sectoral debates in November last year with the Service Chiefs and the Inspector General of Police to demonstrate the seriousness we attach to security.

Reflecting on the economic downturn and Its Implications, the Speaker noted the high inflation rates, particularly the rate of food inflation under which the nation is groaning.. As you are all aware, various factors, including insecurity, economic downturns and climate change-induced disruptions have exacerbated this crisis.

While commending Tinubu for what he described as his “rapid and decisive response to the issue of food security, he said the 2023 Supplementary Budget provided a N200bn palliative package, mainly for grains, seeds, agricultural inputs and equipment for farmers. This momentum has been sustained in the 2024 Budget, which has significantly improved budgetary allocations to all critical sectors of the economy, especially defense, healthcare, education and infrastructure.

According to him, the President, in 2023, declared a state of emergency on food security, focusing on improving both availability and affordability. Some immediate measures approved the release of fertilizers and grains to farmers and households, particularly given the fallouts from the removal of fuel subsidies. Others include boosting the national strategic food reserve and introducing a price stabilization mechanism, especially for critical food items. And just a few days ago, President Tinubu also constituted a special presidential committee headed by the Chief of Staff to take immediate steps to arrest the worsening food situation.

He pledged the National Assembly’s continuous support for the government’s efforts toward finding effective solutions to these challenges. For the first time in the history of the Nigerian legislature, the 10th House set up a Committee on Nutrition and Food Security with a mandate to strengthen the legislative framework for nutrition governance in Nigeria, advocate for the inclusion of nutrition in government priority programmes and monitor resource allocation to nutrition in the annual budget estimates.

The Speaker assured that the House will prioritize funding for programmes and initiatives to alleviate hunger and enhance security. We are fully committed to supporting policies that will stimulate our economy, provide relief, and ensure relief is felt in every home. In addition to promoting security so that farmers can feel safe to return to their farms, the House will support import and export policies that stabilise food prices and ensure adequate supply of essential food items at affordable rates, especially for our constituents living in rural areas. We also propose enacting legislation to enable swift government response to tackle food shortages, including emergency food aid and support for affected populations.

Abbas called for unity and synergy among all arms of government, stating that the synergy between the executive, legislative, and judiciary is paramount.

“We must function not as isolated entities but as a cohesive unit with a common goal – the welfare and progress of our dear country. As declared in Section 14 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as altered), “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”.
This cannot be achieved by one arm of government alone but by all of us working together for the common good. It also requires greater engagement with citizens who have a duty to hold their elected representatives accountable and demand more government action.

The Speaker’s intervention, without doubt, offers a respite to the Executive arm. It is indicative of the cooperative partnership that the former needed to deliver on its renewed hope agenda for Nigerians. How well the messages resonate with the hungry and the angry is another kettle of fish.

*Bakare is a senior legislative aide to the Speaker.

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