The Senate President, Bukola Saraki has assured the nation that the National Assembly would assist the executive in the effort to take the country out of its present economic challenges.
Speaking with news men in Lagos, Dr Saraki said that both the legislature and the executive appreciate the precarious situation many Nigerians are going through with an assurance that the National Assembly would do all within its power to ensure that the nation’s economy regains its lost ground.
He said that the two-day debate on the economy on the floor of both chambers of the National Assembly and the quality of the suggestions put forward by the lawmakers shows that the legislature is determined to improve the lots of Nigerians. The National Assembly had on Wednesday and Thursday last week discussed the present state of the economy and proffered series of solutions on how take the country out of recession. The aggregate view of the lawmakers would be presented to NASS leadership on Tuesday after which the recommendations would be forwarded to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Senate President said that most of the lawmakers are also going through a difficult period pointing out that poverty does not know party affiliations. “We have spent two days debating what we in the Senate believe as the way forward, looking at solutions on how to get out of it. We have decided that we are not going to talk on how we get there or who to blame but to work out solutions. And I think many of you that watch the proceedings at home described it as very commendable. In my opening remarks I did say that we should keep our party affiliations out of it and that we should be patriotic. I even thought that the political animal in some of us won’t be able to resist and still add political colorations to it but I was shocked by the way my colleagues went about it all.
“Many senators came up with solutions, many had done series of research, analysis and they come up with what we believe is the best way to help the country to get out of the recession. So we agree at the end and we have set up an ad hoc committee to put all the recommendations together and by Tuesday we take the recommendations one by one and we will be able to pass a resolution and communicate those resolutions to the executives,” he said.
Dr. Saraki said that the sale of some of the nation’s assets suggested by some of the lawmakers which was also canvassed by Alhaji Aliko Dangote should not be seen by Nigerians as a way of stripping the country of its assets pointing out that what many of the legislatures are canvassing for was percentage sale of equities in some of our joint venture cash calls.
“It is like an individual who has a company who goes round to source for funds and it is not coming in, and you now have 100 shares of Guiness which you are keeping for your children and you now say let me sell 20 because of what I need today. Nobody is saying sell the 100 per cent. No I am not even advocating that we sell to Nigerians, there are already existing shareholders either in the existing joint venture or the LNG. Agip, Shell, Total etc. Let’s say I’m holding 60 per cent shares and the others 40, I can say look let me come down to 55 or 50 and you guys can have the extra 10. And the money comes into your foreign reserve. That will help.” He said that if the country can raise its foreign reserve to about $45 billion, it will engender confidence in the system which will attract portfolio investors to the country and the naira will gradually regain its lost glory.
“Because Dangote mentioned the LNG, the skepticism is there already that they want to buy our national asset. You already have the existing shareholders and you can sell to them with an option to buy back. The moment the foreign reserve is there, Central Bank of Nigeria can now lift the restriction because of the confidence you now have on the exchange and can now lift the interest rate but when they are now addressing both ends it is not possible,” he said.
Saraki said the country needed about $20 billion to re-inflate the economy. He pointed out that there is lull in the nation’s construction sector, saying nobody is buying stocks in the construction industry. “Look at the stock exchange, nobody is bringing in money. It is those issues that need to be brought back,” he said.
On whether the lawmakers would be willing to give emergency power to the president, Dr. Saraki said he would not want to speculate adding that the legislators will know what to do if such a bill is eventually tabled before them. He called on the executive to find a way of resolving the agitation in the Niger Delta by negotiating with the militants pointing out that the President should not listen to those calling for a military solution.