Senate intensifies debate on economic recession

Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

The Senate has intensified the debate on the way out of the current economic crisis which the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki initiated in his speech on Tuesday, September 20, 2016.

At Wednesday, September 21, plenary which was dedicated wholly to the debate, 24 Senators gave their opinions on how to exit the harsh economic realities.

Proffered suggestions:
Among the far reaching short and long term solutions proffered by the Senators included power devolution, granting of autonomy to states and local government, sale of non-performing assets, renegotiation of agreements with oil majors to free resources for development, confidence building to attract Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) and restructuring of the polity.

They also advocated direct engagement of the people by President Muhammadu Buhari as against the town hall meetings being held by ministers, cabinet reshuffle and Constitution amendment to empower the Federal Government to save a percentage of the nation’s revenues against raining days.

Other suggestions are full diversification of the economy, encouragement of small and medium scale industries to thrive and produce for export, increase spending by government, reduction of interest rates and provision of guarantees to safeguard bank deposits by the Federal Government.

Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume had opened the debate by giving his colleagues a general overview of the recession malaise, pointing out that the recession affect most countries that depend largely on oil revenue for their sustenance and not peculiar to Nigeria alone.

Suggested measures
On his part, Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu said that recession simply means that there is poverty in the land.

As a short term measure to redress the recession, Ekweremadu called on the Federal Government to consciously release money into the economy to stem the financial decline.

He said the Federal Government could inject recovered funds put at about N3trillion to finance the capital component of the 2016 budget.

He also called on President Buhari to reshuffle his cabinet with a view to putting the right caliber of persons in the right places. He further said it had become imperative for the federal government to renegotiate its agreements with oil majors with a view to increasing what accrues to the government from their operations.

He said the federal government needs to build confidence by not blowing the war against corruption out of proportion thereby discouraging potential investors who wants to establish businesses in the country.

“We need to prevent corruption and not wait for it to take place first before fighting it,” he said.

On the long term solutions,  according to the Deputy Senate President,  there is need to restructure the country by devolving powers to the states and local governments and that the President should takes steps to unify the nation by making his voice heard across the country through visit to states instead of ministers organising town hall meetings.

He also stated that Federal Government should sell off non-performing assets as well as amend the constitution to give the federal government the legal backing to save some percentage of the nation’s revenues against the raining day.

Senator Shehu Sani in his contribution said there was need to chart a new national direction. He decried over-dependence on one source of revenue for too long saying there is need for urgent diversification of the economy.

Senator Sani said it is time to cut interest rates and also support small scale industries to produce goods for exports, adding that the “sharing formula federalism” led the nation to the dire situation confronting Nigerians today.

Senator John Enoh called on his colleagues to put politics aside and think for the country on how to solve the recession through new direction and initiatives. The lawmaker further called on the federal government to provide guarantees for depositors funds in the various banks to prevent Nigerians from running to the banks to withdraw their deposits due to lack of confidence.

Senator George Akume cautioned against the calls for the sale of federal government assets “since the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele has said the country would come out of recession in the fourth quarter.”

He urged the Federal Government to recover the over $50billion foreign reserve accumulated by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo but which was allegedly looted during the last administration.

Other senators who contributed included Senators Sam Anyanwu, Mohammed Hassan, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Isiaka Adeleke, Emmanuel Bwacha, Adamu Aliero, Danjuma Goje, Peter Nwaoboshi, Shabba Lafiaji, Barnabas Gemade, Albert Bassey, Matthew Urhoghide, Fatimat Raji-Rasaki, Kabiru Marafa, Lanre Tejuoso, Sam Egwu, Francis Ailimikhena and Mao Ohuanbunwa.

The Senate President thanked his colleagues for being nationalistic and patriotic in their contributions and said the Senate will further take a look at the recommendations after conclusion of debate before coming up with a formal resolution today, Thursday.