Welcome Speech By The President Of The Senate, Federal Republic Of Nigeria, Senator (Dr.) David A.B. Mark, GCON, FNIM, On Tuesday, January 13th, 2015 At The Senate Chamber Of The National Assembly
My bosses, Distinguished Senators, it is my pleasure to welcome you to this hallowed Chamber from the well deserved short Christmas, New Year and Eid-el Maulud break.
I seize this opportunity to commend your exemplary conduct, your patriotism, your maturity and the commitment you exhibited particularly in the face of various daunting challenges.
We have a loaded agenda before this 7 th Assembly and there are many issues to be addressed before the termination of our tenure. These include, passing the Petroleumindustry Bill (PIB), the phenomenal fall in oil prices and its impact on our budgetary commitments, ensuring a free, fair, transparent and credible election, favourably resolving the insurgency in the North East, the consideration of the reports of the Conference of Speakers of State Houses of Assembly on the amendment of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), and the management, welfare and rehabilitation of internally displaced persons as well as the welfare of families of deceased members of the armed forces.
My bosses, we have always performed our duties diligently for the common good of all. This Senate has acted on a number of bills that have direct and positive bearing on the lives of ordinary Nigerians.
Some of these Bills include but not limited to; the National Health Bill, Discrimination Against Persons with Disability (Prohibition) Bill, Cyber Crime Bill, Nigeria Football Federation Bill, Criminal Justice (Release from Custody) (Amendment) Bill and the Border Communities Commission Bill.
As we resume this last lap of the 7th Senate, we shall endeavour to pass the lingering Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). We are conscious of the concerns of various stakeholders (Nigerians and foreigners). It has taken long but we should do all we can to pass it. When passed, the PIB will have profound impact on the future direction of our economy and will be one of the legacies of this Assembly. Although, we have a critical and congested legislative timetable ahead, we must be thorough in our work.
My bosses, Distinguished colleagues, it is with deep pain in my heart, embarrassment and frustration that I draw our attention to the fact that insurgency and terrorism are still with us. Consequently, several innocent and productive lives have been needlessly lost. The truth is that the North Eastern part of our country is under siege.
The tendency is to blame government for this sore state of affairs. Every Nigerian, irrespective of partisanship, must demonstrate patriotism to our country. We must support our armed forces and other security operatives to stop this evil. Bomb blasts are non-partisan in their destructive nature. Insecurity plagues all of us and must be tackled holistically. The armed forces and government must intensify efforts to rescue our young innocent Chibok girls.
Government must do all it can to end this insurgency. This is a war that we must win and we will win!
I commend the Senate and the entire National Assembly for their active roles in the fight against terrorism. I commend the relevant committees that have engaged various stakeholders. In particular, I commend members of the armed forces and other security agencies who risk their lives daily to protect our liberty, freedom and security.
On behalf of the Senate, I send my heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of those who lost loved ones in the various acts of conflict and terror across the country. We pray that the souls of the deceased rest in peace. They are our heroes and heroines and their deaths must not be in vain. We must not dishonour their memory by politicising the security challenges in the North-East. I urge philanthropists, non-governmental organisations and civil societies to support government efforts to provide assistance to the internally displaced persons and the families of the deceased.
The National Assembly is committed to the passage of the 2015 Budget. Before we do that however, we must allow for a deliberate, meticulous and exhaustive debate of the estimates. This is an important process which affords us the opportunity to make inputs for the common good of the people. I must emphasize that this is a constitutional responsibility of the National Assembly.
In the face of declining oil prices, it is clear that our over-reliance on a mono-product is unhealthy and unsustainable. This reality makes it even more pertinent that the federal and state governments work assiduously to develop other sou r ces of revenue generation outside the oil and gas sectors. The continued diversification of our economy into other sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture, trade and services is now inevitable.
I would like to reassure Nigerians that the National Assembly will work hard to ensure that the2015 Appropriation Bill is passed in good time. Once passed into law, we shall also employ our oversight instruments to insist on accountability, probity, transparency and efficiency in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the budget.
A few weeks from now, Nigerians will once again go to the polls to elect their representatives. The electoral season brings an unusual amount of scrutiny. We are in the fevered grip of elections but despite the pregnancy of expectation and the excitement being generated by the elections, we must always stick to the task of delivering democratic dividends to our people. We must not shirk our responsibilities. The enthusiasm across the length and breadth of the land for the upcoming elections is proof that Nigerians have imbibed democratic ethos and values.
My bosses, many of us are already on the field seeking the votes of our constituents. Experience has shown that the electioneering period are often difficult times. Politicians must desist from provocative and inciting utterances. We may be in different political parties but we are not enemies. We must educate, caution and guide our supporters and followers. Election should be an asset to democracy but where it leads to violence or acrimony , it becomes a liability.
We must, irrespective of party affiliations, do our best to ensure free, fair, transparent and credible elections. At the risk of stating the obvious, I would like to emphasize that for us to hold an elective office, there must first be a nation. I urge all my Distinguished colleagues to continue to set example for conduct in the public sphere. I am disturbed and saddened by the war songs emanating from many quarters, particularly from highly placed Nigerians who are threatening fire and brimstone. Elections need not dissolve into theatres of war. It is my belief that war mongering will only result in a legacy that we will all regret.
As Distinguished Senators, we have a role to play in ensuring that Nigeria witnesses a peaceful general election. Despite the much vaunted fear, apprehension and anxiety that our nation may not survive the elections by some dooms day prophets, I personally remain optimistic that we have the strength of character, the political will, the perseverance and maturity to rise above all the challenges that lie ahead. We are all leaders and I know that we will work towards peace and harmony. Our nation will not disintegrate after the elections!
Let me once again appeal to my fellow politicians and the entire political class, that in order to achieve free, fair, transparent and credible elections, we must support the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to carry out its responsibilities without hindrance. I also urge INEC to take into account the wishes of a large body of internally displaced persons who have expressed their desire to have their votes cast and counted. INEC must ensure that no eligible Nigerian is disenfranchised.
May I seize this opportunity to appreciate our constituents for their continued goodwill and confidence. We must not waiver in our commitment to uphold their trust in us.
Let us at this point renew our priorities, listen to one another more attentively and remind ourselves of the ways by which our aspirations and destinies are intertwined as a people. The task before us is enormous but not insurmountable. My Distinguished bosses, we are equal to it and we will rise to any challenge that lies in our path.
It is my belief that together we can make Nigeria great. As we do our best to serve our country, we need to cherish the beauty in our diversity. Rather than dwell on what divides us, let us look continually at what unites us.
My bosses, I commend you for the stability the Senate is enjoying in this 7 th Assembly. Let us continue to work together for the progress of our nation.
Thank you for your attention and God bless us all.
Senator (Dr) David A. B. Mark, GCON, fnim
PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE
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