Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (Niger North) is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs. In this interview with SOLA SHITTU in Abuja, Abdullahi says the 8th Senate is not at war over juicy committees. He also spoke on the war against Boko Haram and other critical national issues. Excerpts:
What is the legislative agenda for the 8th Senate?
The leadership of the Senate is convinced that we must have a robust agenda that will be a pillar of support for President Muhammadu Buhari. The Senate President finds it very important to suggest that the upper chamber must be different and the instrument of that differentiation is what the legislative agenda is all about. The objective of the legislative agenda is for us to avoid all the little mistakes of the National Assembly, as we know them. The vision is to connect with Nigerians, identify with their yearnings and aspirations, and provide robust legislative support that will not only promote economic growth but also focus on poverty alleviation and employment generation in a manner that is transparent and anchored on good governance.
What is the Senate’s thinking on the 2016 budget?
I think that the answer to the question relating to the 2016 budget should come from the Presidency. I would definitely fall short of information if I should speak authoritatively on it. Moreover, I can’t hold brief for the Executive arm of government. However, I want to believe that since this is a year of transition and, I think as Mr. President has explained, there are lots of issues beyond the Executive’s understanding and comprehension that they need time to deal with. Some of those issues were responsible for the delay in the composition of the Federal Executive Council. We know this kind of delay is not out of place but then, I want to seriously believe that the Presidency is working assiduously on the matter. In no distant time, the budget will be brought before the National Assembly.
When will the fuel scarcity be a thing of the past?
It is really sad that the fuel scarcity has refused to go away and it is biting hard as nobody is spared. This is because we patronise the same filling stations. The problems are very obvious; we do not have the refining capacity in the country, which means we must import fuel. And with the dwindling revenue, which implies the inability to pay promptly for imports, we are bound to run into this type of problem. But my take is that the present situation will surely call for a robust response beyond the palliative measures currently being applied. I think the 8th Assembly will look at all the contentious issues in the Petroleum Industry Bill. The PIB is one of our priorities and we are looking at it as a way of tackling the problem we currently have. I know government is trying to do all it can to settle the problem with the marketers because we can’t continue like this. But, sincerely, it is most unfortunate that Nigerians have to go through another orgy of fuel scarcity.
What is your reaction to Senator Marafa’s protest on the composition of the recently constituted Senate committees?
Senator Marafa is entitled to his opinion but I would be quick to remind all that there is some basic ethical conduct for senators of the Federal Republic. So, I will not want to join issues with Marafa. But one thing is very clear – there is no disaffection over the composition of the senate committees, to the best of my knowledge. It is natural that in an environment like this, not everyone will get what he wants. For us, it is not about juicy committees, it is about service to Nigerians. I don’t know which committees are juicy and which are not. We (senators) are here to serve Nigerians in line with the provisions of the constitution. We are obligated to provide good legislation for Nigeria’s governance, which will guarantee good welfare and provide adequate security for the citizenry. The responsibilities before us are enormous which is why we must go about them with vigour. The committee arrangement is just an instrument of division of labour among legislators so that we are able to do justice to the subject matters coming from Nigerians. If truly we are in the National Assem-
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