Saraki warns over 2019 election

•Don’t abandon governance for politics, Senate president tells Executive, lawmakers, others

Senate President Bukola Saraki yesterday issued a warning to members of the National Assembly and the Executive against the heightening twist trailing the 2019 general elections.

He warned that it was too early for elected and appointed public officials to begin 2019 politicking. He said it would override government agenda

Saraki issued the warning in his welcome address to senators on their return from the Christmas and New Year break.

He said: “We must not allow the upcoming 2019 elections to overshadow our work for the people that elected us – or distract us from that which we are mandated to do by the Constitution and the trust reposed in us by the people.

“This is my appeal: It is too early for 2019 politicking to override the legislative agenda and the larger work of governance. I am directing this appeal not only to us in the chamber but to the National Assembly as a whole, as well as to the Executive and indeed all political actors.

“Many were on the queue for petrol; many households are grief-stricken. We have all been witnesses to the hardships with which many Nigerians saw in the New Year, stuck on fuel queues tailing from petrol stations in many of our cities.

“I had to direct members of the Senate Investigative Panel on Fuel Scarcity to cut short their recess to commence hearings into the lingering problem.

“We thought we had left the problem of fuel queues firmly in the past in this country, but sadly, that appears not to be the case.

“Even more sober reflection attends the killings in some parts of the country, particularly recent tragic events in Benue State.

“We condemn these killings in the strongest terms, and we declare that mindless bloodletting has no place in our society. I offer our sincerest condolences to the people of Benue, and indeed to all who have suffered the loss of their loved ones as a result of these wanton acts.

“We as the 8th Senate stand ready to help find solutions to assuage the hurt to affected parts, to bring the perpetrators to justice and to enthrone peace in all four corners of this country.

“Let me state that the 8th Senate is disturbed by these unfortunate incidents, and we have been for some time. We were concerned enough to have inaugurated the Ad-Hoc Committee on Security in November of last year.

“And so it was that, with the shocking reports from Benue, Rivers and other places, the Security Committee members also cut short their recess to resume sitting, with a view to fast-tracking their investigations, in order to present an interim report for the Senate’s consideration immediately on resumption.

“I believe I speak for us all when I pledge that we shall continue to demonstrate similar dedication to our duties this year, as worthy representatives of the people who voted us into office.

“By the end of 2017, we had passed 140 bills over a period of 30 months. Going into the New Year, I can only wish each and every one of us the best as we prepare for the task ahead. It is a crucial year.

“This, in all probability, will be the last productive year before we go into the 2019 electioneering period. Not only is there a need to up the ante in terms of productivity, it is important we keep our eyes on the big picture. Let us not be caught in the political fray before due season.  “It is imperative that we speed up consideration on the various bills on which legislative work remains outstanding – particularly economic bills.

“Calling for similar attention are the other parts of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) related bills still to be passed, namely: the Petroleum Industry Fiscal Bill and the Petroleum Host Community Bill.

“Let me opine that 2018 will be defined by the collaboration between the two chambers of the National Assembly as regards the number of items due for concurrence.

“We must work to build on the very cordial relationship between the two chambers as witnessed so far, and elevate the level of cooperation, for the benefit of the people.

“There are two major ongoing issues before us – namely the Constitutional Amendment process and the 2018 Appropriation Bill. It is encouraging to see that the assemblies in the states have already started work on the Constitutional Amendment; I urge us all to keep a keen eye on developments on that front.  “With regard to the 2018 Budget, let me take this opportunity to give a word of encouragement to the Committee as they work to ensure the proper conduct of the process.”