THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE,
FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA
SENATOR ANYIM PIUS ANYIM
ESTABLISHMENTS AT THE SECOND EDITION OF SENATE
ROUND TABLE HELD AT ROCK VIEW HOTEL ABUJA,
ON WEDNESDAY, 20TH DECEMBER 2000.
My Four Months Report Card as Senate President It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all once more to this interactive forum, but this time to present to you my report card in the past four months. The edition is the second in about two months when we last rubbed minds on various national issues that required clarification about the National Assembly in general the Senate in particular.
The response we got after the first edition of this forum was very encouraging. The positive public acceptance reinforced our determination to sustain this forum and make it a regular feature in our deliberations.
I wish to thank the Management and staff of the NTA and the FRCN for all their support. I equally extend my appreciation to other media establishments, which have given us support.
On behalf of my Colleagues, Distinguished Senators, the Honourable Members of the National Assembly, I wish to share with you our warmest felicitations of the season and welcome you to this special session. I am expecting another informed, scholarly interaction on all issues about the Senate. Please feel free to speak out.
It is gratifying that the media community here assembled represents the diversity of our country. We decided this time to bring together all gatekeepers, influential News Editors, Political Editors, Columnists, Public Affairs Analysts and some Chief Executives to have a one-on-one dialogue with us. The first edition featured mainly Chief Executives. The new arrangement is to ensure that we meet directly with the technocrats on the job.
On assumption of office, 1 inherited a crisis-ridden Senate which was fractionalized into groups and the various groups were at daggers drawn, a Senate whose leadership was at war with itself.
A Senate where the motivating reason for attending sitting was to forestall the chance of an opposing camp taking any advantage against the other should members of one group present a greater number than the other. A Senate that was notorious for allegations and counter allegations on improprieties in the conduct of its affairs. A Senate that was subject to its own probe panel on contract awards, a Senate where the committee system served only as a political instrument of patronage other than a strong legislative instrument. A Senate where the leadership and the management staff were blaming and counter blaming each other for the woes of the Senate in particular for its administrative lapses. A Senate where it was not certain that there was any guidelines for the conduct of its affairs. A Senate whose relationship with the Executive was about to ground the entire system to a halt. A Senate where every Law passed was in contention between the legislature and the executive. A Senate ridden with mutual suspicion among Senators, between the leadership and the management and between the Senators and the Executive. In summary, I inherited a highly politicized Senate as against a committed legislature.
The most tormenting situation I found on ground on assumption of office was that the entire system i.e. government and its institutions were so overheated that the tension in the land was felt by all and sundry. The situation no doubt posed a great threat to our nascent democracy. There is no gainsaying that our newfound democracy faced imminent collapse.
The cumulative effect of these situations is that the entire system was frustrated to the point that it could not deliver democracy dividends to the people of Nigeria.
On assumption of office I was faced with the above mentioned intimidating challenges and to prevent further escalation of the situations and in order to reposition and refocus the senate as to be more responsive to its constitutional duties, I made the following efforts:
1. TEAM WORK: Realign Senate so that no single person can effectively influence the affairs of the Senate alone. I consciously set out to making sure that the leadership of the Senate understood each other, trusted each other and mutually respected each other. The affairs of the Senate is conducted in an open and transparent manner and every member of the leadership is part of decision-making. This approach has enhanced the performance of the leadership accordingly we have remained together and we work together.
2. HARMONIOUS SENATE: Efforts were made to restructure the Senate. We tried very successfully too to eliminate the dividing lines in the Senate. Our efforts under this heading was born out of the fact that the existence of factions will not make for objective approach to issues before the Senate as group consciousness would be able to achieve a more harmonious Senate committed to the survival of Nigeria and Democracy.
3. STANDARD PROCEDURE: On assumption of office, it was not certain if there was any standard way of conducting the affairs of the Senate, we therefore set out to lay down guidelines on the conduct of our affairs even in such a manner that I, in my capacity as the Senate President should personally take responsibility for all that is done in the management of the affairs of the Senate.
4. SENATE COMMITTEES: Efforts were made to depoliticise the committee system. Accordingly, we refused to reshuffle the committees rather, we emphasized equality of the committees and in order to strengthen the committees as arms of a legislative house, we made funds available to the respective committees for the purpose of conducting its work and procuring facilities necessary for their effective performance. This approach is highly welcomed by the Senators so much so that the National Assembly budget for year 2001 was drawn after the approach. The implication of this approach is that the committees now enjoy relative autonomy and the members now take direct responsibility for the day to day running of the committees. This approach has paved the way for better management of resources for prudence and accountability. However, this is not to say that we will not make necessary adjustments on the committees. In short, we have noticed certain areas where adjustment must be made in due course.
5. PROBE PANEL: Efforts were also made to systematically and thoroughly process and prosecute the Senator Kuta Probe Panel report on contract awards. Through this medium, we offered every Senator the opportunity to air his views on the subject and at the same time guaranteed to the listen public the opportunity to witness and assess individual Sens view on the matter. As far as we are concerned, Nigerians would have captured the truth or otherwise of the matter because nothing is hidden from them. We are now at the stage of harmonizing their views. We know that the public will judge us by our final decision and so we are not in a hurry rather we want, at the end of the day, to be able to take responsibility for our decision.
6. LEGISLATIVE ACTIVITIES: In the past four months, under my leadership Senate has considered twelve bills. Among them is the National Assembly Service Commission bill, which has been signed into law by Mr. President. Also in this category is the Legislative Privileges and Immunities (Amendment) Act that is now before a joint conference Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives. Most importantly in this category is the year 2001 Appropriation Bill that was yesterday signed into law by Mr. President without rancor. The following bills amongst others are pending at the committee levels:
The Bill on the Status of Abuja.
The Bill on the Reflection of the Federal Character in the Armed Forces of the Federation.
The Bill on the Universal Basic Education.
The Bill to repeal all laws repugnant to Press Freedom in Nigeria.
The Nigerian Education Development Bill.
The Bill on the Establishment of Farmers Produce Board, etc.
The Senate has also duly cleared chairmen and some members of the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Managing Director and some members of the Niger Delta Development Commission. Nigerian Ambassador designate to the Republic of Sao Tome and Precipe.
The Senate has also responded appropriately to critical issues of urgent national importance i.e. the Senate by resolution mandated the executive to do all within its competence rescue Nigerians detained in Libya, and other countries, We looking into the operations of British Airways as it concerned the care of Nigerian passenger and accordingly requested the Executive to resuscitate the national carrier, etc. The Senate further intervened on a number of other cases of Ife/Modakeke mayhem, visited the scene of the borno State House of Assembly that was burnt down and vandalized by some unknown persons. The Senate is presently finding ways of assisting the House to repair its chambers. I also personally intervened in the case of the striking Resident Doctors as a result of which the strike was called off. We have effectively represented Nigerians in various international fora. for example, the National Assembly delegation to IP in Jakata, in which I addressed the organization on the need for forgiveness.
7. LEGISLATIVE/EXECUTIVE RELATIONSHIP: Efforts were also made to introduce a new approach towards Legislative/Executive relationship. The new approach is anchored on mutual consultation and dialogue. This has enhanced mutual respect between the two arms of Government and has accordingly produced very fruitful results. The cumulative effect of our approach include the restoration of hope to our people. We have restored the people’s confidence in democracy.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are set to further demonstrate to Nigerians that democracy in Nigeria is not less that what it is expected to be. We have been in liaison with the executive and have passed the 2001 budget in such a manner that the lives of our people will be touched for the better across board. Accordingly, the budget was not only passed on time but was at every stage processed in full agreement with all the stake-holders and the central focus is to cause a developmental revolution in Nigeria. On full implementation of the budget, every nook and corner of this country would witness some Federal Presence in a multidimensional manner.
In conclusion, may I recall that my attention was drawn to a weeklong media campaign against my person, my style of leadership and the Senate. The high points of this campaign was that the Senate had lost vibrancy because of my lack-luster leadership, that I and the new Senate leadership are too close to the Executive and that as a result, members have lost interest in the Senate and no longer attended sitting as a result of which the Senate rarely formed a quorum.
Fellow Nigerians, when I was elected by my distinguished colleagues, many had alleged that I was too young to do the work and even others said that I would not last more than one month on the Seat. It is therefore understandable that having proved such people wrong, they looked for other ways to excite their imaginations. Fellow Nigerians, in the last few weeks, some people decided to mount media campaign against my person and office. Their main aim was to distract me and maybe frustrate the processing of the 2001 budget.
I want to assure Nigerians that I will never be distracted by political opponents. I want to further assure them that I will never join issues with them on the pages of Newspapers. I shall receive communication to me from anyone through the proper channel and I will definitely reply. As a result of this practice, I have earned the confidence of my colleagues.
May I tell all those who allege that the Senate is no longer vibrant, that what they wished was for me to reshuffle the committees, so that people would lobby me and fight each other. They would have wished that I set up an inner caucus who would be manipulating the affairs of the Senate, then the Senate would have been more vibrant. If I had come against the Executive, then Senate would have been seen to confront the Executive. Confrontation yields no dividends to the people but harmonious engagement does.
May I assure my fellow countrymen that I was elected by my people and my colleagues to serve Nigeria to the best of my ability and not to satisfy anybody’s inordinate agenda. I will continue to do my very best in the discharge of my duties. I pledge allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
For those who allege that I have been too close to the Executive, may I remind you that on assumption of office it was widely reported that I told the President and rightly so that “He should sit down in his office and do his work”. As an administrator, I know that there are official ways of communication, through memorandum or letter writing. You do not communicate official matters through the pages of Newspapers or through public fora.
My position was that if the President had objections on our salary structure he should have sent a communication to us in that regard and we would have communicated a reply to him if need be.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am very convinced about this procedure. On assumption of office I adopted this method. After all democracy is all about dialogue and consultation. For me this approach is more acceptable because the President and myself are members of the same party so we have many common grounds for consultations.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have not only employed this approach in my relationship with the Executive, it is also the basis of my relationship with my collcagues; Through this approach, I have gained the support and confidence of my colleagues.
Through this approach, we have had a calm purposeful and stable Senate in the last four months. Through this approach, the National Assembly Service Commission Bill was signed into law without rancour. Through this approach a more harmonious relationship between the Senate and the Executive has been achieved and through this approach, the 2001 budget was passed in law in December 2000.
May I inform all those who criticize attendance at Senate that in all democracies, legislative work is done with greater concentration at committee level. Plenary sessions are only attended in large numbers when there are very important issues, contentious issues, or issues that require voting.
I wish to report that the 2001 budget was passed successfully. All through, Senate was always full because a matter of serious importance was on the floor. May I also put on record that the Senate had never during my tenure failed to sit because there was no quorum while in the past this had been a matter of common occurrence.
Finally, I pledge to redouble my efforts in the New Year. I will work according to my conscience and ability.
I wish all Nigerians and Friends of Nigeria, a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous 2001. I thank you all for your attention and God bless.