Economic recession: Bear with us, Saraki pleads with Nigerians

THE Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, has lamented current economic hardship being experienced by Nigerians, saying that the senate will collaborate with the presidency to find a quick and lasting solution to the economic crisis.

Speaking during an unscheduled inspection visit to the site of the proposed Sheik Muhammad Kamaldeen University, Ogidi, Ilorin, at the weekend, the senate president, however, pleaded with Nigerians to bear with the government.

He said that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) government was not out to deceive Nigerians, adding that the party has the capability to steer the nation through the period of hardship into prosperity.

As part of measures to stem the growing tide of arrears of salaries owed teachers by state governments, Dr Saraki said the National Assembly would push for removal of teachers’ salaries from recurrent expenditure in the national budget, adding that senators would engage the executive arm of government over the proposal once they resumed from their current recess.

He said part of the intervention of the senate on the issue of the national economy must have played a significant role in the rise in federal allocation to states for the month of July, as he promised that the next few months would see to the resolution of the salary crises across the local government areas in the country.

But he canvassed dialogue with members of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) whose activities have been one of the factors crippling the national economy, saying the Federal Government must be ready to sit down with ‘whoever’ can be instrumental to the return of normalcy in the region.

His words: “Before the Senate went on recess, we spent a day discussing this non-payment of primary school teachers’ salaries across the nation. This is an area that should not be left in the hands of the local government areas. The matter now is beyond local councils. It is even beyond states.

“My view and that of the senate is that the issue should be a national matter. We cannot be putting funds to Universal Basic Education Board (UBE) for building of classrooms, science equipment or even to tertiary institutions when the foundation, primary school teachers are not being paid. Who is going to go to the classrooms that we are building?

“So, we must address that as a national issue and that is our plan at the senate that during the recess and when we resume from recess, to engage with the executive arm and see how we can come together. I believe that payment of teachers should not be on recurrent because it is key to the foundation of education and it is key to whatever capital investment.

“There is no point putting investment in classrooms where there is no teacher that will turn up when they have not paid him or her. We move a resolution last time to address it and we are going to follow it up. I want to reassure the teachers all round the country that definitely something is going to be done for all us to address this.

“We all know that we have been experiencing tough time in the country. Even here in Kwara State, I have been talking to all our people that it has been a very difficult period for all of us not only in Nigeria but all over the world. That does not mean anything, we as leaders are taking the responsibilities and challenges. This is a challenge.

“We must think out of the box. We must work hard and that is what we are doing. That is why the Senate summoned the minister of finance and challenged her for a while. We had passed a resolution since May that both the minister and Governor of Central Bank must come and tell us what they are doing about the economy.

“I am sure part of this our shout has led to significant improvement in this month’s federal allocation to states. I am confident that almost all the local government areas should be able to pay full salary for the workers. So the message is now to ensure true oversight functions that will hold the executive to ensure that all revenues due come in.

“There are other challenges too that we must admit. The challenges that are ongoing in the Niger Delta area we must address. It is important that we must dialogue and seek peace. We had this challenge before and it was resolved and I think whoever, can bring that peace we must sit down with him or her because the impact in one part affects the entire country. But I want to assure all that definitely it is not by designed that the challenges came, we are capable and able to meet those challenges.

“As APC government the difference I keep on saying is that there is serious commitment to address challenges facing the country. There is sincerity of purpose. The challenges are bigger, yes, but we will address them and I believe as from next month we should begin to see some succour in the local government areas.”