Let’s close ranks to solve economic recession – Saraki

SENATE President, Dr Bukola Saraki, has called for a strong collaboration between legislative and executive arms of government as a way to solve current economic recession.

Speaking with journalists in Ilorin during Eid-el Kabir holiday, the senate president said that the current tit-tat posture being displayed by members of both arms of government would continue to add to pains of the people.

“A situation whereby there is crisis between the two arms of government, ordinary Nigerians would be the one at the receiving end,” he said.

Saraki also said that the Senate would have an exhaustive and comprehensive debate on fixing the country’s economy when it resumes next week, adding that, “Already, all the economic priority bills are being analysed and collated so that we can hit the ground running when we resume. We understand the pains that Nigerians are feeling and we do not take this for granted.

Saraki, who served as a Special Assistant to the President on Economic Matters during the Obasanjo administration also expressed concern that he was yet to see the right policies being put in place to end the recession and promised that the Senate would summon the Presidential Economic Team on resumption next week for full briefing.

He vowed to ensure that Nigerians are told the truth about the economy adding that the federal legislators would advise President Muhammad Buhari “accordingly” if any member of the economic team is perceived as not doping well.

When asked if it would be possible to give Nigerians a time-frame to exit the recession, Saraki said any such promises would be insincere, saying there is need for the President to create a broader and bolder economic plan with input from both legislative and executive arms of government, the private sector, professional groups. All the groups, he said, must work together to put in place interventions that will create more jobs, strengthen the Naira, bring more investment into the country, and attain fiscal responsibility.

“I am not going to join anybody in saying that the thing will be over by tomorrow, one month or so. No, I am not going to do that because I am not convinced yet that we have put the right policies in or the right laws or the right solution. All I am concerned about right now is let us find the solution, let us agree on those solutions and let us hold those who are responsible for implementing those solutions accountable.

“Once we have agreed on the solution, then I will be able to say yes, with those solution then, we are going to get out. Like I said, we have a serious financial deficit in our budget, we are banking on external borrowing, almost $3 billion but I don’t think one dollar has come in. So, if one dollar has not come in how are you going to finance the budget? When you start giving a time-frame, I don’t think we are being sincere. It is as we implement the solutions that we can now say this is the possible time frame. But for now the solutions in my own view have not been put in place.

“And one of those indices is what I called confidence; there is a lack of confidence, whether you want to accept it or not.  People are not investing in our economy and with that we are going to have challenges. We believe these are the areas we as senate will be focusing on, to have a robust debate. We are going to bring in people who are resourceful to come and tell us the way out.

“What we all need to understand is that this recession is not only an APC problem or a PDP problem. This recession does not identify with any one party. Hence, we need to tap into the expertise of our best economic minds – wherever they are around the world – to come up with plans that both the executive and the legislature can evaluate and implement.

“Additionally, the senate intends to invite everybody involved in the management of the economy to address the Nigerian people through the parliament on the steps that are being taken to get us out of this mess. We fully intend to hold all those involved in the economic management of the country accountable – However, we will do so in a manner that is transparent and beneficial to the country as a whole.”

The Senate President said it was equally important to begin to formulate and actualise both legislative frameworks and executive policies to minimise the effects of the recession on everyday Nigerians, stating that it was also important for the parliament to start asking questions that will lead to plausible solutions.

“We need to ascertain our actual level of borrowing and what effect the devaluation of the Naira has had on our economy. Doing this will help us to understand where we are so that we can determine where exactly we want to go from here.

“In every crisis, there is always an opportunity for positive reforms, in this regard, in order to solve this crisis, all hands must be on deck. Ideas should be sourced from all quarters. All arms of government, people of different political beliefs, from all socio-economic backgrounds and every part of Nigeria must work together at this time,” he said.