Valedictory Speech by Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, President of the Senate, at the Valedictory Session of the 9th Senate, Saturday, 10th June, 2023, National Assembly, Nigeria
Esteemed colleagues and distinguished guests,
Today, I address you with mixed emotions. On the one hand, there is a sense of accomplishment for all that we have achieved together and gratitude to God Almighty for the privilege of serving the people of Nigeria and being a part of this revered legislative body, the Senate of the Federal Republic. On the other hand, however, there is a tinge of sadness and nostalgia as I bid farewell to this cherished role and many of my colleagues.
We started this journey on 11th June, 2019 with 109 Senators, but over the course of four years, we lost an unprecedented number of members; Sen. Ignatius Longjan (representing Plateau South), Sen. Adebayo Osinowo (representing Lagos East), Sen. Rose Oko (representing Cross River North), Sen. Benjamin Uwajumogwu (representing Imo North). Despite their not being here today to celebrate our successes, we most fondly remember them and pray that God will grant them eternal rest. May we please stand and observe a minute’s silence in their memory and honour [pause]. May their souls and the souls of all the departed rest in peace. While remembering our colleagues that passed on, we also remember those that have answered the call to serve Nigeria in different capacities, especially Sen. Kashim Shettima Mustapha, GCON(representing Borno Central), now Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Sen. Uba Sani (representing Kaduna Central) and now Governor of Kaduna State, Sen. Hassan Nasiha (representing Zamfara Central), now Deputy Governor of Zamfara State, Sen. Akon Eyakenyi (representing Akwa Ibom South), now Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Sen. Abdullahi Adamu (representing Nasarawa West), now the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Sen. Abubakar Kyari (representing Borno North), now APC Deputy National Chairman (North). They were all vibrant Members of this Chamber who contributed to the success of the 9th Senate and are now contributing to Nigeria’s political development and stability.
Distinguished Colleagues, the 9th National Assembly was inaugurated four years ago at a time of heightened political tensions and threats to security, especially by Boko Haram, which perpetrated acts of abductions, suicide bombings of civilian targets and governmentinfrastructure in the northeast. This situation was further worsened by decades of communal conflict between nomadic herders and farmers in the north-central, militancy in the south-south and agitations for
devolution of powers and secession in the south-east and south-west. The economic outlook was equally grim, with predictions of slow Real GDP growth, depressed oil demand and its impact on Nigeria’s earnings and prospects for economic growth, huge infrastructure deficit, leakages and revenue losses, uncertainties among investors,
growing youth population and rising unemployment as well as high inflation rates among others. To further complicate things, we also inherited a legacy of antagonistic and sometimes hostile legislative-executive relations characterised by mutual distrust and suspicions. Some consequences of that strained relationship included delays in the passage of the budget, weak oversight by committees and noncompliance to legislative summons, among others.
In response to these challenges, we adopted the slogan, “a Senate that works for Nigerians” and a legislative agenda that defined our legislative priorities in the short, medium and long terms and specific actions towards meeting our overall objective of providing good representation for Nigerians. Our approach was evidence-based and drew from the study on citizens’ expectations of the 9th National Assembly. The broad philosophical outlook of the Agenda emphasised a holistic approach to economic, socio-political and governance reforms rather than piecemeal or haphazard interventions. Our visionfrom the start, therefore, was to lay a foundation for reforming the various aspects of our national life through purposeful law-making and oversight. In crafting laws, we emphasised legislations that address some of the fundamental issues that have impeded development and undermined social cohesion. As a body, we conducted ourselves ethically, as required of government officials and placed national interests above any personal or sectional considerations. As a result, the period between 2019 to 2023 has produced the most consequential legislative outputs of any Assembly since the return to democratic governance in 1999.
Distinguished colleagues permit me to reflect on some of our most significant accomplishments over the last four years. In lawmaking, the 9th Senate introduced and successfully passed critical legislation that could reform and promote the economy, improve transparency in government processes and enhance public confidence in the electoral process. As of June 10th 2023, over 1,129 Bills were presented on the floor of the Senate, and over 500 were successfully passed. The President assented to 131 Bills, the highest of any Assembly in Nigeria’s history. In the last few days, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR, has assented to two Bills passed by the 9th National Assembly, namely the “Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fifth Alteration) (No.37) Bill, 2023”, which extends the retirement age of high court judges, and others, from 65 to 70 years.
This was the first Bill to be signed by the President since taking the oath of office. Only yesterday, 9th June, 2023, he also assented to the Electricity Act 2023, which we had passed in July 2022. The new law replaces the Electricity and Power Sector Reform Act of 2005.Distinguished colleagues, beyond the impressive numbers, however, these laws cut across the eleven priority areas of our LegislativeAgenda. They lay the foundation for multi-sectoral reforms and revitalisation of the Nigerian state. For example, for the first time in decades, we enacted the Petroleum Industry Act to overhaul the oil and gas sector to better respond to the changing environment and foster stronger sector growth. We passed numerous legislations to stimulate the Nigerian economy and improve the ease of doing business. These include the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act 2020, Finance Act 2020, Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020, Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract (Amendment) Act 2019, and many others. To enhance accountability and promote good governance, we also enacted the Proceeds of Crime (Recovery and Management) Act 2022, Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act 2022, and Police Act 2020, among others. Critically too, we successfully enacted the Electoral Act 2022, which reformed our electoral process to enhance transparency and inspire greater voter confidence. The National Social Investment Programme Agency Act 2023 institutionalised and provides a legal framework for government programmes targeting the poor and vulnerable.
We passed 16 Constitutional Alteration Bills targeted at, among other things, providing for the Financial Independence of State Houses of Assembly and State Judiciary; decongesting the Exclusive LegislativeList by moving railway to the Concurrent Legislative List; authorising States to generate, transmit and distribute electricity in areas covered by the national grid; and making it mandatory for the President and Governors to submit the names of persons nominated as Ministers or Commissioners within 60 days of taking the Oath of Office for confirmation by the Senate or State House of Assembly. The 9th Assembly strengthened the budget process to reduce delays experienced in previous Assemblies and ensure speedy consideration and passage of the Appropriation law. In the past, delays in the budgetprocess led to poor budget implementation, especially the capital component. Working with the Executive, we returned Nigeria to the January-December budget cycle for the first time in 12 years. Additionally, measures were taken to ensure that the Appropriation Bill was prepared in line with the financial principles contained in the Finance Act. In 2023, we amended 11 legislations to reflect the provisions of the Finance Act.
You will agree with me that the legislations we have passed are critical and could potentially address the multitude of economic and social challenges facing Nigerians, improve social services (health and education), stimulate job creation, reduce poverty and ensure the security of lives and properties. As Members of the 9th Senate,we should be proud of our outputs and the fact that we broke several legislative jinxes by enacting laws that had stalled in theNational Assembly since 1999.
The 9th Senate recognised from the onset that security is a fundamental requirement for ensuring stability and development. In my inaugural speech at the inception of this Assembly, I pledged to work closely. with my colleagues in both the Senate and the House of Representatives and with the other arms of government to improve the security situation in the country. In the last four years, we have achieved a lot in this regard. We set up an ad hoc committee to engage with security agencies and produce a white paper on restructuring,reviewing and re-organising the security architecture. To curb the proliferation of illegal arms and weapons, we passed the Bill for the Establishment of a National Commission for Coordination and Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons. We passed other security-related laws, including the Police Act 2020, which introduced radical changes in the operations of the Nigerian Police force and how they relate to the citizenry, with a particular focus on effective policing, accountability and transparency, and protection of human rights and freedom. Working with partners, we also engaged in harmonising the legislative and institutional frameworks regulating all security agencies to reduce overlap and enhance greater collaboration. Only a few weeks ago, I commissioned the Legislative Centre for Security Analysis to monitor armed conflicts and other forms of crimes in the country to inform lawmaking and oversight. Working with the Executive, the 9th Assembly ensured the most significant funding towards re-tooling and re-equipping the armed forces. We also ensured improved transparency in security spending while engaging closely with the major security actors to determine their needs. It is gratifying to note that the sustained fight against terrorists, banditry and kidnapping has produced positive results.
I wish to express my deep gratitude to former President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, and you, my distinguished colleagues, for your patriotism and commitment to pushing through these fundamental reforms for the good of our country. This demonstrates that there is no limit to what we can achieve where there is political will. Our collective achievements also underscore and justify our decision to adopt a cordial but professional approach to executive-legislative relations focusing on constructive engagement rather than needless antagonism and conflict. While asserting the independence of thelegislature and the principle of the separation of powers, we cooperated in making laws and taking decisions that best protect the interest of all Nigerians. Indeed, as all of you here can attest to, in the absence of harmony and respect between the two arms of government, the legislature cannot effectively monitor the Executive to ensure appropriate checks and balances, and neither can it enact laws for theorder and good governance of Nigeria as constitutionally stipulated. A healthy and constructive relationship between the Executive and legislative arms promotes stability and continuity in governance. By working together these past four years, we have positively addressed pressing issues, resolved conflicts, and maintained political stability, which is crucial for economic growth, social development, and improved public trust in the government.
One of the legislature’s critical functions is to counterbalance the Executive’s powers, ensure value for money in government spending and promote transparency and accountability in using approved resources. Ultimately, through oversight, the legislature improves the efficiency and effectiveness of government operations and the quality of governance and public service delivery. Accordingly, the Agendaof the 9th Senate prioritised the enhancement and modernisation of legislative systems and processes, including the operations of committees, to improve the overall effectiveness of the Assembly in the conduct of oversight. Other priority areas included ensuring adherence to our legislative code of ethics, improved funding for committee activities, greater collaboration with legislative support institutions, particularly the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) and strengthening the human resource capacity of legislators, staff and aides.To strengthen legislative institutions, we ensured the completion and commissioning of the NILDS magnificent permanent complex and work on the permanent site of the National Assembly Service Commission and the National Assembly Library is nearing completion. Other innovations include the commissioning of the first ever Parliamentary Radio Station and the Legislative Centre for Security Analysis, also the first in Africa. These institutions and projects will contribute to enhancing legislative functions and deepening democracy in Nigeria.
In the last four years, the various oversight Committees of the 9th Senate conducted 371 visits to ministries, departments, agencies, and projects across the country. Through these visits, we ensured that government projects and programmes were implemented and administered efficiently, effectively, and consistently with legislative intent. We also conducted numerous investigative hearings to examine specific issues of public concern, including subsidy claims, power, crude oil theft, Production Sharing Contracts (PSA) and theoperations of MDAs such as NDDC, Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) and many more. These probes ensured that those who hold public offices are answerable to the legislature and the public. The 9th Senate also received 705 petitions (146 and 239 in the 1st and 2nd Sessions and 232 and 88 in the 4th Sessions), which have either beenresolved or are at various stages of consideration. Confirmation of certain categories of nominees for federal executive and judiciary positions is one of the oversight mechanisms employed by the legislatures to ensure the accountability of public officers to citizens. The power to confirm presidential appointees is aconstitutionally assigned power of the Senate in Sections 147(2), 171 (2c) and Section 154 of the 1999 Constitution as altered. The 9th Senate confirmed 241 appointments on the recommendations of the relevant Committees. Finally, in the discharge of our representative functions, the 9th Senate aggregated and amplified the problems faced by our constituents. 361 motions were moved in the 9th Senate, and 488 Resolutions were passed. Through these various motions and resolutions, we called the government’s attention to specific issues and sought their intervention.
We entertained and resolved thousands of petitions brought before us by Nigerians and enhanced engagement with civil society, media, development partners, etc. Through constituency and zonal intervention projects, Senators successfully attracted developmental projects to their constituencies, which, in some instances, were the only evidence of federal presence at the grassroots level.Parliaments around the world have traditionally suffered from negative stereotypes and poor public perception. A similar situation obtains in Nigeria, where the National Assembly has been acutely misunderstood and characterised negatively by popular narratives in the press and social media. As the people’s representatives, we took it upon ourselves to engage and sensitise the public on the roles and limitations of the legislature. We introduced the Distinguished Parliamentarians Lecture Series to interface with the public on crucial governance issues on a sustained basis. I had the honour of delivering the maiden lecture in 2021, during which I emphasised that while negative perceptions exist, they do not necessarily reflect the reality of the National Assembly.
Distinguished Colleagues, despite our successes, we have grappled with the public’s limited understanding of the legislature, leading to stereotypes about the National Assembly. Notwithstanding, we created various avenues to sensitise Nigerians on the roles and functions of the legislature and our activities. The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis affected the operations of the National Assembly. Nevertheless, we rose to the occasion by putting together economic measures to protect the most vulnerable of our citizens.
Esteemed colleagues, today, our stewardship in the 9th Senate comes to an end. As the cliché goes, all good things come to an end. We do not depart with regrets but rather with a sense of accomplishment and the knowledge that we made our modest contributions towards building a better and prosperous Nigeria. Our work in this 9th Senate provides a solid foundation and framework for succeeding Assemblies to build on and sustain the gains already made. Our experience has been documented in The Legacy Report of the 9th Senate. Copies will be distributed to all Senators and the general public for posterity.
I want to express my heartfelt appreciation to my constituents who elected me into the 9th Senate, my party, the All-Progressives Congress (APC) and my family for their unwavering support and encouragementthroughout this journey. I thank you, all my colleagues, for voting me to be the President of the Senate. It has been an honour and a privilege for me to serve as a member of this revered legislative body and to preside over its activities at a defining moment in our history. I have endeavoured to discharge the obligations of my Office and run the affairs of the Senate with the utmost sense of duty and responsibility. I hope I have justified your faith in electing me as your Leader. Your patriotism, hard work and dedication have restored my faith in the Nigerian project. In these years, there have been disagreements, debates and controversies, but we transcended partisan divides to work for the common good of our people. I am more convinced today than ever that despite its obvious imperfections, democracy, with thelegislature at its core, remains a beacon of hope and progress for Nigeria. However, as a human being, I might have inadvertently wronged some of our colleagues. For this, I seek your forgiveness.
I wish to conclude by congratulating H.E. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR, on his inauguration as President and Commander-in-Chief. As you take on this important responsibility, I pray Allah (SWT) will giveyou the strength and wisdom to chart a new course for Nigeria. I equally congratulate my brother and friend, Rt. Hon. FemiGbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives and incoming Chief-of-Staff to the President. It has been a pleasure workingalongside you, and I thank you for the friendship and productive working relationship. Congratulations also to Sen. Ibrahim Hassan Hadejia, who has been appointed Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, Office of the Vice President. I wish you both success in your new roles, and I am confident that you will work to strengthen executive-legislative relations for improved governance.
My special gratitude to the Deputy President of the Senate, Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege CFR, Principal Officers and all distinguished Senators for the support you have given me since my election. I also thank the people of Nigeria that we represent for voting and entrusting us to represent them in this hallowed Chamber. We do not take your confidence in us for granted and hope we have represented you well these past four years. I also wish to acknowledge the incredible dedication and hard work of the legislative bureaucracy under the leadership of the Clerk to theNational Assembly and all his predecessors. Equally worth mentioning are all the administrative personnel of the Assembly who keep the machinery of this institution running smoothly; their contributions are often unsung but indispensable. Our special gratitude to the Clerk Senate and all Chamber Staff for diligently providing support and assistance for legislative work in Chamber. I extend my special appreciation to the Director-General and Management of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies for their work in strengthening legislative capacity in Nigeria and compiling this report. Our work in the 9th Senate was significantly improved by input from civil society, development partners, especially the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) and the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), as well as other stakeholders. We appreciate yourcontribution to strengthening democracy in Nigeria and implore you to continue to act as catalysts for more inclusive and participatorydemocratic governance. We express our gratitude to the media, especially members of the Senate Press Corps, for your excellent coverage of all our activities.To those leaving the Senate, I wish you all success in your future endeavours and service to Nigeria, and to those that are returning, I challenge you to build on the foundation we have laid in the Tenth Senate.
As aptly remarked by Winston Churchill, “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”. I am proud to say that the 9th Senate has truly been “a Senate that worked for Nigerians”.
May God bless us and bless our dear country Nigeria.
Once again, I thank you all.
Sen. Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, PhD., GCON
President of the Senate