The Senate on Tuesday cued behind the stance taken by President Muhammadu Buhari that the unity of Nigeria is settled and is therefore non-negotiable.
The Red Chamber directed that all forms of agitations in the country should be conducted within the dictates of the constitution.
Resuming plenary yesterday after its recess, this was the first time the Senate took a position on the violent campaign by the indigenous people of biafra (IPOB) for the sovereign state of biafra.
The lawmakers also threw their weight of support behind the proscription of IPOB by the federal government, saying it is constitutional.
Rising from a closed door session, Senate President Bukola Saraki disclosed that the upper chamber agreed that the territorial integrity of the country must be protected.
Saraki said the Senate resolved three issues, including Nigeria’s unity, which he said is not negotiable, adding that the lawmakers are all committed to the territorial integrity of the country.
“The Senate will use all possible measures to make sure that peace is restored to all parts of Nigeria. The Senate hereby advise that all groups who seem to be pursuing any agitation should do so within constitutional means’’, he said.
Briefing the press after the session, chairman, Senate committee on media and public affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, said Senate took the resolutions in view of all manner of agitations in the land and the need for the agitators to carry out their actions within the provisions of the cation’s constitution.
He said, “At the executive session, the Senate made an holistic view of prevailing situations in the land as regards secessionist agitation of the now proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the one on restructuring by some Nigerians across the country and security issues generally and came up with those resolutions in line with provisions of the 1999 constitutions (as amended).
“We did this because as Senators of the federal republic of Nigeria, we all swore to protect, defend and uphold the provisions of the constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria. So, anybody or group coming up with any form of agitations to us must route it within the confines of the law”.
The Senate president also toed the same line in his welcome address to the Senators from the long recess by admonishing agitators in the land to operate within the confines of the law.
He said, “Distinguished colleagues, a house divided against itself will not stand. More than ever before, we need to stand for the unity and indivisibility of our country. We must condemn in the strongest possible terms all forms of violence as a form of engagement.
“The Constitution and laws have laid down tools and procedures for us to push through our interest as all democratic nations do. Our nation is blessed with exceptionally talented and beautiful people. We are collectively strong and indomitable and it is time for all of us to stand up for our nation. Our dream of a virile nation must keep us motivated and this dream is already at the horizon.”
Upon his return from his medical trip in London, President Buhari had in his broadcast to Nigerians on August 21, 2017 declared that Nigeria’s unity is not a subject of negotiation, insisting that it is a settled issue.
“Nigeria’s unity is settled and not negotiable. We shall not allow irresponsible elements to start trouble and when things get bad they run away and saddle others with the responsibility of bringing back order, if necessary with their blood”, he stated.
Following an ultimatum issued the Igbos by Arewa youths in Kaduna to leave the North before October 1, the Senate had earlier warned on June 9 this year that no stone would be left unturned in defending the unity of Nigeria.
Senate said it will take steps to curtail all threats to the continued existence of Nigeria as a united and peaceful country.
At a special mid-term session which had former presiding officers of the Senate and national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, Senators noted that it had become very important to take decisive actions to halt factors against Nigeria’s unity.
Saraki, while presiding over the session that lasted two hours, said the Senate must stand for a non-negotiable and united Nigeria, adding that unity and peace were key issues that must be guaranteed for any meaningful development to take place.
“We must stand clearly and act clearly to defend this country. The unity of this country is not negotiable”, Saraki said.
Many lawmakers who spoke also stressed the urgent need to pay attention to songs of disunity currently emerging in many parts of the country.
Former Senate minority leader, George Akume, particularly charged the Senate to stand firmly against the “drums and songs of war” being heard in parts of the country and make a strong statement against persons or groups beating drums of ethnic and religious hatred among the citizenry.
In his own remark, Senator Shehu Sani asked the Senate to address the question of injustice, which he said was the singular issue capable of tearing the country apart.
Sani noted that the country was facing threats of secession because of issues relating to injustice and unfairness, adding that most of the problems bedeviling the country had their roots from injustice.
Minority leader, Godswill Akpabio, noted that the stability of the Senate arose from the support and cooperation given by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Senators, who he said were not there to undertake destructive criticisms.
Akpabio said the minority caucus was fully aware that the failure of the APC-led government could affect the entire country, irrespective of party affiliation.
On his part, Senator George Sekibo noted that the Senate was being distracted from carrying out its responsibilities, saying cases of harassment of lawmakers by security agencies in the name of fighting corruption will not augur well for smooth legislative atmosphere.
Pointing to Oyegun, Sekibo declared that the APC must call the agencies to order so that things could work well.
…Warns Against Poor Implementation Of 2017 Budget
While it supported PMB’s stance on Nigeria’s unity, the Senate frowned at the poor funding of the 2017 budget by the executive arm of government, saying Nigeria may be forced back to recession.
This is just as the Senate summoned the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun and her Budget and National Planning counterpart, Udo Udoma, to urgently appear before it and proffer valid explanations on the failure to fund the implementation of the 2017 Appropriation Act.
To avert another recession, the lawmakers urged the fiscal and monetary authorities to come together and harmonize fiscal and monetary policies with a view to drastically reducing the high interest rate that has adversely affected borrowing for investment by the real sector of the economy.
This, the Senate said, can be better realised if the fiscal authorities drastically reduce the accumulation of domestic debt in order to free the market for better access by the private sector.
Senate said so far, only about ten per cent of the N7.4 trillion 2017 budget has been implemented even as the fiscal year has barely three months to end.
Senator Yahaya Abdullahi who sponsored a motion titled, ‘Stabilizing and Sustaining Post-recession Growth of the Economy”, said that the level of harmony between the fiscal and monetary policies of government was still very low.
He regretted that $9 billion had been spent by government so far for the purpose of stabilising the naira but the economic stability is yet to be achieved.
The Senate however, insisted that if the executive arm of government does not quickly ensure everything possible to effect proper implementation of the budget, the country will relapse into another recession.
“The Senate is urging the national economy managers to remain focused and ensure that the current weak growth of a mere 0.55% is built upon and increased substantially in the months and years to come”, he said.
Senator Biodun Olujumi who noted that, while Nigeria is only technically out of recession, its citizens still languishing in economic quagmire further expressed grief that barely three months to the end of the year, the 2017 budget has not recorded 10% implementation.
Querying why foreign reserves have grown from $25 billion to $34 billion but funding of the 2017 budget is still incapacitated, Senator Melaye suggested that the country must go back to the drawing board to engage massive production to ease the economy.