8th Senate Valedictory: Saraki speaks as 8th Senate comes to a close

8th Senate Valedictory: Saraki finally speaks as 8th Senate comes to a close

Senate President Bukola Saraki has recounted his experience in the last 4 years in the Nigerian Senate.

In the valedictory session which held at the Upper Legislative Chamber on Thursday, the Senate president said the following.

As we come to the final plenary and the last few days of the 8th Senate, it is a victory in itself that we are seeing the journey to its momentous end.

That I am here today, is a victory for democracy. It is a testament to what people can do when they come together for the greater good.

It also turned out to be a showcase of the special relationship between this chamber and the House of Reps, as Honourable Members stood in unison with their Senate colleagues in defiance of the invaders.

I thank House of Reps for the remarkable unity of the two chambers of the National Assembly for it was only in unity that we could withstand the storm.

The pieces of legislation we passed in the crucial areas and areas affecting the daily lives of citizens – on the economy, in education, security, anti-corruption, health and so on – will remain a benchmark.

Working together, we clocked many firsts in the 8th Senate, and we should rightly be proud of these, especially as they are imperishable legacies we are leaving for the people.

Our many firsts include the National Assembly Joint Public Hearing on the Budget, which we started with the 2016 Appropriation Bill.

This way down the line, however, I realise that the day of that invasion was the saddest – but in many ways, it was also a good day for asserting the independence of the legislature and the triumph of democracy.

When I think of the many trials and tribulations we have faced as an institution, and my own personal travails particularly at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, I am humbled.

Today, I honour the memory of Senators Ali Wakili (Bauchi South), Isiaka Adeleke (Osun West), and Bukar Mustapha (Katsina North). Colleagues with whom we started this journey but who sadly are not here with us today.

This is also one of those occasions when the Supreme Creator reminds us, once again, that power does not reside in any one person.

This way down the line, however, I realise that the day of that invasion was the saddest – but in many ways, it was also a good day for asserting the independence of the legislature and the triumph of democracy.

It also turned out to be a showcase of the special relationship between this chamber and the House of Reps, as Honourable Members stood in unison with their Senate colleagues in defiance of the invaders.

I thank House of Reps for the remarkable unity of the two chambers of National Assembly for it was only in unity that we could withstand the storm.

The pieces of legislation we passed in the crucial areas and areas affecting the daily lives of citizens – on the economy, in education, security, anti-corruption, health and so on – will remain a benchmark.

Working together, we clocked many firsts in the 8th Senate, and we should rightly be proud of these, especially as they are imperishable legacies we are leaving for the people.

Our many firsts include the National Assembly Joint Public Hearing on the Budget, which we started with the 2016 Appropriation Bill.

For the first time, there were meetings and interactions with members of the public. One such interaction was the Public Senate, which gave youths the opportunity to spend a day with me as President of the Senate.

It was during this Senate that we patented the concept of the Roundtable. This was groundbreaking. We left the centre of power in Abuja to tackle pressing social issues at the very heart of the communities most affected.

Notable among these were the Senate Roundtable on the Drug Use Crisis held in Kano in December 2017, and the one on Migration and Human Trafficking held in Benin City in February 2018.

At both events, we not only dialogued for solutions with the relevant government agencies, international partners and community leaders – we heard from the victims themselves. In Kano, we heard the harrowing story of Zeinab, a recovering drug addict.

In Benin, we listened to the account of a young woman who was rebuilding her life after being trafficked to Russia for the sex trade; and we heard from Victory who had been being sold into slavery in Libya.

We let these people know that their voices count. Indeed the voice of every Nigerian count and the 8th Senate lent its ear to them. We were alive to our responsibility to those whom we serve, and we engaged with them on their own terms.

It should be a matter of pride to all 109 senators and to our offspring that, in this chamber, we put humanity first. I will always be proud of the humaneness of the 8th Senate.

Ours has been legislature with a human face, the personal touch, moved by the milk of human kindness. Whenever the situation demanded, we left the imposing edifice of the National Assembly to reach out to the person on the street.

We showed that parliament belongs to the people and that there should be no barrier between lawmakers and those they represent. #8thSenateValedictory

One of our major acts upon inauguration was the Senate visit in August 2015 to Maiduguri, Borno State – the first ever National Assembly delegation to see first-hand the living conditions of thousands displaced by the insurgency.

We visited IDP camps, spoke with the people, carried their babies, comforted them, letting them know that their well-being was a priority for the Senate. #8thSenateValedictory

Today, the North East Development Commission is a reality, and the people are being resettled into their normal lives. Borno was by no means our only spotlight on the conditions of our people in IDP camps.

We visited the Kuchingoro IDP Camp in Abuja during the holy month of Ramadan in 2017 and donated essential supplies to the inhabitants while assuring them of our commitment to getting them back on their feet.

A year later, we were at the Abagena IDP Camp in Benue State. Instead of bringing the children to Abuja for Children’s Day, we went to the children in Benue.

We gave assurances that we would build on work already done on the ground by the Senate Ad-Hoc Committee on Review of Security Infrastructure to bring an end to killings and restore peace in the state.

I remember the case of Linda Igwetu, the NYSC corps member killed by a SARS operative here in Abuja. On behalf of the Senate, I placed a call to her sister to offer our condolences and to speak to the need for justice in the matter.

When Miss Hilda Eva Amadi tragically died at an NYSC Orientation Camp in Ilorin, Kwara State, we as the Senate were there to condole with those grieving her loss.

We made donations towards the renovation of facilities at the camp and for topping up the medicine supply, to ensure the health and well-being of corps members there.

Through meetings with the Minister of Health, the Minister of Labour and Employment together with leaders of the Joint Health Sector Unions, we were able to bring an end to the biting six-week long JOHESU strike.

A Senate resolution was the critical factor in ending the two-year impasse at LAUTECH, which had kept the 34,000-strong student body in limbo, due to the closure of the institution.

We promised transparency in the National Assembly Budget and kept our word, subjecting NASS Budget to public scrutiny for the first time since Nigeria’s return to democracy.

We engaged with midwives led by my wife Toyin Saraki in her capacity as a Global Ambassador to the International Confederation of Midwives and listened to their concerns about high infant and maternal mortality rates in Nigeria.

We promised to review relevant laws and pass new ones to make for better conditions of service for nurses and midwives, as one way of bringing about an improvement in mortality rates, in particular, and the health sector as a whole.

We kept that promise, too, and one notable outcome was the setting aside of one per cent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) for the Basic Health Care Provision Fund.

I must not forget to pay tribute to my predecessor, the Distinguished Senator David Mark, for his quiet dignity and a fine example to us all in this chamber. I will be forever grateful for your support and wisdom.

The 8th Senate has been there for Nigerians of every social class and in every field of endeavour. It gives me a sense of fulfilment to know that we did something worthwhile in this venerated space.

My advice to whoever succeeds me is therefore along the same vein: be there for the people. Act in the interest of the average Nigerian, keep the legislature always at the behest of the citizens, let it be a people’s parliament.

Whoever succeeds me, that person will still be a product of the 8th Senate. We did it together. Let there be continuity.

And as we say all the things we have done, we must also be reflective and candid enough to acknowledge the things we didn’t do. I hope that the 9th Senate will improve on our performance and deliver on those areas that we were not quite able to touch.

At this juncture, I must express my gratitude to the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu. History will be kind to you and Providence will shine upon you.

I thank Senate Majority Leader Ahmed Lawan; you have made your mark here and the record reflects it. I also thank former Majority Leader Ali Ndume; you also made your mark.

Between the former Majority Leader and the current one, it is clear that one of you will be President of the Senate. Whoever emerges, I wish you the very best of luck.

This I know: whatever the capacity, we should always do our best to serve the interest of the people. We should also have it in the back of our minds that power is transient.

I am thankful for the strong and purposeful Senate leadership that has steered us through and guided this chamber for high performance and stability.

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