By Oluseyi Olubanjo
The hope of the good people of Ekiti State got rekindled for an anticipated facelift in the State’s health sector on Wednesday, 24th February, 2021 when, on the floor of the hallowed red chamber, Sen. Michael Opeyemi Bamidele representing Ekiti Central Senatorial District, presented a Bill for an Act to provide for the establishment of the Federal University of Medical and Environmental Sciences, first of its kind in the annals of medical education in Nigeria. The novel health institution is envisioned to be domiciled in Bamidele’s home town, Iyin-Ekiti in Ekiti State, Southwest Nigeria.
The announcement of the Bill during its First Reading at the Senate’s plenary was greeted with applause from well-meaning Nigerians given its timeous arrival, especially at a time when the parlous state of our nation’s health sector has just been exposed by the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic which bedeviled and ravaged the entire world since about twelve months now. Aside the pathetic dearth of modern health care facilities and lack of adequate funding, one perennial problem facing the Nigeria’s health sector is the paucity of adequately trained and well-motivated medical personnel. Unfortunately, this puzzle has lingered over the years with little or no attention from the Federal Government.
Official Statistics on yearly basis shows Nigeria, Africa’s largest country is in dire need of medical doctors to meet the health needs of its citizens. It has been reported that only one doctor is available to cater for every 4, 845 Nigerians. According to the report of a research conducted by Premium Times in December, 2017, Nigeria had 42,845 registered doctors, dentists and alternative medicine practitioners working in the country. Of this number, 39, 912 were medical doctors while registered dental practitioners stood at 2, 901. Invariably, Nigeria’s ratio of doctors to population is about eight times below the World Health Organization (WHO)’s recommendation of one doctor to 600 patients. Worse still, the data supplied to Premium Times by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) did not include the number of doctors and dentists who have left Nigeria to work abroad since 2017.
Owing to non-adequate workforce, Nigeria’s health professionals are over-worked. A doctor is supposed to see a maximum of 20 patients a day but they are seeing about 150 on daily basis. Certainly, by the time such medical personnel gets to 50 years in age, he is already exhausted. Even a nurse that is supposed to see about four patients has to take care of 50 patients in a ward, certainly, he/she will get tired. Going by this disturbing trend, Nigeria might find it difficult achieving its Universal Healthcare Coverage goals. WHO identified critical shortage, inadequate skill mix and uneven geographical distribution of the health workforce as posing major barriers to achieving the health related Millennium Development Goals (now Sustainable Development Goals). Also, only five of the 49 countries categorized as low-income economies by the World Bank meet the minimum threshold of 23 doctors, nurses and midwives per 10,000 populations that was established by WHO as necessary to deliver essential maternal and child health services. Nigeria though no longer termed low-income country drastically falls short of these recommendations.
The availability of medical manpower is also skewed as many health workers do not work in the rural areas where their attentions are needed. Nigeria has been struggling to provide skilled care at birth to many pregnant women as well as emergency and specialized services for newborns and young children. This has direct consequence on the number of deaths of women and children. Currently, Nigeria ranks one of the countries with the highest maternal and child mortality rate. Some pregnancy-related services can be delivered by mid-level health workers, but they do not count for an effective workforce. These should consist of a carefully planned balance of professionals, paraprofessionals and community workers. The shortage of these impedes access by women and children to lifesaving interventions and services.
Medical education in Nigeria faces numerous challenges and problems such as lack of a coherent admission policy, inadequate funding, poor planning and erosion of values have led to a general perception of low standards and quality. The Universities have been the mainstay of medical education in Nigeria. The government policies on medical education are translated into reality through the universities and regulatory bodies. The first official attempt at offering medical education in Nigeria began in 1927 when the government set up an institution for training medical personnel to diploma level. However, this program was abolished as the available facilities and teachers were inadequate to attain acceptable international standard. This failed attempt was followed by the establishment of the University College Hospital, Ibadan in 1948 as a college branch of the University of London, to offer standard medical education/training for medical personnel. Since then four generations of medical schools have evolved. The Medical and Dental council of Nigeria (MDCN) remains the main regulatory body for medical and dental practices in Nigeria. The MDCN was established by the Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Act of 28 June 1988 (M8 LFN 2004) to replace the Nigerian Medical Council established by the Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Act of 18 December 1963.
According to MDCN, there are thirty-one (31) fully accredited and six (6) partially accredited medical school in Nigeria. Nine (9) of the thirty-one (31) fully accredited Nigerian medical schools have dental schools of which seven (7) are fully accredited and two (2) have partial accreditation. Minimum requirements have been set out by the MDCN in terms of student intake, minimum physical facilities, learning resources, administrative facilities and teaching staff requirements. Though Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa with four generations of medical schools, much has not changed in the blue print of her medical education curriculum since the inception of the first medical school in 1948. These have remained more-or-less the same over the years as can be seen from the handbooks of most medical schools. Of course, there have been modifications here and there, but the objectives have remained practically the same. The greatest modification followed the emphasis on primary health care as recommended at Alma Ata stressing the importance of primary health care as the cornerstone of training.
Of great concern is the debate that graduates from medical colleges in Nigeria trained under the present curriculum may lack necessary skill and aptitudes required for success in the changing practice environment of the 21st century. In response, the Federal ministry of health in conjunction with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) and the National University Commission (NUC) had on several occasions set up committees in an attempt to review the medical and dental education curriculum in the country. This however, has not yielded any favourable results. The failure of these committees/meetings therefore necessitate a new approach in improving the quality of medical education in Nigeria. This underscores the urgent critical need to establish specialized medical universities by Federal and State Governments across the country as it has become more imperative to create more access to higher health and medical studies.
According to Sen. Bamidele in his lead debate of the Bill for the establishment of the Federal University of Medical and Environmental Sciences, the proposed university is envisioned to preoccupy itself with the development and offering of academic and professional programs leading to the award of Diplomas, First Degrees, Postgraduate research and higher degrees with emphasis on planning, adaptive, technical, maintenance, developmental and productive skills in the field of Medicine, Biomedical engineering, scientific and allied professional disciplines relating to health resources with the aim of producing socially matured persons with capacity not only to understand, use and adapt existing technologies in the health industry, but also to improve on those disciplines and develop new ones, and to contribute to the scientific transformation of medical and other health practices in Nigeria.
Furthermore, the lead debate recognizes the fact that the nation’s health sector has a very high potential and requires high level medical, scientific and administrative skills to drive it. To this end, the Federal University of Medical and Health Sciences, when established, would be a modern institution that would develop world-class medical personnel that can sustainably manage our nation’s health sector by providing medical expertise at the highest level. The university is therefore aimed at further advancing knowledge through research and the nurturing of unique innovations, entrepreneurship and wealth management in its core area of interest. In the entire nation, only two universities are in this category: the Ondo State University of Medical and Health Sciences, Ondo, Ondo State and Eko University of Medical Sciences, Ijanikin, Lagos State. However, while the former (as the name implies) was established by a State Government, the latter is a privately owned university. Both of them cannot compare with the infrastructural capacity and service delivery that is expected of a federally owned specialized university of medical sciences. The University College Hospital (UCH) is the largest health institution in the country with over 10 wards but its infrastructural capacity and professional manpower delivery is now far below the threshold of global standards. It is self-evident that Federal Medical Centers, State-owned General Hospitals and Medical Teaching Hospitals in the Southwest geo-political zone such as OAUTH, LUTH, OOUTH, LASUTH, LAUTH and EKSUTH are overstretched given the lack of adequate funding, scarcity of 21st century medical facilities as well as the paucity of well-motivated workforce.
Against this background, the establishment, by the Federal Government, of a specialized tertiary institution mainly for research, teaching and impartation of medical and environmental sciences in each of the six geo-political zones in Nigeria would be adjudged to be in the overall best interest of the Nigerian masses, whose precarious living conditions, make them not to be able to afford the luxury of medical tourism in foreign enclaves.
The host community for the proposed medical and environmental university is Iyin-Ekiti, a town in Ekiti State, Southwest Nigeria. It is very close to Ado-Ekiti, the State capital. The town was established between 1951 and 1954, when the Uyin people of the villages of Araromi, Okesale, Oketoro and Okelawe moved to the site, then sparsely occupied. Iyin presently has eight primary and three post primary Schools, a modern police station and barracks, a general post office, a local government maternity center and a general hospital. The town also has a commercial bank and one micro-finance bank. However, Iyin-Ekiti is in dire need of federal presence inspite of several illustrious patriots who hailed from the town and have contributed immensely to national growth and development such as the likes of Late General Adeyinka Adebayo (former Military Governor of the defunct Western Region), Late Oba John Ademola Ajakaiye (former Chief Judge of Ekiti State), His Excellency, Otunba Niyi Adebayo (first Executive Governor of Ekiti State and current Minister of Trade and Investment), Mr. Babatunde Omotoba (former Minister of Aviation), Major General Bamidele Olawunmi (former NYSC Director General), Dr. Eniola Ajayi (Nigerian Ambassador to Hungary) as well as Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele himself. Moreso, the centrality of the town within Ekiti State and its easy accessibility readily makes it a suitable location for the university project under consideration.
Fortunately, in demonstration of its preparedness to host the world-class health institution, Ekiti State Government with the support and understanding of the good people of Iyin-Ekiti and other critical stakeholders, had earmarked a vast land of about 1000 hectares for a befitting edifice that could compare with other cutting edge tertiary health institutions in its category. Equally, notwithstanding the fact that the facility is primarily aimed at leveraging a great improvement in the access to quality health care system by the people of Ekiti and neighbouring States, it harbours a huge potential for employment generation to Ekiti graduates and young school leavers, thereby leveraging the local economy and complementing the efforts of the State Government in the area of job creation, career advancement and youth development.
On Thursday, 24th June, 2021, the Senate Committee on Health held the public hearing on the bill, alongside other pressing bills of national importance. In the bid to further demonstrate their commitment to hosting the proposed ivory tower, the public hearing was attended by a powerful delegation from Iyin-Ekiti led by the Oluyin of Iyin-Ekiti, HRM, Oba Adeola Adeniyi Ajakaiye. Other members of the delegation were Pastor Akinjide Akinleye, the Permanent Secretary of Ekiti State Ministry of Health and fortunately, the Vice President of Iyin Progressives Federal Union, Prof. Adeyinka Adeyemi, first professor of architecture in Nigeria and former Vice Chancellor, Prof Owa Afolabi, a professor of Tourism and Hospitality Management, High Chief Simeon Ayodeji Esan, the Odofiyin of Iyin-Ekiti, other prominent chiefs as well as a host of women and youth leaders from the town. During his presentation at the hearing, the spokesperson for Iyin community, Pastor Akinjide Akinleye stressed that Iyin community is fully prepared to assist extensively in the take-off of the university through the provision and location of good accommodation for the staff and students, the existence of a conducive learning environment capable of stimulating learning, the presence of a divisional police headquarter and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) post to adequate security and safety for the personnel, suitable physical assets such as a good road network, constant electricity supply which was linked to the national grid since 1967, the presence of banking facilities, a sprawling hotel and hospilaty business environment and a good public library to promote reading culture aside the proximity of the town to Ado-Ekiti, the state capital and Igede-Ekiti where the headquarters of Irepodun/Ifelodun local Government council is located.
To further press home their eminent and laudable request for the citing of the university in Iyin-Ekiti community, His Excellency, Otunba Niyi Adebayo in company of the Oluyin of Iyin-Ekiti and Sen. Michael Opeyemi Bamkidele, paid a courtesy visit to the office of the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo at the presidential villa in Abuja on Wednesday, 23rd June, 2021, with a view to courting his understanding and support towards ensuring that the proposed university becomes a reality.
In conclusion, the Nigerian health care system, like in some other developing countries, is bedeviled with poor health indices and poor service delivery to majority of the population. The Nigerian public health system is characterized by grossly ill-equipped facilities ‘as well as inadequate and poorly-motivated personnel. These problems are linked to poor management of resources across levels of health care in the country. Over the years, medical practice in Nigeria has evolved in scope and practice, as there is now a changing perception of the role of doctors from being solely a healthcare provider to that of an all-round professional with administrative and managerial responsibilities. Contemporary doctors may have to take up responsibilities that include but are not limited to clinical, teaching, research, leadership, and managerial roles in the line of duty. The ability to perfectly blend these roles is the foremost attribute of a first-rate doctor, and this is a crucial asset when viewed against the backdrop of scarce human resource for health required for quality healthcare delivery. It is believed that the establishment, proper funding and adequate equipment of specialized universities of medical and health sciences would help tremendously in filling these yawning gaps in the medical profession and invariably translate to a drastic transformation of our nation’s health sector. Thanks to the critical thinking of Sen. Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, a pro-active, development-oriented and visionary Federal lawmaker who saw the urgent critical need for a health institution of that nature and went ahead to initiate a bill for such novel citadel of learning. Even though he is a seasoned lawyer and not a medical practitioner, his timeous intervention in this regard speaks volume of the quality of his representation and leadership capacity. One can only encourage lawmakers like him to keep the flag flying in the overriding interest of Nigerian people.
*Oluseyi Olubanjo is the Special Assistant on Public Affairs, Research and Documentation to Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, National Assembly, Abuja.
Chronicling Deputy Senate President Barau’s 100 days of parliamentary excellence
By Ismail Mudashir
Tomorrow, Wednesday, September 20, 2023, the 10th Senate will mark its first 100 days following its inauguration on June 13, this year.
The inauguration of the parliament followed President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s proclamation, via a letter to the Clerk to the National Assembly, Sani Magaji Tambawal, in line with Section 64(3) of the 1999 Constitution.
The first duty of the senators was the election of the presiding officers – the President of the Senate and the Deputy Senate President. After a keen contest, Senator Godswill Akpabio, from Akwa Ibom State, emerged as the President of the Senate, defeating Senator Abdulaziz Yari, a former governor of Zamfara State.
Apparently, because of his rare personality traits, Senator Barau I. Jibrin, a fourth timer at the National Assembly (three times in the Senate – 2015 to date and once in the House of Representatives – 1999 -2003) emerged as the Deputy President of the Senate unopposed as all his colleagues threw their weight behind him.
Three weeks after the emergence of the two presiding officers, eight principal officers were named, thus the leadership of the 10th Senate was duly constituted. With the constitution of the leadership, the lawmakers got the parliamentary work started as urged by the President of the Senate, Senator Akpabio, in his speech on July 4, 2023, titled, “Let’s get the work started.”
On July 6, Senator Barau, for the first time, presided over the plenary session. During the session, five motions were moved including the one on Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano.
After the July 6 session which attracted applause from across the Red Chamber and beyond, Senator Barau had presided over the plenary on other occasions in the absence of the President of the Senate in the last 100 days.
Among the critical motions sponsored by the Deputy President of the Senate during the period under review was the one on the poor state of road infrastructure and the menace of gully erosion in the country. Also to his credit was a motion on the emergence of President Tinubu as the Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Four bills of the Deputy President of the Senate, including the one on the creation of a development commission to fast-track the development of the country, have been introduced at the Red Chamber.
* Balanced appointments
Recognizing the heterogeneous nature of the country, the Deputy Senate President selected his seven key appointees from across the country – four were drawn from Kano State – two from the southern part of the country – Oyo and Imo states, and one from Kwara State – North Central geopolitical zone.
The appointees who hail from Kano State include the Chief of Staff, Professor Muhammad Ibn Abdullahi; the Special Adviser (Policy & Monitoring), Professor Bashir Muhammad Fagge; the Special Adviser (Political), Yusuf Aliyu Tumfafi and the Special Assistant (Media & Publicity), Shitu Madaki Kunchi.
The Special Adviser (Media & Publicity), Ismail Mudashir, hails from Kwara State; the Special Adviser (Special Duties), Idris Abiola Ajimobi, Oyo State; and the Special Adviser (Administration), Mrs. Ngozi Ndawi Nkemdirim, from Imo State.
Commendations have followed what has been described by lawmakers, media practitioners, civil society organisations, and other stakeholders in the country as balanced appointments.
* Constituents driven representation
For Senator Barau, his representation has been constituents and pro-masses driven. Hence the unfettered access he grants to people from Kano North, Kano State, and beyond; the old, young, rich, and poor; APC members and members of other parties.
For instance, in August, he instituted a scholarship programme through which hundreds of tertiary institution students from Kano North Senatorial District were given N50,000 each. The programme was flagged off at Bayero University Kano (BUK).
Before the scholarship scheme, the Deputy President of the Senate had paid WAEC and NECO fees for hundreds of secondary school students.
To boost agriculture in the state, Senator Barau also distributed fertiliser to farmers across the 44 local government areas of the state.
According to beneficiaries, this initiative would enhance their output and contribute towards attaining food security in the state and country.
On September 6, the people of Rimindako community in Bagwai LGA of Kano State, through a human rights activist, Barrister Muhammad Zubair, lauded the Deputy President of the Senate over the construction of Yasanya bridge and access road in their community.
· Visits Abuja Industrial Park
On the invitation of the Zeberced Group, the Deputy President of the Senate was at the Abuja Industrial Park located in the Idu Industrial District on September 4. Sitting on 245 hectares of land, the park will house 200 factories, a helipad, a train station, a lorry park, a bank, a recycling station and a power plant, among others when completed.
The park is an initiative of the Zeberced Group, jointly founded by Adil Aydin Kurt and Cemal Kurt from Turkey. The company’s Managing Director, Aidl Aydin Kurt, conducted Senator Barau around the project. Kurt told his visitor that the project when completed will provide 40,000 direct jobs to Nigerians.
Moved by the 40,000 jobs to be created , Senator Barau said the parliament would provide the necessary legislative support to the company, saying the project was in line with the commitment of the federal government to address unemployment, boost and diversify the country’s economy.
* Keeping parliament alive during recess
Even with the annual recess embarked upon by the parliament on August 7, the office of the Deputy President of the Senate has been active, five days a week (Mondays – Fridays), with Senator Barau performing official engagements. During the period, he met with ministers, heads of agencies, civil society/pressure groups including the promoters of Tiga and Gari states, clerics, and party leaders, among others.
During their visit, stakeholders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kano North Senatorial District, led by Hon. Sani Mukaddas, hailed Senator Barau, describing him as an exceptional lawmaker and leader.
In the same vein, a forum of former zonal women leaders of the APC has thumped up Senator Barau, saying he is not discriminatory in his dealings with all.
“Continue to support us, we won’t disappoint you, Insha Allah,’’ were the words of the Deputy President of the Senate to those who visited him. He also assured them of the commitment of the parliament to support the executive with the necessary legislation to address the challenges facing the nation.
Mudashir is the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Deputy President of the Senate
Ahmad Lawan: The Doyen of Nigerian Parliament @64
By Ola Awoniyi
Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, the Distinguished Senator representing Yobe North Senatorial District of Yobe State, turns 64 on 12th January, 2023. Within those almost six and a half decades, he has seen it all, especially in public service. In just about five months from now, he will conclude his tenure as the 14th President of the Nigerian Senate and sixth consecutive session in the National Assembly.
Lawan has been around for so long in Abuja that it is easy to assume he was never elsewhere. Yet, his earliest work experience was in the academia, and it lasted long enough for him to bag a Doctorate degree in Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS) before yielding to the pull of partisan politics in 1998.
In that calling, Lawan has clearly made his mark. And not just because he attained the dizzying height of third in the order of succession. People see politics as a dirty game. But Ahmad Lawan does not see it that way. For him, politics should not change the core beliefs and principles of an individual. Service to the people should be the driving objective of partisan political practice. And whether in politics or elsewhere, Lawan believes one’s yes must mean yes.
This has, in no small measure, paid off for Lawan in his almost 25 years in politics, 24 of which has been as a federal lawmaker. A member of the pioneer class of the National Assembly of the Fourth Republic, he was first elected in 1999 to the House of Representatives from the Bade/Jakusko Federal Constituency of Yobe State. He was re-elected to the House in 2003. But in 2007, Lawan crossed over from the Green Chamber to the Red Chamber as the Senator for the Yobe North District. He was re-elected to that Senate seat in 2011, 2015 and 2019.
If you know what it takes to win elections in Nigeria, you would appreciate that what multiple winners like Lawan have accomplished is no small feat. His numerous reelections underscore that his constituents appreciate the quality of representation that he has been providing to them in Yobe North District.
The life of a politician is not all gloss as it may sometimes seem. Election is not a tea party. A parliamentarian in particular needs very hard work to get a return ticket from the party. In Parliament, getting the support of colleagues for motions and bills requires deep knowledge and passion for the subject; focus and temperament. It is actually an extra burden if you are a Presiding Officer in parliament. Success or failure at every stage has its implications.
No wonder, Mallam Nasir El Rufai, the outspoken Governor of Kaduna State, at a recent public function in Abuja, said he has no intention of seeking a seat in the National Assembly like many former governors now do.
Speaking as chairman at the second edition of the “Distinguished Parliamentarian Lecture” organised by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies(NILDS): the governor said:
“The Legislature is one branch of government I know I can never function. The hardwork needed to convince people to support even your motion is something some of us have no patience for. You know management in the Executive is very straightforward. It is very hierarchical and once you are a governor, your word is almost law. But in the Legislature, everybody is equal and there is no management that is more difficult than managing your equals. I don’t envy Mr Speaker and the Senate President at all because their job perhaps is the hardest job in this country. Managing equals is difficult.”
Despite the difficulties, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan has shone at the National Assembly since its inauguration in 1999. Lawan is today one of only two lawmakers remaining in the National Assembly from the 1999 set. He has also attained the most enviable of heights in his many years of service at Parliament, becoming “first among equals” in the Upper Chamber, which is the very pinnacle of the hierarchy in the parliament of any democratic society. That makes him the Doyen of the Nigerian Parliament.
In his three and a half years as the 14th President of the Senate and Chairman of the ninth National Assembly, he has set a high standard for whoever will be his successors. He has demonstrated the value of parliamentary experience as a prerequisite for election as a presiding officer for the Upper Chamber.
His experience of more than two decades in parliament has made him an encyclopedia on the inner workings of the National Assembly. Lawan has the standing rules at the tip of his fingers. When any of his colleagues raises a Point of Order, he would ask the colleague to specify which order. But before the text is read out, Lawan already knows the provision and its applicability.
As “first among equals,” Lawan knows the importance of fairness in the conduct of the affairs in plenary. Even though the majority will always have its way, the minority must have its say as well.
Lawan knows the value of a bipartisan Legislature. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the job of a Presiding Officer is to know when to hit the gavel and when not to. As one of Lawan’s aides, I heard him say, many at times, that he had no choice but to hit the gavel or rule in favour of a majority voice vote even when he held a different view to the voice vote. That is democracy.
Lawan also knows the value of promoting harmony between the Legislature and other arms of government, particularly the Executive, without compromising the independence of the Legislature.
Lawan has seen it all in Parliament. From my vintage point of observation, I quickly realized that he did not become the 14th President of the Senate and Chairman of the Ninth National Assembly by happenstance. It was the result of long years of self-preparedness, self-discipline, consistency, perseverance and tenacity of purpose.
Those attributes are essential for success in any endeavour and Lawan obviously learned that very early. And wherever he goes next, they will accompany him and pave the way for more success.
As I wish the Sardaunan Bade a happy 64th birthday, I also wish him more success in his future endeavours.
***Awoniyi is Special Adviser on Media to Senate President
Predictable Budget Cycle: A great Legacy of Ninth N’Assembly
Shortly after his emergence in 2019 as the 14th President of the Senate and Chairman of the Ninth National Assembly, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan promised to ensure the 2020 Appropriation Bill was passed and signed into law by the President before the end of that year. That promise would have sounded outlandish in many ears and many would have dismissed it outright as a flight of fancy induced by Lawan’s euphoria of electoral victory.
Going by precedent under the Fourth Republic, there were valid reasons for such scepticism.
By 2019, it had become normal for the Appropriation Bill to come into law not earlier than the first quarter or even in the middle of the budget year. This was in spite of the apparent injury the delay was delivering to government’s annual spending plans and the economy.
How to reset the budget cycle or financial year to run from January to December as was the case in distant past had confounded and beaten the previous National Assemblies. But that was not for lack of efforts on this part of the federal lawmakers. Session after session, they visibly worked to instal a steady, reliable and predictable January to December budget cycle. That just didn’t happen, for many reasons.
However, with great determination, strategic thinking and multipartisan cooperation in the Chambers, under a new milieu of effective collaboration amongst the Arm of Government, the Ninth National Assembly achieved the feat on first attempt in December 2019!
The impacts of timeous passage of Appropriation Bills on budgetary performance, governance and the general economy have been severally articulated by economic experts.
Even at the best of times, the Nigerian economy has needed every positive effort it can get for revamping it. The COVID-19 pandemic, the Russia/Ukraine war and sundry local challenges make such efforts even more imperative now. Imagine, some of the advanced economies are already reeling in or tottering at the edge of recession.
Of course the Nigerian economy too slid into recession twice in recent past. But on each occasion, it quickly pulled out. The quick recovery was significantly enhanced by the effective collaboration and proactive interventions of the NationalAssembly.
It is on record that the performance of the budget has improved under the new stable cycle to such extent that the performance numbers are now almost hundred percent.
This is one of the achievements for which the Ninth Assembly has not been granted the deserved credit.
Instead, the doubting Thomases and mocking birds did not immediately stop laughing. Even while some acknowledged the feat, they doubted it could be sustained.
However, it has. In 2020 and 2021. And now again, the Appropriation Bill 2023 was passed by the Assembly on 28th December, 2022.
According to the Senate President, it would have been passed even earlier, before the lawmakers went on Christmas recess, but for some problems that emanated from the Executive in the process of preparing the Appropriation Bill. Those problems, later resolved through collaborative efforts, delayed but did not frustrate timeous passage of the Bill.
Therefore, President Muhammadu Buhari signing the Appropriation Bill 2023 into law on Tuesday 3rd January, 2023, which was the first work day in 2023, is historic. Not just for the National Assembly but for the country at large.
Yet, it is particularly historic for the Ninth Assembly because that is its last Appropriation Bill as its tenure ends in June this year.
It is noteworthy that the virus of late passage of Appropriation Bills year in year out had infected even state Houses of Assembly. But with the action of the Ninth Assembly setting good example at the national level, the trickle down effect has encouraged a turn around in the process in the states too. Many state governments have embraced this new culture at the national level and those that were not doing well before in that regard have taken the new cue from Abuja.We have seeing virtually all state Governors signing Appropriation Bills before the end of the year.
There is yet another innovation that has been entrenched in the country’s financial system by the Ninth Assembly. This has to do with the practice of approving the Finance Bill side by side the Appropriation Bill. The Finance Act provides the support base for an effective implementation of the Appropriation Act through some major reforms in fiscal policies of the government.
For instance, the 2022 Finance Act, which was passed same day shortly before the 2023 Appropriation Bill was passed, is to facilitate amendment to some fiscal laws as the Capital Gains Tax, Company Income Tax, Customs Excise Act, Federal Inland Revenue Service Act, Personnel Income Tax and Stamp Duty Act.
The Ninth Assembly has made it a tradition to pass this piece of legislation alongside the Appropriation Bill and this is another legacy that the succeeding Assemblies must sustain. All these feats are made possible by the effective and efficient collaboration between the National Assembly and the Executive arm of government.
Also, through this cordiality, the Ninth National Assembly has accomplished all the items in its Legislative Agenda months ahead of the expiration of its tenure in June. It may also be difficult for some people to believe, but this Assembly has passed more Bills than any other before it. The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, noted recently at a public gathering that President Buhari has signed more Bills into law that were passed by this Assembly than any of his predecessors had done under any Assembly.
The tenure of the Ninth Assembly under Ahmad Lawan’s watch has less than six months to run out.
However, its legacy and work rate guide us to expect more accomplishments from it until its last day.
*Awoniyi is Media Adviser to Senate President
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