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Eighth Senate compassionate about Nigerians, says Ashafa

By Seyi Olumide
10 June 2016   |   3:44 am
The Eighth Senate, controlled by the APC is prepared to deliver on its promises to making laws that would turn around the lives of Nigerians for the better.
Mr. Gbenga Ashafa

Mr. Gbenga Ashafa

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Land Transport, Mr. Gbenga Ashafa, who represents Lagos East senatorial district on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC), spoke with SEYE OLUMIDE on the performance of President Muhammadu Buhari and the determination of the Eighth Senate to make people-oriented laws.

Lagos has always been blessed with good leaders

Expectations from the Eighth Senate

The Eighth Senate, controlled by the APC is prepared to deliver on its promises to making laws that would turn around the lives of Nigerians for the better. That is what we have been doing by working tirelessly to ensure that the legislative arm of the government works in collaboration with the executive arm for the benefit of the people.

In the last one-year, we have always been on our toes to ensure that we deliver even where it is necessary to engage the executive, for no other purpose but for the good of the people. I think this is a senate that Nigerians could trust to deliver.

On my part as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport, I am passionate about ensuring that we get our rail sector back on track. We must get the rail functioning and the only way to achieve this is by ensuring private sector investment and participation in the sector.

However, one of the main challenges that have stalled the rail sector is that of legislation. The Nigerian Railway Corporation Act was promulgated in 1955 and amended slightly in 1990 but we have created a new legislative framework and consequently, my committee has concluded work on a bill called the Nigerian Railway (repeal and re-enactment) Bill 2016, which seeks to separate the operator from the regulator. We have also recommended the bill to the Senate plenary.

We are working on the National Transport Commission Bill 2016, just as my committee is working seriously to help this government open up the rail sector so that it can become more commercially viable, my colleagues in other various committees are also working relentlessly to ensure that the economy is put back on the track despite the global economic challenges.

Implementation of the budget
My main concern is not about the timing or when the budget was passed, what is important now is the fact that new indices, which were hitherto not considered in passing of budget in the past, have come to play.

Many Nigerians have expressed concern over how the budget would be implemented under the present economic situation, but its performance would be largely due to our capacity to meet the crude oil demand and supply quota on the international market.

The activities of the Niger Delta Avengers have significantly reduced our capacity to produce and supply crude oil. I hope that we would be able to make enough money to fund the budget.

Aside this, I think the current leadership of the executive possesses the capacity to deliver on the targets that have been set for this year’s budget in such that it would surpass the performances of previous budgets.

I agreed there was a little delay from the executive in passing the budget to us, but I can assure Nigerians that with the zeal, determination and commitments to good governance that both arms of government have demonstrated so far things will begin to change for the better very soon. We are going to deliver the dividends of democracy through the implementation of our programs as a result of our renewed oversight function strategies. I am sure we have all learned our lessons from the hiccups that led to the delay and passage of the 2016 Budget.

I need to mention that for us to free ourselves as a nation from a monolithic economy and the total dependency on crude oil revenue alone, we must pursue vigorously the diversification agenda of President Muhammadu Burhari’s government in the area of sustainable agricultural development, exploration of our mineral resources and provision of infrastructure to support and encourage the rejuvenation of other sectors.

With all these in place, our unemployment rate would be drastically reduced within the shortest possible time.

Buhari ‘s administration
Honestly, it is too early to judge the performance of this administration. While the government has been in the saddle for one year, it has only just been able to pass its first budget into law recently, which is a very important component in the ability of any administration to deliver on its campaign promises.

But certainly his government is clearly a purpose driven government, it is not scared of taking tough decisions but luckily, Nigerians have demonstrated the highest level of understanding. However, it is imperative for the government to understand the fact there is a limit to human endurance.

For instance this administration campaigned largely on three major fronts, which are the economy, security and anti-corruption.

On economy, this is probably the most difficult time for any administration to take up the saddle of leadership in Nigeria considering our monolithic economy, which is completely dependent on crude oil. The current challenges of the fall in international prices of crude oil and the present rise in the activities of the Niger Delta militants are big problems. One could easily come to the conclusion that this administration is faced with both natural and man-made challenges in the area of economy.

On security, the Boko Haram insurgency that used to be the greatest threat to our collective security at the inception of this administration has been handled very well but new threats have risen in the form of both the Fulani herdsmen and the Niger Delta Avengers. But the reason we haven’t seen so much positive action on this front is because the government needs to allow the security agents gather the requisite intelligence.

Just as the government decimated the Boko Haram terrorists, I’m sure that it will also explore all necessary civil means to restore normalcy to the areas being ravaged by these militants. I will however suggest that military force should be the last option.

Regarding corruption, I think this administration has done well. At least the level of financial recklessness and impunity in public offices has reduced; it is no longer business as usual even within the corridors of powers. We can see that this government is going after everyone that has stolen the commonwealth of Nigeria without fear or favour.

I am therefore confident that the Buhari administration will ultimately deliver on its promises in the areas of fighting corruption, diversification of the economy and security.

Ambode’s one year in office
Lagos has always been blessed with good successors and leaders who have consolidated on the achievements of their predecessors and indeed increased the bar.

In one year, the governor has lighted-up almost all the major and commercial roads. Also communities that were hitherto not connected to the grid, like my area in Ibeju-Lekki, have been connected, road construction and infrastructural projects are ongoing or completed everywhere, an Employment Trust Fund (ETF) has been launched, the security apparatus has been overhauled to the extent that Lagos is probably the safest state in the country at the moment and we have also seen the commitment to the commencement of the Forth Mainland Bridge.

The governor has actually raised the bar from where his immediate past predecessor, Babatunde Fashola left it.