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Senate debates ways to curb economic recession

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh and Segun Olaniyi (Abuja)
22 September 2016   |   4:39 am
The Senate has begun debate on how to rescue the nation from the current economic recession.
Nigerian Senate.

Nigerian Senate.

• Disagrees on sale of national assets
• Why Udoma, Adeosun must be redeployed
• Members seek dialogue with N’Delta militants

The Senate has begun debate on how to rescue the nation from the current economic recession.

Many members yesterday called for the release of more money into the system, while others backed massive investments in agriculture, and diversification of sources of foreign exchange.

Re-opening of discussions with aggrieved youths in the Niger Delta was also weighed by the senators who noted that the crisis was a major factor impeding the economy. Senator Urhoghide Mattew (PDP, Edo South) particularly said government could improve its revenue if it tackled the region’s problem.

Former Kano State governor, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, said there was need to curb militancy in the Niger Delta and other security challenges, like kidnapping, conflict between farmers and herdsmen and cattle rustling, saying such would reinforce the economy. He also called for review of workers’ wages.

“Spending should be directed at projects, like agriculture and construction, because these always have direct effect on the lives of citizens. The private sector should also be encouraged to invest in these sectors. Government should also ensure timely supply of subsidised farm input,” Kwankwaso added.

There was, however, sharp disagreement on sale of key national assets to inject funds into the economy, with some senators expressing fear the proceeds could end up in the hands of unscrupulous persons.

On Tuesday, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, had expressed support for the sale of national assets, arguing it would shore up foreign reserves.

But in his contribution to the debate, yesterday, Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, noted that selling the assets would impose more economic woes on the country.

“I need to warn that other countries are not doing the same. The United Arab Emirate does not even allow people to have access to its oil wells, let alone sell them. And, of course, a country, like Saudi Arabia, its budget every year is run by investments from oil revenue. So, when other countries are investing and we are planning to sell the investments we have, we have to be careful. I am not sure we would be fair to the next generation. If we must sell, we have to sell the non-performing assets, so that people can turn them around and create employment,” he said.

Former Benue State governor, George Akume, also opposed the idea. “I am worried because people who are telling us to sell these assets are people who have huge pockets. Our assets must remain for us,” he said.

Ekweremadu also urged President Muhammadu Buhari to redeploy Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, and the Budget and National Planning Minister, Udoma Udo Udoma.

He said: “The President needs to look at his cabinet. He has to put square pegs in square holes. Udo Udoma is my friend, an accomplished lawyer for that matter. But in fairness to him, I believe he can do better in another ministry, especially Trade and Investment, certainly not Budget and Planning. The Minister for Finance can do much better in another ministry.”