Strong indications emerged on Saturday that the leadership of both chambers of the National Assembly might have agreed to invite President Muhammadu Buhari to address a joint session of the federal lawmakers whenever he returned to the country.
One of our correspondents learnt that the decision was the outcome of the meeting of the Senate and House of Representatives principal officers, hosted by Senate President, Bukola Saraki, at his private residence on Wednesday night.
One of the principal officers of the Senate, who pleaded anonymity, told one of our correspondents that the leadership of both chambers deliberated extensively on the current economic situation in the country and came up with some pragmatic solutions.
The source said the meeting agreed that the President should first be invited to tell the federal parliamentarians the specific steps that his administration is taking to take Nigeria out of recession.
He said, “It was Speaker Yakubu Dogara, who led the House of Representatives’ team to the meeting, that suggested the idea and it was adopted by leaders of both chambers.
“The president was asked to come and brief us on the specific efforts he had taken with his economic team to tackle the recession.”
He added that some principal officers of the Senate also suggested that the National Assembly should ask the President to reshuffle his cabinet with a view to injecting new hands to come up with fresh ideas on how to save the nation’s economy from total collapse.
He added that while some called for the outright sacking of the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, and her counterpart in the Budget and Economic Planning, Mr. Udo Udoma, others believed that a minor reshuffle of Buhari’s cabinet, would perform magic.
The Senate leadership at the meeting were said to have agreed to set up a committee that would compile the recommendations of all the senators that spoke during last week’s debate on the economy and come up with a report.
Dogara was said to have assured his counterpart in the Senate that the green chamber would support whatever position taken by it, to move the nation forward.
As a follow up to the meeting of the previous night, Saraki at the plenary on Thursday, named a seven-member committee to compile the major suggestions raised by members and present a report which will form part of its resolution on the state of the economy.
A source in the senate, who craved anonymity, explained that the report of the seven- member adhoc committee would be considered at the plenary on Tuesday while a formal resolution would be passed.
He said, “What the Senate is looking at is the possibility of putting up the nation’s oil assets for sale to generate enough resources that could revitalise the economy so that small and medium scale enterprises can start functioning again.
“We are also looking at a total overhaul of Buhari’s economic team with a view to bringing on board, fresh hands that would inject new innovation needed to galvanise the economy and take it out of recession.
“It is true that President Buhari would be invited to address the joint session of the National Assembly on the economy. It would be an opportunity for him to get feedback from Nigerians because all of us are just coming from our constituencies and we know what our people are going through.”
One of our correspondents learnt that the adhoc committee held its inaugural sitting on Friday and decided to complete its assignment and submit to the Senate leadership on Monday.
A source in the panel said rather than recommeding the sacking of Adeosun and Udoma, “both ministers would be summoned to answer question from members of the Senate at plenary.”
It was further gathered that the Senate leadership would review the recommendations and present them in form of resolution at Tuesday plenary.
A member of the House who craved anonymity, said, “There is nothing unusual about calling Mr. President, who is our party leader and the father of the nation, to come and address us.
“In the US where we copied our type of democracy from, the President gives the popular state-of-the-nation address at intervals to re-assure citizens, especially in times of difficulties.
“Assurances by the President before the people’s representatives in the National Assembly will send a strong message locally and internationally.”
When contacted, the Spokesman for the House of Representatives, Abdulrazak Namdas, said, “The House did not summon the President, the House is only asking the President to consider addressing a joint session. It is a suggestion.”
However, the embattled former Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, Abdulmunin Jibrin, faulted the idea of asking the President to come and address a joint session on the grounds that it was initiated by Dogara.
But the Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Kabir Marafa, said the senate had the constitutional right to summon the executive.
He said, “It is the constitutional duty of the Senate to ask questions; to ask any minister questions about his ministry and if a minister is found wanting why not (give him the boot)?
“There are no sacred cows. There is nowhere it is stated that once you are appointed a minister you cannot be recommended for removal.”
Cut Jumbo pay, Afenifere, others tell lawmakers
Meanwhile, a pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, and some social rights associations have advised the National Assembly members to reduce their jumbo pay in view of the economic recession in the country.
The National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, and the associations made the call in separate interviews with SUNDAY PUNCH on Friday.
Odumakin stated, “The National Assembly members should cut down their allowances and salaries to show that they are ready to walk the talk.
“The recession period calls for tax relief for the poor to increase the marginal propensity to consume, while the rich should pay more taxes and that is where the Asokoro and Maitama houses come in.”
On his part, a lawyer and civil rights activist, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, said the National Assembly was feeding fat on Nigerians.
He supported the debate on recession held by the National Assembly, adding that Buhari should hold a special presidential chat on the economy.
Adegboruwa stated, “As representatives of the people, the legislators have a duty to debate and proffer solutions for our liberation from poverty and recession.
“The National Assembly is currently feeding fat on Nigerians. Their salaries and allowances do not reflect the current economic abyss of our people.
“As all charities must begin at home, the legislators should first reduce their salaries and allowances voluntarily, as exemplary leaders, in order to instil confidence in our people to embrace sacrifices.”
Also, the President of Campaign for Democracy, Abdul Usman, said for the debate by the National Assembly to be meaningful, former governors among them should be ready to forfeit their pensions.
Usman added that in spite of the economic recession, some of the 21 senators, who were former governors, were receiving salaries as National Assembly members and at the same time getting pensions.