By Waziri Tambuwal
I am delighted to welcome us all from the recess to facilitate participation in the 2015 General Elections. I am aware that we have resumed physically fatigued but mentally alert and psychologically committed to the prosecution of our legislative mandate. Clearly, the stress is not any less on our constituents and indeed the generality of Nigerians than it is on us.
Let me remind us that the first crucial task before us is the 2015 Budget Proposal which is at committee stage. I urge that the belated submission notwithstanding, we owe our country a duty not only to pass this Appropriation Bill speedily but also with due diligence and thorough scrutiny. As we deliberate, we must take cognizance of the prevailing global economic realities. Furthermore, remember that for the Seventh Assembly, this is the last Budget we will pass and we need to live a mark of diligence in this regard. Besides the 2015 budget, similar diligence is required for other critical bills before us. Notwithstanding the limitation of time, I am confident that we shall pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), the Constitutional Amendment Bill and similar such critical bills that are already at Report stage.
Also of the utmost urgency is the Electoral Act Amendment Bill which has already been passed by the two Chambers. The House of Representatives has already constituted her harmonization committee and I believe that the Senate will do same expeditiously so that we can wrap up soonest. This is very critical as the amendments contained therein provide the clear legal framework for participation in the electoral process by Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s), whose numbers are, no doubt, substantial.
Honourable Colleagues, last week the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the abrupt postponement of the General Elections earlier scheduled for the 14th and 28th of February 2015 respectively. Expectedly public reaction to this unfortunate development has been spontaneous, intense and varied. The preponderance of opinion is that the postponement was ill timed, the blame on security concerns notwithstanding. This singular act has inflicted an indelible dent on the integrity of the 2015 Elections and indeed the country’s entire electoral process. Government owes Nigerians a duty to make deliberate and honest efforts to restore public confidence in the process and in it’s commitment to free, fair, peaceful and transparent elections. On behalf of the House of Representatives I wish to commend the political parties, civil society, the International Community and indeed all Nigerians for the maturity employed in handling this unfortunate development. May I appeal to all Nigerians to sustain the spirit and zeal so that on the rescheduled dates, they will go out en mass and exercise their civic responsibility of casting their votes for candidates of their choice without let or hindrance.
Again on behalf of the House of Representatives, may I commend our Armed Forces and Security Agencies who are laying down their lives daily in the prosecution of the military action against the insurgency in the North Eastern States of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. Our Armed Forces have over the years proven their gallantly in both national as well as international assignments and we are confident that the present challenge will not be an exception. The Legislature has consistently supported the quest for a well armed and highly motivated Armed Forces through appropriation. Recent information that arms, ammunition and other equipment are now being delivered to the Armed Forces is therefore heart warming and we urge that this be sustained.
My dear Colleagues, recent inflammatory utterances by some Nigerians which are inimical to our unity, peace and public order give cause for serious concern and I am persuaded that the nonchalance or at best reluctance of the security agencies in resorting to the laws of the land in arresting the trend constitute a direct affront on the revered doctrine of the rule of law. Nigerians have never needed intimidation or threats from any quarters to vote candidates at elections and they surely do not need any now. Our Constitution makes elaborate provisions for the rights and liberties of all citizens and therefore when certain misguided individuals or groups seek to unlawfully curtail these rights and liberties, the appropriate agencies of state must rise as a bulwark against such infractions.
Since 1999 Nigerians have become accustomed with the installation of governments through the ballot box, they have shown and continue to show overwhelming preference for this democratic process and thus all retrogressive forces that seek to truncate democracy should be stoutly resisted by the people to whom power belongs. Nigeria belongs to all and not to politicians or other persons of unbridled ambition, any ambition that fails to recognize and respect overriding national interest must halt or be halted. It is the barest minimum that those of us entrusted with the peoples mandate in whatever form are obligated to do. Honourable Colleagues, once again, I welcome you back from the very tasking recess and wish us all a most eventful pre election session. May the Almighty God guide our path and grant us true spirit of service to our people.
*Being remarks by House of Representatives Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal at the resumption of House members from recess on Tuesday, February 17, 2015.