Social Welfare of Nigerians is Our Priority- Reps Speaker, Tajudeen Abbas
The Speaker of the House of Representatives Hon. Abbas Tajudeen, on Tuesday, restated the commitment of the legislature to addressing the socio-economic challenges facing Nigerians, stressing that it is a priority for the 10th House.
Speaker Abbas, in his opening address to welcome members back from a two-month annual recess of the National Assembly, expressed concerns over the hardships occasioned by economic instability in the country.
“In the course of our recess, our country has continued to face numerous challenges and presented with even greater opportunities and prospects. It is now our collective responsibility to address these issues with wisdom, integrity, and a commitment to the betterment of our society.
“The people have placed their trust in us, and it is our duty to honour that trust by working diligently towards their welfare. Thus, as we resume our legislative duties today, it is crucial that we prioritise the needs of our constituents. We must remain steadfast in our commitment to promoting good governance, ensuring social justice, and fostering economic growth.
“Our decisions should be guided by a deep understanding of the issues at hand and a genuine desire to improve the lives of those we represent,” he said.
While noting the “enormous challenges” confronting the nation at this time, the Speaker stated that they are “challenges that will engage our attention in the coming days and months.”
The Speaker decried that in spite of the numerous successes recorded by the country’s gallant security personnel, national security remains precarious.
He said: “While we mourn the loss of fellow citizens who had to pay the supreme price in the line of duty, we must condemn these attacks on the state and citizens in strongest terms. However, our best response will be the deployment of our legislative powers and instruments to ensure the security of life and property across the country.”
He added that the country is challenged on several economic fronts: cost of living crisis occasioned by high cost of energy, cost of food is skyrocketing daily, lack of livable wages, the negative effects of the unpredictable and fluctuating foreign exchange rates, a disappearing middle class and a host of other issues.
“When people are hungry and despondent, what is needed is a leadership with a clear vision, a leadership that on daily basis, demonstrates its commitment and capacity to tackle the challenges at hand; a leadership that should be innovative in proffering short and long term solutions. That is what Nigerians need at this time and as Representatives of the people, we must rise up to the occasion.”
While the Executive arm of the government is engaging the citizens and trying to work out strategies to tackle the hardship in the country, the Speaker said legislative actions must therefore be dictated by a clear robust vision aimed at supporting the Executive in restoring the citizens on the path of prosperity.
“We must deploy the necessary legislative instruments to create jobs, ensure payment of living wages in the civil service, pull Nigerians out of poverty, address the prevailing infrastructure deficit, rid the country of crippling insurgency; ensure the security of lives and property and affordable functional education so that no child is left behind,” he said.
Speaker Abbas also noted that it was on account of these economic challenges that the organised labour, under the aegis of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), “seems to have lost patience with the painstaking effort of the government to plan and provide sustainable minimum wage and palliatives to citizens.”
He made reference to the plan by the organised labour to embark on a nationwide strike by midnight, following the expiration of a 21-day ultimatum issued to the government.
He stated: “As the peoples’ representatives, we feel and equally share in the pains of our people at these very difficult times. However, I would like to appeal to the Nigerian Labour Congress to consider the various actions being taken by the Federal Government to alleviate the current hardship faced by Nigerians.
“As promised earlier, this House remains committed to getting a survival wage to all Nigerian workers. The 10th House had assured Nigerians that we would be interfacing between the organised labour and the government to quickly work out a realistic new national minimum wage and such other palliatives to enable citizens cope with the economic impact of fuel subsidy removal, the downward fall of the naira to the dollar, skyrocketing cost of food and general high cost of living in the country.
“It is in our considered opinion that embarking on a nationwide strike at this point will only aggravate an already bad situation. I, therefore, urge the leadership of labour unions to give us the benefit of doubt and suspend any planned strike action while we engage the Executive.”
Speaker Abbas also said in the coming days, the Executive arm of the government was expected to present a 2023 Supplementary Appropriation Bill as well as the 2024 Appropriation Bill to the House. He, however, noted that the time to consider the money bills would be short, “but we must roll-up our sleeves and get to work immediately and ensure the speedy consideration of the bills that will encapsulate the yearnings of the people.”
The Speaker stated that the 10th House would maintain the tradition established by the 9th House in terms of speedy consideration of the appropriation bills, which returned the country to a January-December budget cycle. However, he stated that the lawmakers “must diligently consider the bills to ensure that they meet the needs of our constituents.” He stressed further that they must put in extra work hours to ensure that the budget is passed in good time to enable its implementation from the first day of 2024.
He said: “Our nation and indeed this 10th House of the people does not have the luxury of time in the face of profound national challenges. We must, therefore, do everything within our powers to champion causes towards addressing the yearnings of our people.
“On this score, our goals are clear, our determination unrivalled. We must key into the Legislative Agenda of this House as a roadmap towards navigating our numerous challenges. Our bills, motions, resolutions, actions and more should mirror the Legislative Agenda, being a joint product between the House and citizens.”