Ahead of the inauguration of the Ninth Senate and the election of a new Senate President, the Senate Leader, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, yesterday said the battle for the exalted position is not a do-or-die affair.
He, however, unfolded plans to devote three months to budget consideration if he is elected to the lead the National Assembly in the next political dispensation.
The Senate Leader said he would ensure the return of the the nation to the January-December budget cycle.
According to him, an effective budget cycle would be put in place in a manner that the President would sign the Appropriation Bill of the year ahead on or before December 31.
Lawan unfolded his plans when he met with representatives of media organisations in Abuja against the backdrop of fierce contest for position of the Senate president.
He said: “The simple answer is, it is not. We contested for this thing in 2015 and it was the will of God that I will not be Senate President and you will bear me witness that that did not stop me from going to the National Assembly to participate in activities of the Senate.
“I continued to represent my people as a Committee Chairman on Defence and I conducted myself as such and eventually I was elected the Senate leader and I continued to serve as Senate leader to date.
“Most of us believe that God Almighty that created us also has designed our lives from cradle to grave and I believe in that.
“So, it is not a do or die affair and I believe that should we not make it, that will not stop us from working to represent our people, do our oversight, to legislate for the good governance of this country, to support the Senate and the National Assembly and to support Mr. President to deliver the campaign promises of the APC as a political party. We are going to do that regardless. So, it is not a do-or-die affair.”
On the nation’s budgeting crisis, Lawan pledged to resolve it with a three-month consideration plan.
He said that out of the three months, a month will be devoted to budget defence by Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Lawan said: “Even though the budgeting issue varies from time to time, sometimes the crisis may be for three months, four months and sometimes seven months. We believe that we can turn this around with the right attitude and it takes the two sides of government; in this case, the National Assembly and the Executive arm of government.
“Our approach in the National Assembly will be that we will talk amongst ourselves; we will tell ourselves that we want to pass the budget within three months. If we agree on that, then we will also have to agree on how we will achieve that.
”First, we should not leave the Shores of Nigeria for anything unless it is health problem. We must stay around; ensure we have a time frame for budget defence. When I say time frame, I mean we will devote a whole month it, not plenary unless it becomes absolutely necessary.
“We will approach the executive arm of government and discuss things with them.
“For Mr. President, there will be nothing more that will gladden his heart than having a budget passed within three months and I am sure it is the same for Nigerians.
“It will be a huge relief if we can achieve it. So, we will tell the Executive arm of government that no Minister, no chief executive officer of any MDA should leave this country unless it is absolutely necessary and inevitable without defending his or her budget or the budget of the ministry.
“That one month window should be the only window for budget defence. If any minister or any chief executive officer fails without cogent reasons to defend the budget of the ministry, then that window will be shut and the National Assembly should treat that proposal as it deems fits with all the necessary safeguards to ensure that there is no abuse.
“After the budget defence, we should have two solid months to have all the analysis we need, all the sub-committees would meet for their defence with the sub-committees in the House and the Senate and it is our hope and desire that before the Christmas break of the National Assembly, the budget should be sent to Mr. President for assent.
“We believe that this is doable and achievable. All we require is the will. I am sure every one of us in the 9th Senate and House of Representatives will have this kind of feeling that what we need to give to Nigerians is to set this budget issue right.
“In fact, we should attempt to make the budget cycle 1st January- 31st December because this is important for our businesses in this country and outside Nigeria. We should have 12 calendar month of budget presentation because that will translate into massive infrastructure development, provision of services across the country for citizens. So, this is the way we intend to go”.
Responding to a question, Lawan said: “Our mission is to have a Senate and the National Assembly that work for Nigerians.
“What do Nigerians want today? They want to have an improvement in the security of their lives; an economy that works for everyone and they want corruption brought down to its knees. Nigerians want to live in peace with one another.”
Concerning transparency and the independence of the legislature, Lawan added: “I believe that we have to work together with the Executive with mutual respect and address the challenges that confront Nigerians today.
“Where we differ, we are going to resolve such issues in a very credible and respectful manner. We are not going to go into the market square to throw stones recklessly and we believe that there is interdependence between both arms and such would be respected.
“We believe the openness which has been introduced by National Assembly should be continued and that would make us to function as representatives properly.
Earlier, the Chairman of the Lawan for Senate Campaign Group, Sen. Yahaya Abdullahi, said the Senate Leader was “not imposed by the Presidency and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“We started the initiative on our own and the party realised the value and decided to support us. So, the choice of Lawan was ours, he was not imposed on us by the presidency or the party.
“I think they checked his records and knew that he can deliver. Therefore, there was concurrence of interests on Lawan.
“Lawan is knowledgeable, accomplished and very clean by all standards, not just Nigerian standard. He has the capacity to change the legislature to a position that will serve the interest of Nigerians.”
The spokesperson for the campaign organisation, Sen. Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi said: “Nigerians should back Lawan because he has a rich legislative experience and will not disappoint.”
Other Senators-elect on the entourage of Lawan were” Sabo Mohammed Nakudu; Sadiq Umar; Abdullahi Gumel; Barau Jibrin; Adeleke Adeyemi Oriolowo; Danladi Sankara; Ifeanyi Uba; Suleiman Abdu Kwari; Haliru Dauda Jika; Bello Mandiya; Ibrahim Oloriegbe; Ashiru Yisa Oyelola and Prince Adedayo Adeyeye.