The 8th Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Thursday officially closed all its legislative businesses after about six hours of valedictory session.
The 8th Senate was inaugurated on June 9, 2015 with Senators Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu emerging as Senate President and Deputy Senate President respectively.
At their valedictory session, which commenced few minutes past 11.am on Thursday, over 50 of the 109 senators recounted their sojourn from 2015.
Most of the senators bemoaned the sour relationship that existed between the National Assembly and the Executive arm in the last four years.
Others also lamented the mace theft that took place in the Senate in April last year, blaming one of their colleagues for the incident.
Delivering his final speech as Senate President, Saraki, who spoke for about 30 minutes, said despite the challenges faced by the 8th Senate, it made modest achievements.
He thanked his colleagues for demonstrating patriotism toward protecting the sanctity of the legislature.
He added that although some of them had to pay dearly for daring to defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it was worth it.
He said he was bowing out a fulfilled man, knowing that in spite of the hiccups experienced in the life of the senate, the achievements recorded could not be matched.
“Distinguished colleagues, as we come to the final plenary and the last few days of the eighth Senate, it is a victory in itself that we are seeing the journey to its momentous end.
“That I am here today, that you are here today, is a victory for democracy. It is a testament to what people can do when they come together for the greater good.
“This is also one of those occasions when the Supreme Creator reminds us, once again, that power does not reside in any one person.
“Let me thank each and every one of you for your contributions toward making this the historic Senate that it is.
“When I think of the many trials and tribulations we have faced as an institution, and my own personal travails particularly at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, I am humbled.
“This is because none of our achievements would have been possible without the support and cooperation of the entire members of this chamber.
The invasion of the National Assembly by armed security operatives in August 2018 will live in infamy.
“This way down the line, however, I realise that the day of that invasion was the saddest but in many ways it was also a good day for asserting the independence of the legislature and the triumph of democracy.
“It also turned out to be a showcase of the special relationship between this chamber and the House, as Honourable Members stood in unison with their Senate colleagues in defiance of the invaders,” he said.
Saraki thanked the House of Representatives for the remarkable unity of the two chambers of the 8th National Assembly, adding that it was only in unity that they were able to withstand the storm.
He noted that the legislations passed in areas affecting the daily lives of citizens, the economy, education, security, anti-corruption, health and many more, would remain a benchmark.
According to him, working together, they achieved many “firsts” in the 8th Assembly saying, “we should rightly be proud of these, especially as they are imperishable legacies we are leaving for the people.
“Our many firsts include the National Assembly Joint Public Hearing on the Budget, which we started with the 2016 Appropriation Bill.
“The engagement of the private sector and other stakeholders in crafting the economic legislative agenda was a watershed.
“For the first time, there were meetings and interactions with members of the public which were not previously the norm.
“One such interaction was the Public Senate, which gave the youth the opportunity to spend a day with me as President of the Senate.
“I have pleasant memories of my reading to an audience of small children inside my office, where, in the true spirit of Children’s Day, the kids themselves were the dignitaries.
“It was during this senate that we patented the concept of the Roundtable. This was ground-breaking.
“We left the centre of power in Abuja to tackle pressing social issues at the very heart of the communities most affected,” he said.
Saraki recalled that notable among them were the Senate Roundtable on the Drug Use Crisis held in Kano in December 2017, and the one on Migration and Human Trafficking held in Benin City in February 2018.
“At both events, we not only dialogued for solutions with the relevant government agencies, international partners and community leaders, we heard from the victims themselves.
“In Kano, we heard the harrowing story of Zainab, a recovering drug addict.
“In Benin, we listened to the account of a young woman who was rebuilding her life after being trafficked to Russia for sex trade; and we heard from Victory who had been sold into slavery in Libya.
“We let these people know that their voices count. Indeed the voice of every Nigerian counts, and the 8th Senate lent its ear to them.
“We were alive to our responsibility to those whom we serve, and we engaged with them on their own terms.
“It should be a matter of pride to all 109 senators and to our offspring that, in this chamber, we put humanity first. I will always be proud of the humaneness of the 8th Senate.”
According to Saraki ours has been legislature with a human face, the personal touch, moved by the milk of human kindness.
“Whenever the situation demanded, we left the imposing edifice of the National Assembly to reach out to the person on the street.
“We showed that parliament belongs to the people, and that there should be no barrier between lawmakers and those they represent.
“One of our major acts upon inauguration was the Senate visit in August 2015 to Maiduguri, Borno State – the first ever National Assembly delegation to see first-hand the living conditions of thousands displaced by the insurgency.
“A senator from the South moved the motion that led us to Maiduguri, one of the many times we showed the world that senators act as Nigerians first, and not as Southerners or Northerners.
“The three senators representing Borno State were among the delegation on that memorable visit, as we called on the Shehu of Borno to assure him that rebuilding the North East was high on our agenda,” he said.
Saraki further said, “we visited IDP camps, spoke with the people, carried their babies, comforted them, letting them know that their well-being was a priority for the Senate.
“Today, the North East Development Commission is a reality, and the people are being resettled into their normal lives.
“Borno was by no means our only spotlight on the conditions of our people in IDP camps.
“We visited the Kuchingoro IDP Camp in Abuja during the holy month of Ramadan in 2017 and donated essential supplies to the inhabitants, while assuring them of our commitment to getting them back on their feet.
“A year later, we were at the Abagena IDP Camp in Benue State. Instead of bringing the children to Abuja for Children’s Day, we went to the children in Benue.
“We gave assurances that we would build on work already done on the ground by the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Review of Security Infrastructure to bring an end to killings and restore peace in the state.
“There was a very moving encounter with Ali Ahmadu, the six-year-old Boko Haram victim from Chibok. Our joy knew no bounds when he returned, walking and smiling, after life-transforming surgery in Dubai.
“Little Ali from Chibok was one of many individuals whose lives were directly touched by the 8th Senate.”
Saraki recalled the senate stood with families and communities across the country in times of trouble, citing the families of deceased corps members, which the senate condoled with.
“Every Nigerian life matters, and we demonstrated that in the symbolism and actuality of our actions at all times.
“When Nigerians cried out for help, we did not turn deaf ears. Many will remember the case of Miss Monica Osagie who accused her lecturer of demanding sex for marks.
“As a responsive Senate, we backed up the Sexual Harassment law we had enacted by passing a resolution on the issue, and conducted an investigation into the allegation.”
According to him, responding to the needs of Nigerians was our calling, and by so doing, I believe we made a real difference in people’s lives.
“We promised transparency in the National Assembly Budget and kept our word, subjecting NASS Budget to public scrutiny for the first time since Nigeria’s return to democracy.
We engaged with a delegation of nurses and midwives led by my wife in her capacity as a Global Goodwill Ambassador to the International Confederation of Midwives, and listened to their concerns about high infant and maternal mortality rates in Nigeria.
“We promised to review relevant laws and pass new ones to make for better conditions of service for nurses and midwives, as one way of bringing about an improvement in mortality rates, in particular, and the health sector as a whole.
“We kept that promise, too, and one notable outcome was the setting aside of one per cent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) for the Basic Health Care Provision Fund.
“Just the other week the Minister of Health called the 1% CRF a “game changer”, no doubt because, by our activities in this chamber, we are touching the lives of Nigerians and even those unborn.”
Saraki said the 8th senate was able to break the jinx on several bills that eluded previous senates.
He stressed that “we broke the decade-old Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) into a quartet of workable bills including the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), whose passage stands as a major achievement of the 8th Senate.
“The Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) was the most comprehensive reform law governing Nigeria’s business environment in nearly 30 years.
“The Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) Bill was one of the major anti-corruption laws we passed; and it saved the country from being expelled from the global body of the Egmont Group.
“Also as recently as May 22, we passed the Nigerian Football Federation Bill which had been caught in the legislative bottleneck for 15 years.
In these four years, we were fully engaged on the state of insecurity in the country, and spearheaded many initiatives to bring sustainable peace, and secure and protect the lives and property of citizens.
“We constantly engaged with the international community on the need for them to not only support the war against insurgency but to also lift the ban on sale of arms to Nigeria.
“The Senate had to cut short one vacation in order to receive a U.S. Congressional delegation and persuade them on the need to canvass for the lifting of the arms sales ban, for more effective counter-insurgency strategies.
“We assured them that human rights complaints had been addressed, and that we would ensure that any related issues would be thoroughly probed and appropriate actions taken.
“The U.S. delegation was able to leave with Senate’s guarantee, and the arms embargo was reversed.
The president of the senate said other achievements included the Not-Too-Young-To-Run law among others
He advised whoever would succeed him to be there for the people, act in the interest of the average Nigerian, keep the legislature always at the behest of the citizens, and allow the national assembly to be the people’s parliament.
“Whoever succeeds me, that person will still be a product of the 8th Senate. We did it together. Let there be continuity.”
Saraki however enumerated some gray areas of the 8th senate to include the poor relationship with the Executive.
He called for more engagements and collaboration between the two arms in future assemblies.
After Saraki’s speech, the 8th Senate officially closed legislative business at exactly 5:05.pm.