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Speech Of Speaker, House Of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara As NASS Resumes After 2 Months Recess | The Precision

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Speaker, House of Reps, Yakubu Dogara

WELCOME
REMARKS BY RT. HON. YAKUBU DOGARA, SPEAKER HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA ON THE OCCASION OF
RESUMPTION OF PLENARY FROM THE JULY – SEPTEMBER RECESS, HOUSE OF
REPRESENTATIVES CHAMBERS ABUJA, TUESDAY, 26TH SEPTEMBER, 2017.

PROTOCOLS:

I most warmly welcome us back from the annual recess. I trust that you
had some rest even as you used the opportunity to interact with your
constituents. I acknowledge that the socio-political environment in the
country since we adjourned for the recess was not such as to give one
the desired true rest. Indeed we were on edge at a point to breach the
recess and summon an emergency resumption of plenary, thanks to the
Almighty God for calming the storms. I believe we all appreciate the
times and thus the need for us to hit the ground running given the fact
that there are many pending legislative measures requiring our
attention.

2. Let me commend you all, my dear colleagues, for
the informed restraint, maturity and patriotism in responding to the
various incidences of unease that occasioned during the period of the
recess. This is in line with the oath we all took to uphold and defend
the constitution and I do not take it for granted. Indeed, I make bold
to say that these recent developments are a pointer to the reality that
constitutional amendment remains an unfinished business demanding our
expeditious attention. I am confident we are well able to do the
needful.

3. Several important developments took place while we
were on recess. Most importantly, His Excellency, President Muhammadu
Buhari, GCFR, returned from his medical vacation and has since
transmitted his letter of resumption as required by the Constitution. We
thank God for his safe return and pray God to perfect his healing and
grant him good health and the strength to continue to pilot the affairs
of state, successfully.

4. During this period also, we got the
good news from the National Bureau of Statistics that the Nigerian
economy had exited from recession. We must caution however that the
implementation of policies and hard work necessary to sustain a sound
and productive economy which the National Assembly highlighted in the
Resolutions sent to the President earlier should be continued with even
greater vigour to ensure that our people enjoy the positive impact of
the exit. We shall in this respect make our oversight of the Executive
branch more robust, effective and informed.

5. May I use this
opportunity to commiserate with families of Nigerians who lost their
lives in various incidents across the country. In particular, deaths
that arose as a result of floods that ravaged Benue, Kano, Sokoto and
some other states and deaths arising from crises in some parts of the
country.

6. We are all aware that during the recess, the
agitation by a group of persons based in the south eastern geopolitical
zone of the country and the heightened call by many groups for
restructuring of the country dominated discourse in Nigeria. It is in
this regard, that I wish to commend our religious and traditional
rulers, leaders of various ethnic nationalities, elder statesmen,
security agencies, the Governors and indeed governments of the states in
the Federation for their display of statesmanship during this period.
Indeed all patriotic Nigerians rose in unison to uphold the fundamental
rights of all citizens to move freely and reside in any part of the
federation as they choose, without let or hindrance. It appears to me
that the citizens of this great country have sounded the message loud
and clear that they stand for a united, prosperous and just Nigeria.

7. It is necessary to emphasise that Nigeria is a constitutional
democracy with a clear legal framework for resolving differences that
normally arise among citizens, between citizens and government as well
as between the structures and arms of government. Make no mistake, as
representatives of the people we have a duty to champion the protection
and preservation of the rights of our constituents and peoples. We are
very conscious and indeed jealous of the fundamental rights provided
under our Constitution as well as the Human and Peoples Rights under the
African Charter. 

8. As an institution, this House stands
firmly on the side of those who seek equity, fairness and justice so
long as such is pursued in accordance with the provisions of the
Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which we as Honorable
Members have sworn to protect and preserve. Anyone or group who
assaults our Constitution will not find a partner here because our oath
of office repels it, but those who stand for justice, fairness and
equity will have partners in us because our oath of office compels it.
We would work shoulder to shoulder with all those working within the
ambit of the constitution and the law for all Nigerians regardless of
creed or ethnicity to be first class citizens as no nation can truly be
first class if it harbours within its borders second or third class
citizens.

9. Do we have a legislative response to the issues
that have been thrown up? Is the National Assembly involved in the
debate? Can restructuring take place outside the existing legal order?
Indeed all the arguments about restructuring are at the end of the day,
legislative issues. It may be necessary in due course for the National
Assembly to have a second look at the issues that have been thrown up.
The National Assembly as a representative and product of the people
cannot act contrary to the wishes and aspirations of its constituents.
We need to sift all the ‘noise’ and find out what exactly a majority of
our people actually want? This is a responsibility we cannot outsource.

10. Going forward, it is my view that we need to revisit some aspects
of the voting on Constitution Alteration. Luckily we still have the
legislative window of conferencing with the Senate, where we have
differences.

11. The other issue that should attract the
attention of this Honourable House is the spate of strikes by various
workers unions that engulfed the country in recent weeks. One common
noticeable denominator is that all the strikes were premised on matters
over which the unions have previously discussed with government and on
which deliberations were either inconclusive or which resolutions
reached were observed in breach. I commend the Executive and Labour
unions for reaching an understanding and for Labour in particular for
employing lawful processes in pushing their demands and the suspension
of the strikes in order to give another chance for negotiations. I wish
to direct all House Committees with oversight responsibility for the
agencies involved in these negotiations to urgently take appropriate
legislative steps to aid full, final and permanent resolution of the
issues for the sake of industrial peace and harmony.

12.
Honourable Members are also aware that the media has been awash with
scathing criticism of the institution of the House of Representatives
over the NGO Regulation Bill which has passed second reading and is at
Committee stage. Public criticism of the content of the Bill is a
welcome development and there are many who are doing just that. Indeed
it is the reason why every Bill is subjected to Public Hearing so that
the inputs of stakeholders can be obtained to ensure public buy in. I
hasten to say that all Nigerians and other corporate persons including
non Nigerians, are stakeholders and have a right to support or oppose a
Bill. However when opinions are targeted at disparaging the institution
of the legislature then it becomes imperative to interrogate the motives
driving such, especially when this emanates from those who should know. 

13. Everyone should understand that the principal objective of
the NGO Regulation Bill is to inject transparency, accountability and
prevent the subversion of national security from both within and
without. No one can nor indeed should gag the operations of NGOs in
Nigeria, but just as they aspire for this freedom, it must be stated
that freedom does not come without responsibility as there is no such
thing as freedom to be irresponsible. There are also desperate attempts
to instigate religious bodies and cultural Organizations to oppose the
Bill by spreading falsehood that they are the target of this bill. For
the avoidance of doubt, let me state once again that Churches, Mosques,
Esussu, Market Women Associations as well as Local Quasi Financial
Institutions are NOT NGOs and thus the bill has nothing to do with their
operations . The legislative process cannot be short circuited. The
National Assembly cannot be intimidated into abandon its sacred
legislative duties of providing a platform for Nigerians to agree or
disagree on any proposed legislative measure. This openness and
transparency is what the NGOs have always canvassed and promoted and
they should therefore embrace this opportunity to interrogate the issues
with open arms.

14. Honourable colleagues, it is clear that the
things that bind us are overwhelmingly more than those that divide us.
Indeed the individuals or groups who sow the seeds of discord and fan
the embers of hate and disunity are in the negligible minority. As
representatives of the people we must continually sensitise our people
on the need to support all measures for the enthronement of a
prosperous, united and just Nigeria where all citizens have equal stake
under the governance of the Rule of Law. It was Martin Luther King, Jnr,
who said that “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper
darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out
darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love
can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence…” We
must learn to love one another, understand each other and respect each
other for Nigeria to reach her full potentials politically, socially and
economically.

15. Of course all healthy democracies are noisy.
But they are filled with noise that elicits debate not noise that
incites to violence. When speech or noise leads to debate its call free
speech but when noise or speech incites to violence then that is hate
speech. Hate speech has no place in a democracy and must never be
tolerated or allowed. Words are powerful and once spoken it’s difficult
if not impossible to take them back. Words have the power to create the
atmosphere in which we live. There is nothing that exists that was not
created by or in consequence of spoken word(s). Hate speech multiplies
words that have the capacity to drown the truth. In the midst of hate
speech, the truth is usually the casualty. Therein lies the real danger
of hate speech. Yet, it is only in the truth that everything finds its
worth. 

16. It remains for me to charge that the prevailing
situation should serve as impetus for more determined performance on our
part. The genuine appreciation of these issues constitute a defining
parameter for our job as we proceed in this second half of our tenure as
the 8th House. Let us all resolve to get down to work and the Almighty
God helping us we shall deliver.

17. God bless you all and bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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