My bosses, it is with a heart full of appreciation and gratitude to God that I address you today as the 7th Assembly winds up. We have all been privileged and honoured to be entrusted with the task of representing our different constituencies in the last four years. How time flies!
Senate David Mark, National Context and the 7th Assembly
The last four years have been defining for our country in many respects. The country was battered on all sides by security challenges that threatened the very existence of our society. The rise in insurgency and the ruthless mayhem unleashed on Nigerians by the Boko Haram sect resulted in the highest number of lives and property which our nation has lost in our recent history. What was most horrifying was not only their wanton destructions but also their disregard for human lives particularly those of women and children. The abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls still remains a scar on our National psyche.
There is no doubt that the Boko Haram crisis exposed serious cracks in our security system, challenged our unity, threatened our future and seriously dented our international image.
We considered and approved emergency rule when we thought it was needed and declined request for extension when we thought that such an extension could not stem the tide of terrorism and insurgency in the affected States.
Happily, the Nigerian Armed Forces have made significant gains in the fight against insurgency.
The security challenges we faced in the last four years were not restricted to terrorism but included political violence, extremism, communal conflicts, and militancy in the Niger Delta, maritime insecurity and transnational crimes.
In all these we gave maximum support to the government. We passed the Bill for an Act to amend the Terrorism (prevention) Act, 2012, and we approved a loan of U.S.$1 billion for the government to procure arms and equipment needed to tackle security challenges in the country.
In July 2014, we faced a serious public health challenge with the outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease. In a swift reaction, a determined public in conjunction with the Ministry of Health nipped this potential epidemic in the bud.
We have had a chequered history in our democratic journey. In the course of this, the legislature sought to improve our electoral system in several Acts of the National Assembly. Gladly, our efforts have helped to make our elections free, fair and credible. The year 2015 general elections is a testimony to this.
Achievements of the 7th Senate
Let me in all modesty say that the 7th Senate achieved some measure of success in the areas of the number of bills that were passed, motions moved, in our oversight functions and in our legislative duties. Some landmark bills passed by this Senate include but not limited to; Pension Reform Act 2014, National Health Act, Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act and the Terrorism (Prevention) Act. The 7th Senate confirmed a total number of 429 persons between 2011 and 2015.
Nigeria’s Senate Chamber
In addition, we received parliamentary delegations from Gambia, Benin Republic and China while over 27 delegations from the Senate attended international conferences and seminars. We also honoured invitations from the Parliaments of Czech Republic and China.
In spite of the difficult political and economic climate within which we worked and despite our own internal challenges, we can end this Senate convinced that we represented our constituents and Nigerians with the most noble of intentions and to the best of our abilities.
I must confess that within the last four years, we matured politically. That was why when some Senators defected from one political party to the other, we still maintained one united Senate. Even though the political intrigues of the last four years sometimes slowed down important legislative business, they nevertheless enriched our democratic understanding and I consider them equally important to the democratic process.
It is also important to note that we gave maximum support to NILS. I am happy that the institute has made remarkable progress in such a short time with its influence extending to other African countries.
Pending Legislative Business
We gave a nod to the clarion call for a national conference but the report unfortunately came very late. However, as much as we tried, we did not meet all the target we set for ourselves. For instance we were not able to pass the PIB and our constitutional amendment is stalled.
Distinguished colleagues, if there is one lesson to be learnt in this institution it is that you are as good as your colleagues and your staff. Thus, having chronicled our successes and challenges in the last four years, I acknowledge, with humility and gratitude, the work of all Members of the National Assembly, especially my distinguished colleagues here in this Chamber, who gave their utmost best to the work of the Senate.
I wish to pay a special tribute to our fallen colleagues, Senators: Gyang Daylop Dantung (Plateau), Pius Ehwerido (Delta), Dahiru Awaisu Kuta (Niger), Comrade Uche Chukwumerije (Abia) and Ahmed Zanna (Borno). These were outstanding public servants and respected legislators whose commitment and strong values shone through everything they did. May their souls rest in peace, Amen! (Observe a minute silence in their honour)
I must acknowledge the support of my brother and colleague, the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, an unflinching believer in the tenets of democracy and the centrality of the legislature in democratic governance. He has truly given commendable service to this Senate and the National Assembly.
I offer a special thanks to Majority Leader, Sen. Victor Ndoma Egba (SAN), Sen. Bello Hayatu Gwarzo – Chief Whip; and all the Principal Officers – Sen. George Akume . Sen. Ahmed Abdul Ningi – Deputy Majority Leader, Sen. Ayoola Hosea Agboola – Deputy Chief Whip, Sen. Ganiyu Olanrewaju Solomon – Minority Whip, Sen. Ahmad Rufai Sani – Deputy Minority Leader, and Sen. Abu Ibrahim – Deputy Minority Whip. In a special way, I would like to appreciate all of you my distinguished colleagues and bosses. You have all contributed to the smooth operation of the business of the Senate and I am grateful. I was once asked who the members of my kitchen cabinet are. My reply was that the 108 Senators are the members of my kitchen cabinet.
The National Assembly could not function without the tireless work of the Clerk’s Office whose professionalism is a credit to the leadership of the Senate, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa and his Deputy, Ben Effeturi as well as their entire team who oversee the Senate; the Clerks-at-Table, Hansard reporters; who compile and process legislations and Clerks of the standing committees.
In this context, it is important to acknowledge the work of the National Assembly Service Commission, its Chairman, Mallam Adamu Fika and his team. While the Chambers are the focus of Legislative activities, the activities of both Houses are supported by the staff of the Commission.
I want to express my thanks to the large team that constantly improve the service of the Senate. They include support staff, legislative aides/assistants and security.
I extend a personal thanks to my own staff; Sen. Anthony Manzo, my chief of staff and his team. It would have been impossible to do my job without them.
To the media, I must acknowledge the support of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Chairman and Members of the Senate Press Corps. My most special appreciation and thanks go to the Cameramen. I wish to also specially acknowledge the Sergeant-at-Arms (Mace Bearers and Chamber Assistants); our Tea Room managers; Naomi and Ruth; as well as the staff in my office who serve us food.
Distinguished colleagues, whatever our achievements are, we are all well aware that we are yet to attain our goal. However, the 7th Assembly has laid a solid foundation, which the 8th Assembly can build upon.
To those of my colleagues who are returning to the Senate, you have an excellent legislative knowledge to build upon. It is my hope that you carry to the new Assembly the same vigour and dedication and bring your rich experience to bear on the legislative process. To those of you my colleagues who are departing the Senate, I wish you success in your future endeavours. I urge you to remain our ambassadors.
I desired and worked for a National Assembly that would have its own Radio and Television Stations, a Specialist Hospital and relocation of the National Institute of Legislative Studies to its permanent site. These projects are ongoing.
As President of the Senate, may I thank all of you for supporting me. My position in the Senate has given me a unique opportunity to understand better that collectively we can make our democracy stable, accessible, transparent and respectable. I and I alone take full responsibility for all omissions and commissions in the last four years during my tenure in office as President of the Senate but we all share in the glory and successes. I lack adequate words to express my appreciation or thanks to my constituents who have voted for me to represent them for the fifth time. Almighty God will bless them.
Distinguished colleagues, my bosses, it is a great honour and privilege for me to have served you in the 7th Assembly.
Thank you and God bless.
Senator (Dr.) David A. B. Mark, GCON, fnim
PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE AND CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL ASSEMBLY