September 26, 2022

• Say current education framework no longer relevant
Udora Orizu in Abuja 
The House of Representatives, at the resumption of plenary Tuesday, expressed concerns over the rising debt profile of the country and crude oil theft.
The Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, while delivering his welcome remarks after their long recess, noted that some concerns emerged from the Senate and House Committees on Finance  interactive sessions with the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of the government on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper, during which issues emerged on the scope of deficit financing to be proposed in the new budget and decline in crude oil production due to theft and sabotage.
Gbajabiamila said while the House appreciates that the current fiscal conditions necessitate borrowing to finance budgetary expenditures, he however, said there should be worry about the long-term impact of the debt burden on the country and the ability to pay the debt in a responsible and sustainable way. 
This concerns, he said, will be central to consideration of the 2023 Appropriation Bill when presented and appropriations for new projects for MDAs will be influenced by the extent to which existing projects have been funded and their performance in executing these projects as intended.
On crude oil theft, the Speaker said the perpetrators of this brazen heist threaten the ability to serve the Nigerian people and meet the demands of governance and nation-building. 
He described their actions as treason against the country, for which they must be held accountable, adding that they are no different from the insurgents and terrorists against whom the nation is battling in various theatres.
Gbajabiamila said: “Due to theft and various acts of economic sabotage, we are experiencing a massive decline in the volume of crude oil exports. Our crude oil export of 972,394 bpd for August is the lowest we have recorded in the last two decades.  At a time when we are already experiencing severe financial constraints, there are mechanisms in place to prevent these sorts of bad actors, and the government spends significant amounts of money each year to protect oil and gas resources in the country. 
“Evidently, these existing arrangements do not suffice. As such, there is an urgent need to review them and make the necessary improvements.  It is also of particular importance that the perpetrators of these crimes against the state are identified, prosecuted and subjected to the stiffest penalties the law allows. 
“Those who seek to impoverish our country in this manner have declared war against the Nigerian people.  The government’s response must be sufficient to convince them of the error of their ways and deter others who might be tempted to join in their treason.   I met with the Finance Minister and the DG Budget and made it clear to them that enough of crude oil theft. Nigerians don’t want to hear that again. What do you intend to do about it? That’s the important question.” 
Speaking on the lingering strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Gbajabiamila said that the current framework of government-sponsored tertiary education is no longer working as it should and hasn’t worked for a long time. 
He therefore said the House goal is to  begin a candid assessment of the current system and to consider all available options for complete reform.
The Speaker while claiming that the country has recently recorded significant victories against the purveyors of violence and conflict across the country, said the explosive growth in the trade and consumption of narcotics contributed to the worsening insecurity in the country.
He warned that the country cannot afford to be overrun by the cancer of the drug trade and the devastation it brings.  
Gbajabiamila further lamented that various priority bills are still pending at different stages despite the limited time available for the 9th House.
These priority bills, he stated, included legislation to implement essential reforms to the national security architecture, effect needed reforms of critical government institutions, as well as others that seek to improve national ability to meet human capital development targets.  
He urged all the lawmakers seeking re-election take all proper and necessary measures to clear the backlog of assignments before the schedule becomes even more encumbered by budget activities and the pressures of the campaign season.
“Already, activities towards the campaign are in high gear with consultations and outreach by candidates and incumbents across the country. This is normal, and it is expected. However, those of us who hold office must endeavour to deliver on the mandate we hold for the duration of our term. So, we must strike a balance as we campaign, because we have a four-year mandate. 
“We have very little time left to finish the work we have been called to do in this Assembly.  There is much left to do, and we cannot turn our attention to those whilst we have pending tasks to deliver.  I urge all the chairmen of the standing and ad hoc committees to act promptly on pending bills and motions, conclude the activities of ad hoc committees and submit their reports for consideration and subsequent action,” Gbajabiamila added
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