Hardship, insecurity: Speaker Abbas gives Nigerians fresh hope
Hardship, insecurity: Speaker Abbas gives Nigerians fresh hope
The Speaker of the House of Representatives Rt. Hon. Abbas Tajudeen, Ph.D, has acknowledged the concerns of Nigerians on the current state of the economy, security and other issues, assuring them of doubled efforts towards addressing the issues.
At a world press conference at his office in Abuja on Thursday, the first of its kind since he assumed speakership of the House on June 13, 2023, Speaker Abbas noted that the conference was dedicated to “addressing some of the most pressing national issues we face.”
He said: “As the Speaker of the largest representative body in Nigeria, representing all corners of Nigeria, I feel it a duty to address some pressing challenges we face as a nation. The very fabric of our society is being tested, our resilience strained, and our unity challenged. However, amidst these trials, our spirit remains unbroken, and our resolve to overcome and thrive grows stronger.
“As representatives of the Nigerian people, we cannot pay lip service to the plight of the same individuals who elected us into office to protect their interests. It is our resolve to see that Nigerians, wherever they are, live their normal lives in peace and relative ease.”
While noting that the House was “acutely” aware of the rising security challenges affecting different parts of the country, Speaker Abbas said as elected representatives, they also acknowledge the pain and suffering of every family that had been a victim of “brutal crimes and needless violence.”
“Let it be known that your cries have not fallen on deaf ears, and your tears have not gone unseen. We stand in solidarity with every Nigerian affected and commit to deploying robust legislative measures to empower our security agencies, ensure justice, and restore peace and order in our communities,” the Speaker stated.
In the face of such hardships, Speaker Abbas said it was natural to feel a sense of despair and frustration. “The impact of the challenges I have identified above is felt in every home, on every street, and in the hearts of every Nigerian. Yet, it is precisely in times like these that our true strength as a nation is revealed. Our resilience, unity, and indomitable spirit have seen us through difficult times before, and I have no doubt that these qualities will carry us through again,” he said.
To those affected by the scourge of insecurity, the Speaker said: “I want you to know that your government hears you loud and clear. We are taking decisive steps to address the root causes of this menace, deploying both military and diplomatic resources to ensure the safety and security of all Nigerians. It is a complex challenge, one that requires patience and time to resolve, but I assure you that we are making progress.”
On the economic front, Speaker Abbas said the government was equally committed to reversing the downturn and setting the country back on a path of sustainable growth. He noted that the policies of the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration were designed to stimulate the economy, encourage investment, and create jobs. “We understand the urgency of the situation and are working tirelessly to alleviate the hardships many of you are experiencing,” he stated.
The Speaker stressed: “The issue of food shortages is particularly close to my heart. Food security is fundamental to national security. We are implementing comprehensive strategies to boost agricultural production, improve supply chains, and ensure that affordable food is accessible to everyone, regardless of where they live.
“I ask for your patience as these measures take effect. Change, especially of the magnitude we are aiming for, does not happen overnight. It requires time, effort, and, most importantly, the support of every Nigerian. Each of us has a role to play in this journey towards a more secure, prosperous, and food-secure Nigeria. Whether you are a farmer, a business owner, a teacher, or a student, your contribution matters.
“Together, we can overcome these challenges and build a brighter future for our beloved country. As your Speaker, I am filled with renewed hope for what we can achieve together. In conclusion, I call upon every Nigerian, from the north to the south, from the east to the west, to join hands in solidarity. Let us support our government’s policies, let us be patient, and let us work together towards the common goal of a better, stronger, and more unified Nigeria.”
Speaker Abbas also noted that the President Tinubu had demonstrated an unwavering commitment to improving the security situation and enhancing the capability of the Armed Forces. The Speaker recalled that just on Tuesday, he attended the induction ceremony of the T-129 ATAK helicopter and the King Air 360i aircraft into the esteemed Nigerian Air Force.
The acquisition of these state-of-the-art aircrafts, he stated, clearly indicated the government’s dedication to investing in the security infrastructure of the nation. He added that it also reflected a proactive stance in adapting to the dynamic challenges of modern warfare and a commitment to providing the Armed Forces with the best tools to defend Nigeria and the people.
The Speaker also recalled that on November 8, 2023, the President signed the N2.176trillion Supplementary Appropriation Act to strengthen Nigeria’s security architecture and address Nigeria’s critical infrastructure deficit, amongst other considerations. “These investments in the face of global economic downturn and budgetary constraints attest to the government’s determination to end insecurity in Nigeria,” he said.
His words: “While recognising and commending the patriotic and courageous efforts of our security agencies, we must have the courage to effect changes where necessary. These are among the issues that the forthcoming Legislative Summit on Security will address. This summit, which comes up in a matter of weeks, will, among others, allow us to hear directly from the key stakeholders in the sector and come up with legislative measures to modernise our security system and improve its operational efficiency and effectiveness.
“As emphasised in our Legislative Agenda, the time has come for us to demand greater transparency from our security agencies and full accountability for all the funds spent and earmarked for spending in the sector. We kick-started our sectoral debates in November last year with the Service Chiefs and the Inspector General of Police to demonstrate the seriousness we attach to security.”
On the economy, the Speaker stated that members of the House were also aware of the challenges facing their constituents across Nigeria. Of particular concern to the House, he noted, was the high inflation rates, particularly the rate of food inflation. “As you are all aware, various factors, including insecurity, economic downturns and climate change-induced disruptions, have exacerbated this crisis,” he noted.
Speaker Abbas commended the “rapid and decisive response” of the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to the issue of food security. He recalled that the 2023 Supplementary Budget provided N200billion palliative package, mainly for grains, seeds, agricultural inputs and equipment for farmers. He noted that this momentum had been sustained in the 2024 budget, which he said had significantly improved budgetary allocations to all critical sectors of the economy, especially defense, healthcare, education and infrastructure.
The Speaker also recalled that in 2023, the President declared a state of emergency on food security, focusing on improving both availability and affordability. He said some immediate measures approved the release of fertilisers and grains to farmers and households, particularly given the fallouts from the removal of fuel subsidies.
Others, he noted, included boosting the national strategic food reserve and introducing a price stabilisation mechanism, especially for critical food items. And just a few days ago, President Tinubu also constituted a special presidential committee headed by the Chief of Staff to the President to take immediate steps to arrest the worsening food situation.
Speaker Abbas partly stated: “We in the National Assembly have supported and will continue to support the government’s efforts in finding effective solutions to these challenges. For the first time in the history of the Nigerian legislature, the 10th House set up a Committee on Nutrition and Food Security with a mandate to strengthen the legislative framework for nutrition governance in Nigeria, advocate for the inclusion of nutrition in government priority programmes and monitor resource allocation to nutrition in the annual budget estimates.
“I wish to reassure all Nigerians that the House will prioritise funding for programmes and initiatives to alleviate hunger and enhance security. We are fully committed to supporting policies that will stimulate our economy, provide relief, and ensure relief is felt in every home.
“In addition to promoting security so that farmers can feel safe to return to their farms, the House will support import and export policies that stabilise food prices and ensure adequate supply of essential food items at affordable rates, especially for our constituents living in rural areas. We also propose enacting legislation to enable swift government response to tackle food shortages, including emergency food aid and support for affected populations.”
Speaker Abbas stated that as Nigerians navigate through “these tumultuous times,” the importance of unity and constructive engagement could not be overstated, stressing that the synergy between the three arms of the government – executive, legislative, and judiciary – is paramount.
He said: “For this reason, I call on every citizen to engage in positive and constructive criticism. Your voices and opinions are invaluable, providing the compass that guides our actions and policies. At this juncture, ladies and gentlemen of the press, as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, my colleagues and I invite Nigerians to engage critically with us on important national issues. In fact, we encourage and welcome criticisms, but these must be constructive and targeted at building national unity and cohesion and advancing development.
“However, while we encourage freedom of expression and constructive dialogue, we must also be wary of the dangers of fake news and campaigns of slander and defamation, especially against the President and senior government officials.”
The Speaker noted that there had been a rise in defamation campaigns on social media involving the deliberate dissemination of false and misleading information with the intent to harm the reputation of individuals or organisations. According to him, these campaigns often target political opponents, seeking to undermine their credibility, integrity, and public trust.
The Speaker cited the recent case of “unjustified and baseless allegations” against the Chief of Staff to the President, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, which he warned “point to the danger of an unfettered and unaccountable social media.”
He stated: “Such acts not only undermine the integrity of our democracy but also erode the fabric of our national unity. Yet, Femi is just one of millions of Nigerians who suffer cyber bullying and coordinated campaigns of defamation daily. Too many victims are not as powerful as him to defend themselves.”
“Those of us who have worked with him for over a decade can attest to his patriotism and integrity. His willingness to voluntarily subject himself to investigation by all security and law enforcement agencies demonstrates his rectitude and honour. I urge the security agencies to work diligently and swiftly to investigate all matters he has raised in his letter to them and inform Nigerians of their findings. If not found guilty, these agencies must fish out those responsible for the character assassination and ensure they are brought before the law.
“It is most unfortunate that someone who has, over the years, built a reputation through dint of hard work and commitment to service, should have same damaged by unscrupulous elements. The consistent attempt to pull him down for purely political or personal reasons and without consequence is deeply deplorable.”
In attendance at the press conference were the Deputy Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu; the Leader of the House, Prof. Julius Ihonvbere; Deputy Leader, Hon. Abdullahi Ibrahim Halims; Chief Whip, Hon. Usman Bello Kumo; and the Deputy Chief Whip, Hon. Adewunmi Oriyomi Onanuga.
Others were the Minority Leader, Hon. Kingsley Chinda; Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Aliyu Sani Madaki; and Minority Whip, Hon. Ali Isa, as well as several chairmen of committees, caucus leaders, among others.
Speaker Abbas responded to questions from journalists that came from different media organisations on insecurity, economy and other national issues.
Musa Abdullahi Krishi, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Speaker, House of Representatives, Federal Republic of Nigeria.