Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki, on Saturday said the Nigeria Senate will throw its weight behind any effort from the executive to increase the funding allocated for the amnesty programme in the 2016 budget.
Dr. Saraki spoke to pressmen at the State House after a ceremony to mark the nation’s 56th Independence. He said any plan by the executive to calm the frayed nerves in the Niger Delta and increase oil production will be welcomed by the Senate.
“Any positive move to restore peace in the restive Niger Delta region as well as increase the nation’s ability to earn more money at this point will enjoy the support of the Senate. We need to earn more foreign exchange and inject more money into the system through the funding of development projects to reflate our economy and put more people to work.”
He also spoke about the Senate’s recommendation that Mr. President appoint a Special Adviser that would lead the government in dialogue with the aggrieved Niger Delta militants to ensure the protection of Nigeria’s oil and gas assets.
“This team should include Senators from the zone, and should oversee and advice on all the interventions and negotiations that are necessary to bring peace and stability to the Region.”
According to the Ad-hoc committee set up by the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly to harmonize the two-day debate by members on the economic crisis, it urged the Federal Government to among other things:
“…..engage in meaningful and inclusive dialogue with the aggrieved Niger Deltans to avoid an escalation of the conflict in the region, ensure protection of the Nigeria oil pipelines and the resultant increase in oil production, sales, and economic boost”.
The report of the ad-hoc committee stated that the engagement of the militants in dialogue is necessary because of the falling oil revenue from an average of about $110 in 2014 to $30 in January, 2016 and $46 today.
Parts of the report reads:
“This fall in revenue was further exacerbated by the vandalization of the nation’s oil asset in the Niger Delta region that nearly halved the nation’s oil production and export from 2.1 million barrels per day to just about 1 million barrels per day.”
“All this was happening in the absence of any saving from the high oil prices of the last decade that saw the nation’s foreign exchange reserves plummeting from more than $60 billion dollars in 2007 to about $24 billion.”
In recommending dialogue, the Senate said that it is necessary “in order to shore up our foreign reserves, Government should explore every avenue to restore the oil production target of 2.2 million barrels per day.”