The Speaker of the House of Representatives Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila on Thursday attended the budget sessions of three committees of the House, the first time a Speaker of the House would do so.
The Speaker appeared at the separate budget defence sessions of the House Committees on Defence, Water Resources and Sports chaired by Reps Babajimi Benson, Sada Soli and Olumide Osoba respectively.
Speaking at the budget session of the House Committee on Defence, where the Chief of Defence Staff General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin was present, Gbajabiamila said he decided to attend because of the importance the House attaches to issues of security.
Accompanied by the House Leader, Rep Alhassan Ado Doguwa, the Speaker said: “My presence here is a bit psychological, nothing more, nothing less. For me, it’s a mental psychological effect, in the sense that the Speaker and the Leader of the House are here.
“It tells you exactly how important we feel security matters are in this House. We have no doubt that it is on the front burner, it is a priority for us. For the first time in the history of the House of Representatives, we have the issue of the Armed Forces on the legislative agenda. Hardly do you have the Speaker or the leadership being part of budget hearing (defence). It’s important enough for us.
“I believe that the members that you have here were carefully chosen. They’re men who come with a lot of experience, passion and commitment, particularly in the area of security,” he said.
Responding to a submission by the Chief of Defence Staff, the Speaker observed that “I heard you talking about the issue of indigenous manufacturers.
“For us, it’s very key and important that either by way of legislation or budgeting that we encourage our indigenous manufacturers. The issue of local content that we all hear about, many people think it’s restricted to the petroleum industry, but if we don’t have a country, we can’t even have the petroleum industry.
“The issue of local content must spread into security matters, and we have men and women who are capable of delivering the goods as you’ve stated here. We have DICON, Innoson and so many of them. We just need to encourage and fund them. I’m glad that we’re on the same page when it comes to that.
“On your research department, in any sector, research is very key. I think people undermine the importance of research. It’s the way to develop, whether it’s health sector, education or whatever it is. You just have to research and develop, that’s what I think that sector also needs to be funded very well. You also have space administration. The 21st Century is all about cyber. If we don’t develop this area, we’re just scratching the surface.
“I’m hoping that at the end of this exercise, we’ll have a robust budget for our security. It will never be enough, anywhere in the world for that matter, but I think we should do better than what we’ve been doing in the last few years. We agreed to increase the benchmark partly because of the importance of funding the military. If you do a close examination, you’ll find that a lot of the chunk is going to your area. We need to be safe first before we can make progress.”
He expressed gratitude to the men and women of the Nigerian Armed Forces who have put their lives on the line to protect the lives of citizens.
After spending about 20 minutes at the Defence Committee session, the Speaker proceeded to the budget defence session of the Water Resources Committee, where he noted that he believes in the capacity of the chairman and members of the committee but that he was there to encourage them.
At the Sports Committee, where the Minister of Youth and Sports, Sunday Dare was in attendance, the Speaker said sports is also an important sector that could generate huge revenue for the country.
“We are here just to make sure that everything is going on okay. We’re very sure that the committee will do its work well because the members were carefully chosen.
“For us in the House, this is not the practice. It’s not the practice that the Speaker and the leadership will go round during budget defence. We decided to do it because this is a House of Reforms for several reasons. One, I’m a thorough legislator, because this is what I’ve been doing all my life. I miss being around during budget defence.
“Two, it’s important. We chose the sports committee because many don’t understand the importance of the sports industry. Whether you’re under-developed, developing or developed, sports is very key and critical to the development of any country. In fact, for some people, that’s what they use to generate revenue.”