News From Senator Bukola Saraki
Olubukola Abubakar “Bukola” Saraki (born December 19, 1962) is a Nigerian politician who has been President of the Senate of Nigeria since 2015. Previously he was Governor of Kwara State from 2003 to 2011. He was first elected to the Senate in April 2011, representing the Kwara Central senatorial district, and re-elected in the March 2015 elections.
He is a current member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and previous member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Early life and education
Abubakar Bukola Saraki was born on 19 December 1962 to the family of Olusola Saraki, a senator (1979–1983) and a one time Senate Leader of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and his mother Florence Morenike Saraki. He attended King’s College, Lagos, from 1973 to 1978, and Cheltenham College, Cheltenham, London from 1979 to 1981 for his High School Certificate. He then studied at the London Hospital Medical College of the University of London from 1982 to 1987, when he obtained his M.B.B.S (London).
He worked as a medical officer at Rush Green Hospital, Essex, from 1988 to 1989. He was a director of Société Générale Bank (Nig) Ltd from 1990 to 2000.
In 2000, President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed Saraki as Special Assistant to the President on Budget. During his tenure, Saraki initiated the Fiscal Responsibility Bill. Saraki also served on the Economic Policy Coordination Committee, where he was responsible for the formulation and implementation of several key economic policies for Nigeria.
Governor of Kwara State
In 2003, he ran for the office of governor of Kwara State on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and won. He was sworn into office in May 2003. He ran again for re-election in 2007 and won his second term. As governor of Kwara, he led reforms in agriculture, health, education, finance and environment policy. One of his major achievements was inviting displaced white farmers from Zimbabwe to Kwara State and offering them an opportunity to farm. This led to the establishment of Shonga Farms programme, which is now being replicated across Nigeria. His charisma among his fellow governors got him appointed chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ forum.
Power generation and electricity
Under Saraki, Kwara became the first state to complete the Nigeria Independent Power Project. In collaboration with the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, Saraki re-energised the Ganmo Power Station at Ilorin, and connected over 375 rural communities to the national grid through the development and installation of 725 transformers and 7 substations. Kwara also completed 4 electrification projects which meant power became stable 18–22 hours a day. 90% of people living in Kwara have access to electricity, compared to a national average in Nigeria of 30%.
Primary health care
While in office, Saraki introduced new health programmes, including a statewide campaign in 2008 to reduce maternal and child mortality from malaria. This included distribution of insecticide-treated nets and free malaria drugs to pregnant mothers and to children under the age of five. A statewide programme of hospital development was also implemented, leading to the redevelopment of hospitals in Afon, Patigi and Lafiagi. Other measures included improved training and re-training for medical staff; refurbishment of hospitals and staff living quarters; and employment of qualified medical doctors and other health workers. Many of the primary care programmes were sponsored by international agencies such as WHO and UNICEF.
Agriculture and farming
Saraki introduced agricultural policy reforms to increase the commercial viability of farming, and also the volume of exports to international markets. The New Nigerian Farmers Initiative was designed to improve the technical capability of farmers and to ensure farmers had a significant financial stake in new investment in agriculture. The scheme utilised the under-used agricultural expertise in the Zimbabwean farming industry, and worked with Zimbabwe’s Commercial Farmers’ Union to identify highly skilled farmers able to support Nigeria’s farming industry and to move to Kwara and develop the farming industry. A commercial hub was also developed to build capacity support training for the indigenous farming community.
Saraki led significant and statewide infrastructure development, including improvements at the Ilorin International Airport Cargo Terminal, extensive road construction, and development of new sporting facilities such as Kwara Football Academy. The State has[when?] an ongoing goal of a logistics and cargo hub in Nigeria and the region.
Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum
Saraki became chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum in 2007. Under Saraki’s Chairmanship, a reformed Forum was established, with a fully resourced secretariat, with a technical and administrative division that was entirely focused on delivery.[clarification needed] Under Saraki’s chairmanship, new processes such as the State Peer Review Mechanism were developed to ensure closer working and collaboration, and that best practices could be hared between states. The mechanism allowed case studies to be shared between states in a number of policy fields. including power projects, primary healthcare centres for villages and other rural locations, roadworks, water, solar schemes and the construction of specialist hospitals and state universities. Projects such as these had previously remained undisclosed.
Polio immunisation and the Immunisation Leadership Challenge
The Forum developed better and more extensive polio immunisation in Nigeria. A key part of this was the introduction in 2011 of the Immunisation Leadership Challenge. The Challenge was designed to reward states in Nigeria that made significant improvements in polio and routine immunisation coverage by the end of 2012.
Observing the effects of the election cycle[clarification needed], the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation drove the challenge – launched in partnership with the NGF – which pledged to award US $500,000 to states that met a pre-defined threshold of improvement. The overall objective was to fast-track achievement of the milestone of interrupting further transmission of the wild polio virus in Nigeria. The grant would be used to support governors’ top health priorities, including malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV prevention and treatment, safe drinking water and hygiene programmes. The Gates Foundation also promised to match contributions by states to their chosen health project up to US $250,000. By the end of 2012 the number of polio cases dropped by about 50%.
The NGF and Global Development Partners
Under Dr Saraki’s chairmanship a number of Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) have been signed, including but not limited to the World Bank, DFID, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, GAVI, UNICEF, UNDP.
After two term tenure as governor of Kwara State, Bukola Saraki ran for the office of Senator, representing the Kwara Central Senatorial District. He won, succeeding his sister, Gbemisola Saraki-Forowa. He was appointed as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology and is also a member of the Senate Committee on Capital Markets and Finance. He pushed a motion in the Senate to end the fuel subsidy regime in Nigeria, which has been an excessive waste of the country’s national resources.
Senator Saraki has campaigned extensively on health, food security, education and the environment. He has argued for strengthened laws on the clean up of oil spills. His National Oil Spill and Detection and Response Agency Amendment Bill seeks to ensure oil companies pay appropriate levels of compensation to communities affected by oil spills.
Saraki intervened in the lead poisoning crisis in Zamfara State in 2010 and has supported to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, which ensures safe and healthy methods of cooking for millions of Nigerians while conserving the environment through reduced deforestation. He has been a lead campaigner in the areas of desertification and climate change in the Senate and across Nigeria. Saraki sponsored a motion on the floor of the Senate to end Nigeria’s fuel subsidy regime. Other motions and private member bills he has sponsored include the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency Amendment Bill 2012, which was aimed at putting a halt to oil spills in the Niger Delta, the Gas Flaring Prohibition Bill 2012 and the Climate Change Commission Bill 2013.
Saraki expressed regret after his supporters died in a human stampede at his residence. This was not the first time that people had been killed during his family’s habit of distributing money and food to their supporters.
After his re-election in the 2015 general elections, Saraki was on 9 June 2015 elected unopposed as President of the Senate by an across the party alliance comprising PDP and APC Senators. Saraki had faced stiff opposition from Senator Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan who was a preferred candidate by a group of senators-elect within the APC. His deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, emerged after a tightly contested election using a forged senate standing order.
Senator Bukola Saraki and a delegation of Senators visited Maiduguri, Borno State on 3 August 2015 to get an on-ground assessment of the damage done in the north-eastern part of Nigeria by terrorist group Boko Haram and to give hope to internally displaced persons. The delegation was the first of its kind by the leadership of the Senate since the insurgency began.