President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, has pledged the support of the National Assembly to the Cotonou Agreement of the African, Carribean and Pacific (ACP) countries ahead of its meeting in Cotonou, Benin Republic.
The meeting is to fashion out a unified terms of agreement with the European Union (EU).
In a similar vein, Saraki assured the new Country Director of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to Nigeria, Samuel Bawlya, of the quick passage of the gender bill before the National Assembly.
Saraki spoke when the Head of ACP delegation led by Ambassador Ahmadu Diop and the Country Director of the UNDP visited him separately at the National Assembly in Abuja on Thursday.
According to a press statement by his Special Assistant on Print Media, Chuks Okocha, Saraki told the ACP delegation that that was the time for Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific nations to speak with one voice on issues of mutual interests.
“Let me assure you of the support of the National Assembly,” Saraki said. “With the confidence we have in the team led by yourself and the importance that has been placed on the work you are doing, be rest assured of our support.
“What gives us the confidence is the capacity from those of you who have taken-up the responsibility of going into discussion and negotiation on how to renew the Cotonou Agreement.”
The president of the Senate also told the ACP group that most parts of the Cotonou Agreement affected Nigeria and other African countries.
Said Saraki: “We seek lots of collaboration to keep us informed. We are very keen to see how that type of negotiation across the continent will affect the future and the kind of development in different parts of the world.
“As you rightly said, about what is happening around the world, like the issues of migration, climate change, terrorism, trade and development are crucial to us. It is time to reset the button.
“As you can see in Africa, we have larger per cent of youth, 70 per cent of our population are under the age of 30 and even below. We must think of the future, whatever agreement we have, we must think of the future.
“Today, we hear a lot of stories and some of them saying that after 2020, there would be no more petroleum powered cars but those powered by electricity. What will happen to countries like ours that still depend on fossil fuel for cars? We need to start talking about that now.
“These are important issues that we must begin to engage with other parts of the world and we hope that we will be able to get it done. We want to assure you of our support anytime.
“In the Senate and the National Assembly here, our focus is to create an enabling environment for the young people that are beginning to agitate for a better continent.
“We cannot do that by ourselves; we cannot do that without having enabling environment that the entire global world will assist and support to bring it about.”
Earlier, Ambassador Diop, the leader of the ACP delegation, said that the team was on diplomatic consultation with member countries to renew the Cotonou Agreement before signing another terms of agreement with the EU countries.
Also, Saraki while responding to the comments by the new UNDP Country Director on the gender equality bill before the National Assembly, noted that much work had been done on the gender bill.
“The Gender Bill as you mentioned is before the National Assembly and we have made much progress on it. We should be able to come up with something tangible on it very soon.
“As I said, I think the support that can be given at this point should be in terms of advocacy on the objective of the Bill so that it would make it more acceptable,” he stated.
Earlier, the UNDP County Director commended the President of the Senate for the establishment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)/Steering Committee co-chaired by the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives, to ensure effective oversight of the SDGs implementation in the country.
He also expressed his gratitude to the National Assembly for its excellent collaboration which has always existed between it and the UNDP.
He stated that he shared with the Senate President core UNDP mandate areas in the country which included: Governance and Peace Building, Sustainable Development, Inclusive Growth and Poverty Alleviation and SDGs.