AGENDA: Student loan, oil theft, budget oversight…6 issues of urgent public importance for NASS

David OputahJanuary 29, 20249 min

As citizens continue to groan over economic hardship in the country and ahead of the resumption of the National Assembly (NASS) from a month-long break, OrderPaper lists some urgent national issues that could help alleviate the burdens on Nigerians 

Pending issues to be revisited by NASS - Akpabio and Abbas

Lawmakers in the 10th Assembly will resume their legislative activities on Tuesday, 30th January 2024 after a 4-week recess. The holiday was observed due to the festive season immediately after passing the N28.7 trillion 2024 budget on the 31st of December 2023.

As lawmakers gear up to resume legislative activities, some pending issues and reports are in dire need to be revisited. Talks over the continuance of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), committee reports on job racketeering, the controversial Students Loan Act, oil theft, and objections in some quarters to the already passed 2024 budget are expected to grab attention in both chambers. Let us explore these six urgent national issues one after another:

Pending issues to be revisited by NASS

National Youth Service Corps (NYSC): To be or not to be?

There is a need for the National Assembly to also take a firm decision on whether the NYSC scheme is to be retained or scrapped considering that a lot of young men and women have been victims of kidnapping across the nation and nothing much has been done to rescue the victims or prevent the occurrences. The scheme was set up in 1973 by the former President Yakubu Gowon administration, as part of strategies to foster unity in the post-civil war era. However, Nigerians are eagerly expecting the National Assembly to come up with better ways of protecting the NYSC members or scrap the scheme as the purpose of the exercise is currently viewed as being defeated as it seems that corps members are at more risk of being kidnapped due to the nature of the scheme and the rising insecurity in the country. This calls for great concern.

An example is the case of an NYSC member from Plateau State, Chalya Grace Silas, who was murdered in Kaduna State where she was undergoing the scheme. Although the House of Representatives on October 18, 2023, urged the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to ensure the speedy delivery of justice in the case and bring the assailants to book as it considered and passed a motion sponsored by Rep. Beni Lar (PDP, Plateau) seeking justice for the youth corps member who was brutally murdered while jogging in Barnawa, Kaduna South Local Government Area.

In a related development, there was a reported kidnap of some corp members in Gasau, Zamfara State while traveling to Sokoto State for national service. The Corps members were lucky to have been rescued after spending 5 months in captivity. In May 2021 a bill to amend the 1999 constitution to scrap the NYSC was introduced in the House of Representatives by Awaji-Inombek Abiante (PDP, Rivers). It sought to repeal section 315(5a) of the 1999 constitution and the National Youth Service Corps Act. Rep Abiante cited insecurity, exploitation by place of primary assignment, and the poor state of orientation camps as reasons for his bill. According to him, “Unfortunately, after several decades, the programme has failed to address the essence of its establishment, while several reform efforts have also not yielded desired results, but has continued to be a drain on our scarce resources and exposing families to several nightmares and even loss of loved ones after so much investment.” Going by recent occurrences the lawmakers might just revisit the bill to address this urgent national issue affecting the NYSC.

READ ALSO: Insecurity, BettaGate, Super Eagles…top 5 issues as NASS resumes  

THE BANE OF JOB RACKETEERING - THISDAYLIVE

Job racketeering allegations 

The House had on 6 July 2023 resolved to beam searchlight on Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) over alleged employment racketeering and mismanagement of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). The resolution followed the adoption of a motion by Oluwole Oke (PDP, Osun) at a session presided over by Deputy Speaker Benjamin Kalu (APC, Abia)

Six months after an ad-hoc committee led by Rep. Yusuf Gagdi (APC, Plateau) was constituted to examine the matter, the report is yet to be presented on the floor of the green chamber despite the fact that several public hearings were held with alarming expository. As NASS resumes, it is important the Houseprioritises this matter as one of the pending issues of urgent national importance.

Information key to successful student loan scheme – Stakeholders

Student Loan Act

The consideration of a report on the Students Loans (Access to Higher Education) Act has been delayed for too long. The law, [assed by the 9th assembly, has elicited several reactions from different stakeholders with a mounting consensus that it be reworked to guarantee that indigent students targeted to benefit truly enjoy the gains.

Recall that the sum of N50 billion was provided for in the 2024 budget to kick-start the scheme which is one project that is very important in the President Tinubu-led administration. With the rate of reactions in the media from the public, the National Assembly is expected to discuss the report of an ad-ho committee constituted to address the limitations facing the Act. The report from the Rep. Terser Ugbo committee was laid on…..

Nigeria loses $2bln in eight months due to oil theft

Oil theft report

One important issue Nigerians expect the National Assembly to deliberate on and find solutions to is the lingering problem of crude oil theft. Recall that a House committee, chaired by Rep. Kabiru Alhassan Rurum (NNPP, Kano), was assigned to investigate the impact of the theft on loss of revenues and expose any person or groups of persons behind the economic haemorrhage in the country. Nigerians eagerly await the report of the committee to be discussed and not swept under the carpet.

Reps ask JAMB to extend validity of UTME results to three years

3 years validity of UTME results 

Nigerians are very keen on knowing the recommendations by the National Assembly on the motion “Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) on the Extension of the Validity period of UTME Result for at least three (3) years and conduct of the Examination twice annually,” presented by Rep. Akume Regina (APC, Benue) (HR.68/07/2023).

The Rep member is urging the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) to extend the validity period of its Universities and Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) results for at least three years. This is one pressing topic that is expected to alleviate the buden of students with aspirations of higher education.

Tinubu budget

Lopsided budgetary allocations and parliamentary oversight

Recently, senators from the 19 northern states and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, under the aegis of Northern Senators Forum (NSF) kicked against the allocation and distribution of funds in the 2024 budget. The senators had protested what they described as lopsided distribution and allocation between the north and south in the 2024 budget. The NSF spokesman, Senator Suleiman Kawu Sumaila (NNPP, Kano South), asserted that they are prepared to have a conversation with the executive to correct the apparent imbalance.

However, while the northern senators are entitled to explore political solutions to the alleged budget imbalance, Nigerians will be anticipating the National Assembly to take their duties of oversight more seriously. Given that accountability and transparency from the executive arm of government can only come through thorough legislative oversight, it is pertinent that the National Assembly meet up to this expectation as one of the urgent public issues.

David Oputah

Oputah David M is a Bloomberg-trained Journalist with a diversified experience in online journalism and newsroom management. He is a 2023 MTN Media Innovation fellow!

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