OrderPaperToday – The of the House of Representatives majority leader, Alhassan Doguwa (APC, Kano) has admitted that absenteeism of lawmakers from work has led to bills, motions and other legislative activities being stalled.
Mr. Doguwa blamed this attitude by his colleagues on the low performance and perceived unproductivity of the Parliament.
He made the following observations on the heels of stepping down of several bills already scheduled for second reading on Thursday because the sponsors were either not available to present and lead the debate on the general principles.
Recall that OrderPaper Nigeria has been serializing publication of the Midterm Performance Appraisals of the National Assembly, revealing gaps and opportunities in the conduct of legislative business.
The outspoken Doguwa accused his colleagues of not only absenteeism from plenary sessions but also failure to stay to the end of the sessions to allow for consideration of bills and motions.
Doguwa expressed displeasure at the lack of quorum at plenary sometimes as required by rules of the House, thereby leading to the stepping down of bills and motions scheduled for consideration and passage.
He therefore asked his colleagues to always liaise with the House Committee on Rules and Business to know when their bills would be listed for presentation and debate.
He said: “I urge my colleagues to always liaise with the House committee chairman on rules and business; also the chairman of rules and business must get in touch with relevant members so that Bills are not put on schedule only for us to now step them down because the member is not on the floor of the House. Especially Bills that are meant for second reading, second reading bills are very fundamental, it is when a member is expected to debate the general principles of the Bill. All members should please take it very seriously and be more dutiful when time comes for any bill to be taken for second reading.”
The observation by the House majority leader necessitated a reaction from Ndudi Elumelu, the minority leader, who corroborated Doguwa’s position. He however pointed accusing finger at the rules and business committee chairman over alleged favoritism.
“I align myself with the submission of the House leader, but also let us refresh our memory that on this floor members accused the rules and business chairman of being selective in listing bills that are before him. I think what he has tried to do is to ensure that everybody is given equal representation in terms of listing their bills. Members should always check their mails, emails are sent before sitting. I think some members don’t go through their mails”, he said.
Reacting to the observations, chairman of the committee, Mr. Abubakar Fulata (APC, Jigawa) said mails were sent to members on a daily basis, listing bills and motions scheduled for the day just as phone calls were placed to members with bills and motions.
Responding to the debate, the presiding officer, deputy speaker, Idris Wase, explained that one of the bills was stepped down following the leadership meeting they had before coming to the chamber.
He however ruled that members should henceforth present their bills to the meeting on weekly basis.
“Not to indict our colleagues, the last bill that was stepped down is as a result of leadership meeting we had this morning before we came into chambers. We saw that it is a bill that might go into privatization, so we advised him to step down. But I concur with you how we schedule our business, only for those who are present to be denied opportunity to present their own. There’s a legislative plan for every week and each member must be aware to know that his or her bill is going to be scheduled for a particular day. It’s important so we can be able to make progress.
“I think the observation brought by the leader (Doguwa) is getting quite serious. Out of the good number of Bills that have been scheduled today, majority of the members are not available to present. I think we will not reschedule them again until they have a very cogent explanation as to why we should. For that reason I am inviting all those who are not here to present their Bills to a meeting maybe within this week”, he said.