OrderPaperToday – As the National Assembly resumes from recess today, certain expectations have been raised by citizens with respect to a myriad of issues requiring legislative interventions.

Electoral bill…

Chief of these is the Electoral Amendment Act bill that was declined assent by President Muhammadu Buhari shortly before the lawmakers embarked on their Christmas vacation. The bill seeks to make substantial reforms in the electoral jurisprudence of the country, including electronic transmission of results. But the inclusion of compulsory direct primaries by political parties was the reason the President declined assent, infuriating many members of the legislature. OrderPaper Nigeria had reported that the senator representing Benue south senatorial district, Sen. Abba Moro, said reasons adduced by the President are not good enough and may trigger an override of his decision. Indeed, many Nigerians and civil society organisations have also called on the lawmakers to either veto the president or to remove the contentious clause and re-present the bill to the President. Recall that President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, had on Wednesday 22, 2021, disclosed that the Senate would consult with the House of Representatives on how to respond to President Muhammadu Buhari’s letter on the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill. He assured that a joint position would be taken with the House after due consultation with Nigerians to determine the appropriate line of action when both chambers reconvene from the Christmas break in January. “The Senate believes that our constituents have a role to play as the major stakeholders in the laws that we make in the National Assembly”, Lawan had said.

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Constitution amendment…

Another issue that Nigerians, and of course the international community, would be watching out for is the constitutional amendment because time is of the essence and moreover 2022 is pregnant with a lot of political activities in preparation ahead of the 2023 general elections. There are critical amendment bills already in process, including gender-related matters. Since the return of democracy to the country in 1999, there has been growing concern over low representation of women in both elective and appointive positions. The constitution amendment process provides worthy window for lawmakers to push for the 35% affirmative action in the minimum. There are other critical aspects of constitution amendment like local government autonomy bill, strengthening auditor general’s office, and fiscal federalism, among others.

Loans and oversight…

Nigerians will want to see insightful and proper oversight of government agencies. For instance, there’s need for the House to decisively intervene in the manner which the federal government engages in borrowing that has given rise to the country’s ballooning foreign debt profile. Nigerians expect the House Committee on Aids, Loans and Debts Management led by Ahmed Safana to do more in scrutinizing some of the loans presented to it for approval. Although nothing much has been heard of the committee because it operates in secret and sittings are not made public to journalists even those covering the House of Representatives. Presently, there seems to be seriously outcry over the increased borrowing rate of the APC led government. A lot of people have lampooned the government saying there’s really nothing to show for the monies borrowed so far.

Insecurity challenge…

The spate of kidnapping, killings, banditry and other forms of crime going on in the country calls for serious and urgent attention so Nigerians will want to see the lawmakers dust out the State Police bill and other measures to address the matter.

Stalled probes….

Nigerians want to see reports of motions that have been referred to relevant Committees that are long due for presentation and deliberations. For instance, what has happened to the Ossia Nicholas Ossai report on railway contract with the Chinese government? The House in 2020 initiated a probe alleging that the Ministry of Transport obtained over $33 billion loan from China for the construction of rail project without any clear cut financing arrangements. There are several pending reports against the Nigeria National Petroleum Cooperation (NNPC) on non-remittance and under-remittance of funds by the company. There are several queries raised by the Auditor General of the Federation currently been investigated by the House Committee on Public Accounts. Why has the Committee not been presenting its findings to the House for further action. Also, in September 2020, the House initiated a probe into the controversial concessioning of airports in Nigeria. The motion which was sponsored by Mr. Ademorin kuye (APC, Lagos) was referred to the House Committee on Aviation, chaired by Mr. Nnolim Nnaji (PDP, Enugu), for investigation. The committee is expected to present it report on the floor of the House. The above expected reports have elapsed the time duration given to the committees. Some are as long as one year or two years ago.

Legislative agenda…

Eyes would also be on the implementation of the legislative agenda of the National Assembly. Recall that the 9th House of Representatives, on inauguration in June 2019, set out a ‘Legislative Agenda.’ The Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, during one of his roundtable meetings with heads of government agencies, foreign partners like the European Union, the World Bank, ECOWAS, and some stakeholders said the House was committed to the blue print. According to him, “when I became Speaker, I committed to broad reforms of government and governance infrastructure in Nigeria. I believed then, and I still believe that until we fix the way we run the government in Nigeria, we will always be limited in our ability to meet our people’s expectations regardless of our best interests. To be effective, the House needed to plan and work towards that plan, rather than stay in a reactionary position where our interventions are motivated by the demands of the news cycle. This commitment inspired me to appoint a Special Committee to draft a Legislative Agenda for the House to debate, amend, and adopt as our action plan. Afterwards, we presented the Agenda to the Senate, the Executive, Judiciary and the general public. We wanted the Legislative Agenda to be a public document, open to discussion, and criticism. We also wanted to make our governing intentions known, so those who had any interest, ideas, and contributions could reach out to work with us”.

The revised 9th Legislative Agenda with had10 priority areas, namely healthcare; education; security; economy; sustainable power; human capital development and social investment; agriculture and food security; environment and climate change; governance; and reform of the House of Representatives. Nigerians are expecting to see more actions, including bills and motions passed by the House.



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