OrderPaperToday – The Senate on Wednesday considered a bill seeking to empower poor Nigerians in rural areas.

This is to guarantee income and jobs that would provide 100 days of paid work per year. Thus, the Rural Employment Guarantee Bill, 2021, which scaled second reading on the floor, and was sponsored by Sen. Mohammed Sani Musa (APC, Niger East). 

Leading debate on the bill’s general principles, Sen. Musa explained that the bill, among others, seeks to provide livelihood security in rural communities. Furthermore, the bill seeks to provide at least one hundred days of guaranteed wage employment every financial year to every household whose adult member volunteers do skilled manual work. 

According to the lawmaker, the rural employment guarantee bill, when passed into law, would empower the rural poor. Such empowerment will be through the processes of a rights-based Law. Hence, the bill ensures a robust social safety net for vulnerable groups, strengthening the natural resource base of rural livelihood; and serves as a model of governance reform anchored on transparency and grass-root democracy. 

Additionally, Senator Musa stated that the National Rural Employment Guarantee bill aims to reduce poverty by providing extra work for those who need it. Likewise, the bill will also provide empowerment and insurance when other sources of work dry up. 

Citing the Poor Employment Act of 1817 in Britain and the New Deal Programs in the United States in the 1930s, Musa explained that the legislation was similarly intended to be an intervention that makes government an employer of last resort.  

Furthermore, He noted that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development would monitor the scheme’s implementation in association with state governments. 

Similarly, while contributing to the debate, Sen. Smart Adeyemi (APC, Kogi West) threw his weight behind the bill’s passage into law. According to the lawmaker, having agencies backed by law to oversee the implementation of such schemes for the poor would ensure that they are not abused. 

Sen. Adeyemi said, “in our nation today, Mr. President, most of these palliatives that the present government has put in place has been abused because you have a situation where names are duplicated,” adding that “it is even difficult for you to know those who are benefiting. 

“The bill my brother is seeking, is for us to have a formal agency for social security that will take care of all employment problems and even health problems of people who are not gainfully employed. It must be holistic.”

“This bill is good; the intention is good. But I think it must go further to make it a holistic solution to the problem of unemployment in our nation. This is so that it is not abused and so that in every local government in Nigeria, you have an agency in charge that will care for our people’s unemployment.    

“In having the law, we must also have the punitive measures in place for those who would abuse it, so that people will know that this bill is intended to alleviate the suffering of people, and by extension, Mr. President, guarantee the security of our nation. 

“Most of the people, who are into crime today, is out of frustration of unemployment. We have a large number of unemployed people.

“Today, we have up to two hundred universities and polytechnics producing graduates. 

Finally, Adeyemi stated that “we must advise our government. Progressive as this government is to palliatives, let us formalize these palliative measures by having a social security agency in every local government of Nigeria, and let us put a law in place to make sure that nobody abuses it.” 

After passing the second reading, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, referred the bill to the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development for further work. The Committee, chaired by Senator Abdullahi Adamu, was given four weeks to report back to the Senate.

Similarly, the Smallholder Farmers (Protection) Bill 2021 also scaled second reading on Wednesday. The bill sponsored by Senator Muhammad Enagi Bima (Niger South) was also referred by the Senate President to the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. 

Also, the Petroleum Industry Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021; Chartered Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering of Nigeria (Establishment) Bill, 2021; and Federal College of Agriculture, Shani (Establishment) Bill, 2021, passed second reading during plenary.  

While the Petroleum Industry Act (Amendment) Bill 2021 was referred to the Joint Committees on Petroleum (Upstream); Petroleum (Downstream); and Oil and Gas, the other two were referred to the Committees on Establishment and Public Service; and Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND for further input, respectively. 

These Committees were all given four weeks to turn in their reports to the chamber in plenary. 

Courtesy: Office of the President of the Senate. 

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