The United Kingdom has urged the National Assembly against abandoning its constitutional legislative duties while canvassing for votes for the 2019 general elections. The UK urged the National Assembly to pass the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) and Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities Bill among others before the end of their tenure.
The Acting British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Harriet Thompson, said this after her meeting with the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and the Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan at the Senate Complex Building.
Senators on Tuesday, November 13, 2018 were forced to adjourn plenary session to today for lack of quorum since only about 10 senators were present as at the time the plenary commenced at about 10:50.am.
Minority Whip Philip Aduda (PDP, FCT), had raised a point of order at the commencement of plenary, citing Senate Rule 10 (3), which he said provided that senators could not sit until they formed a quorum by having 38 senators sitting in a session.
The British High Commissioner cautioned that there are pending bills, which are highly important for the economic wellbeing and development of the country that the senators ought to complete processes of their passage before the end of their tenure.
Ms Thompson who disclosed that she extracted commitment from Saraki and Lawan that the National Assembly shall not abandon its legislative duties for election campaigning listed the bills she said if passed shall make things better for Nigerians.
Specifically, Ms Thompson mentioned Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, the Police Reform Bill, Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), the Gender Equality Bill and the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities Bill, and said that these bills ought to be passed before the end of the 8th National Assembly.
The British High Commissioner however said that the statement released collectively by the international community on Sunday against the backdrop of the commencement of electioneering campaign was not meant to give leverage or support for any candidate or political party.
Ms Thompson said the concern of the United Kingdom as a friend of Nigeria is to ensure that the electoral process is free, fair and credible, which would unarguably lead to the right outcome for the country.
She therefore advised the federal government to remain impartial and avoid undue interference on the electoral process and in the duties of the electoral umpire in the country.
This is just as she called on the security agencies to retrace their steps following their alleged partiality and interferences observed during the governorship elections held under the current federal government.
According to her, the activities of the security operatives led to intimidation of opponents, promoted vote buying and violence that marked the recent governorship elections and the party primaries, adding that all parties must refrain from that.
‘’We met with the Senate President and the Majority Leader of the Senate in order to talk about very important legislative business that the National Assembly should undertake even before the elections and with the start of the official campaign period at the weekend.
‘’We are very pleased to hear from both the leader of the majority and the senate president that there is a great commitment to continue their important work.
‘’The bills that we particularly mentioned were the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, the Police Reform Bill, Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), the Gender Equality Bill and the Discrimination Against persons with Disabilities Bill.
‘’These are all bills that we believe would make things better for Nigerians, for their rights, for their opportunities and for economic development. So, we are really pleased that they will continue with their works.
‘’We are here at the National Assembly to draw attention to the statement released yesterday by the international community including the UK on the occasion of the beginning of formal campaign season. We drew attention to the fact that as friends of Nigerians and maintaining our resolutely, objective position, we do not support any particular candidate or political party.
‘’We are strongly in support of a process that will be free, fair and credible, and that leads to the right outcome for Nigeria. We look forward to seeing the electoral parties set out their campaign issues and leading to transparent play so that the people of Nigeria can choose the candidates that will be best to them.
‘’And they will campaign on the issues that matter to them. And they will then go out to exercise their democratic rights to vote based on their own understanding of what the different political parties and their candidates would do for them and for Nigeria.
‘’We call again on the security agencies to remain impartial and to not interfere in the electoral process. As far as we are concern, intimidation, vote-buying, that we saw in the recent governorship elections and the violence that we saw around party primaries and we are urging all parties to refrain from that.
‘’Once again we recall the important roles of INEC and they should ensure that these elections are generally fair and will lead to the outcome that the Nigerian people chose’’, British High Commissioner said.
Meanwhile, Saraki, yesterday assured Nigerians that legislative duties in the National Assembly would not be relegated to the background in view of the commencement of the 2019 electioneering campaigns.
Saraki, according to a statement by his Special Assistant on Print Media, Chuks Okocha, in Abuja, made the assertion while responding to comments by the Acting British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Harriet Thompson, who visited him at the National Assembly.
Saraki said, “It is very important to emphasise that as far as we are concerned, we will follow through on the key Bills. We will continue to work on these Bills, because they are priorities to the 8th National Assembly — these are Bills that were initiated by the legislative arm of government.
“For example, the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) has never gotten this far in its history. However, both Chambers of the National Assembly worked very hard to come up with a unified position and sent it to the Executive. Unfortunately, it came back with some minor issues that we feel should not have affected the progress of the Bill. These were issues that could have been easily addressed.
“The two arms of government must see that the most important thing is for us to get the PIGB going because it has a lot of impact on the industry in terms of transparency, accountability and ensuring that the revenues of the petroleum sector are well managed.
“As you know, we have also gone far with the fiscal and host community components of the Bill, because it came about as a result of constant engagement with stakeholders in the industry. However, with this setback by the Executive, this has slowed down the process a little,” the Senate President said.
Speaking on the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) and the Police Reform Bill, Saraki said that the CAMA Bill was only waiting for the Concurrence Committee of both Houses of the National Assembly to finish its work, while the Police Reform Bill would soon be subjected to Public Hearing.
On the Discrimination Against persons with Disabilities Bill, Saraki stated that the Bill would soon be on its way to the President for assent, while emphasising that he was still hopeful that the Gender Bill would be passed before the end of the 8th Assembly.