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EDITORIAL

Before The 8th National Assembly Signs Off

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As the legislative calendar for the 8th National Assembly approaches its termination date of June 8, 2019, statistics available show that there are more than 500 pending bills before it, some of them of critical importance to the country’s wellbeing.

Since its inauguration on June 9, 2015, the 8th Senate has so far passed about 220 bills, including Senate bills, concurrence bills and constitution amendment bills. However, pending bills at committee stages are about 167; those awaiting first reading and second reading at the Senate and House of Representatives are 95 and 236 respectively, while pending bills for concurrence are 48.

President Muhammadu Buhari is said to have so far assented to about 33 of the 78 bills transmitted to him, declining assent to about 40.

Expectedly, legislative work on the pending bills had taken a backstage due to lawmakers being engrossed with electioneering activities during the build-up to party primaries and the heated campaigns in the lead-up to general elections, which caused the National Assembly to shut down for a number of legislative days as most of federal lawmakers sought to win back their seats or sought new positions.

But now that the elections are over, it is time to return to the critical work of nation building by passing some bills that would help the country move forward.

There is concern that if the legislative agenda principles the 8th Senate adopted to absorb pending bills from the 7th Senate is not adhered to, these pending bills will go to waste if they are not passed before June 8, 2019, which means the 9th Senate would start all over by re-initiating the bills and getting them through all the enactment processes before they can seek presidential assent.

As a newspaper, we do not expect them to get all the more than 500 pending bills over the line before they quit the stage. We, however, expect them to prioritise certain bills that are very important to the country’s economic well being, governance and the development of the country’s democracy.

The most prominent among the pending bills right now is the Electoral Act Amendment Bill. Following the noticeable pitfalls observed in the just concluded general elections, the bill that most Nigerians would like to see become law immediately is this one, a piece of legislation that had been rejected by the president four times. It is understood that the lawmakers had sufficiently amended the bill to the president’s demands before the last general elections but that he withheld assent due to the closeness of the election.

It is a bill that would significantly have allowed for electronic transmission of results from the voting centres and remove the manipulations and interferences during results collation which was the bane of the just concluded elections, among other provisions. As a newspaper, we believe that bill will help to clean up the electoral system and ensure greater integrity in the electoral process.

Even the election management body itself, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), had two days ago, during the presentation of the certificates of return to members of the National Assembly, urged the lawmakers to expedite action on the bill so as to conclude it well ahead of the next election cycle.

Apart from the electoral bill, there are other bills they had already passed but were declined presidential assent. They should quickly spruce them up according to the president’s observations or override the president if they feel the need to do so at least 30 days before his swearing-in on May 29.

Some of the rejected bills are the National Research and Innovation Council (Est.) Bill, 2017; National Institute of Hospitality and Tourism (Est.) Bill, 2018; National Agricultural Seeds Council Bill, 2018; Subsidiary Legislation (Legislative Scrutiny) Bill, 2018; Chartered Institute of Entrepreneurship (Est.) Bill, 2018; Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) (Amendment) Bill, 2018; Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2017; Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2017; National Research and Innovation Council (Est.) Bill, 2017 and the Stamp Duties (Amendment) Bill, 2018.

Also of great importance are the 2019 Appropriation Bill the president laid before the lawmakers three months ago, the Minimum Wage Bill and the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), a bill that stakeholders believe would significantly impact positively on the oil and gas industry, the country’s main income source, and rub off handsomely on the economy.

There are also the Police Reform Bill, the Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) Amendment Bill and the Gender Equality Bill. Of great concern to the judiciary is the Constitution (Fourth Alteration) Bill No 20, which seeks to strengthen the judiciary for speedy dispensation of Justice.

As a newspaper, we also urge the incoming 9th Assembly to adopt the outgoing National Assembly’s ‘legislative agenda’ principles which allowed it to adopt pending bills from its immediate predecessor. This will save the incoming lawyers a lot of time and ensure that the hard work put in by their outgoing colleagues is not in vain.

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