Issues Before N’Assembly As It Returns from Vacation Tuesday

Udora Orizu writes that with less than nine months to the end of the 9th National Assembly, crucial legislative work awaits Senators and members of the House of Representatives as they resume plenary Tuesday after a two-month long annual vacation

Lawmakers in the 9th National Assembly who have been on a two-month annual vacation, will resume plenary on Tuesday, September 20, 2022 to commence the last lap of their legislative activities ending early June, 2023.

As another legislative session is about to begin, expectations are high that the lawmakers will continue their legislative duties and attend to several unfinished business.

Before emerging as the Senate President in 2019, Senator Ahmad Lawan had campaigned on the mantra of taking the legislature back to the people, towards a new Nigeria where active participation and inclusiveness in governance reign supreme.

Lawan, had last week, while responding to questions from Senate correspondents after inspecting the renovation work at the temporary venue for the sitting, said that the confirmation of the appointment of the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria and the consideration of the budget proposals for 2023 will engage the immediate attention of the Senate on resumption.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila had also in 2019, unveiled the, ‘Nation Building, a joint task’ agenda, aimed to achieve a legislative harmony within the House where members can jettison partisanship in favour of national interest through unity of purpose.

The Gbajabiamila-led House listed a number of key reforms, both for the lower chamber of the National Assembly and Nigeria as a country, some of which would require an amendment of the constitution. The areas of focus of the agenda include security, education, health, budget reform, economy and job creation and so on.

At a recent capacity building workshop organized by the office of the Speaker of House of Representatives, the Chairman, House  Committee on Legislative Agenda, Hon. Henry Nwawuba disclosed that the 9th House has achieved 60 percent of the areas of focus listed in its legislative agenda and will do more once they resume activities.

Below are some key issues expected of them to tackle in the next few months.

Worsening Insecurity

Though security issues have been the crux of discussion on the floor of the two chambers, as several security-related motions were passed by the lawmakers with nothing much coming out of it, However as expected, the worsening security situation of the country is expected to be the main agenda of both Senate and House of Representatives upon resumption.

As election campaigns start by end of this month, most lawmakers seeking reelection will be busy at their various constituencies politicking. However the available ones in the chambers as usual are expected to come up with motions, bills and suggestions for the executive arm of government on ways to tackle and curb the worsening insecurity. The lawmakers are also expected to interface with the Executive on the possible implementation of the recommendations from their national security summit which they submitted to the Executive last year.

2023 Budget

The lawmakers are expected to ensure timely consideration and passage of the 2023 budget, which will be the last budget to be presented to them by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Both chambers had in the last three years lived up to their promise to Nigerians, that they would normalize the budget cycle which had suffered disruptions years back due to delays in the budgetary process.

Last week, House Speaker Gbajabiamila, disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari will in the first week of October present and lay before the two chambers of the National Assembly, the proposed N19.76 trillion budget for the 2023 financial year.

Pending Bills

This current Assembly has achieved some laudable feat when it comes to passage of key legislations. Bills such as Electoral Act Amendment Bill, Petroleum Industry Bill, CAMA bill and some others which had suffered in the previous assemblies due to inability of the executive and legislature to work together and others passed by the National Assembly and were rejected by the president for different reasons, were passed by the 9th Assembly and signed into law by the President.

There are other pending bills such as electoral offences commission bill which is awaiting third reading. Nigerians are also eager to see what the federal lawmakers will do about the controversial Water Resources Bill which was rejected by the 8th and current 9th National Assembly. The executive bill which was reintroduced in June, 2022 will be presented for second reading in the House upon resumption of plenary.

Constitution Review

The much-awaited constitution amendment embarked upon by the 9th national assembly maybe facing a setback despite the passage of 44 bills by the national assembly to State Assemblies for concurrence.

For many years, over a billion naira is voted every legislative year for the amendment exercise.

The Clerk to the National Assembly, Amos Ojo, had on March 29, 2022 transmitted 44 Constitution Review Bills to the Clerks of the State Houses of Assembly for concurrence.

However months later, the state houses of assembly are yet to get back to the national assembly. Only about ten state legislatures have so far voted on the 44 bills. With election campaigns by the political parties commencing this month and the presidential election taking place in February, 2023, there are fears that the constitution review may not materialize after all.

Unless something is done urgently, the 9th National Assembly may fail the nation again in making the dreams of many Nigerians to see the constitution amended a reality.

ASUU Strike

Last week, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Legislative Agenda, Hon. Henry Nwawuba, assured that he, and his colleagues on resumption of plenary would discuss on how to address the seven-month old strike action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

The lawmakers had in February intervened in the ongoing industrial  action, following the adoption of a motion sponsored by Hon Dozie Nwankwo.

The House had urged the federal ministry of labour and employment to adhere to the provisions of the previous memorandum of understanding. However nothing came out from their resolution.

Speaking as a resource person at a two-day Capacity Building Workshop on the theme: ‘Deepening legislative knowledge through critical reporting’, Nwawuba while describing the lingering strike as ridiculous, said the House would not fold its arm and allow the situation to degenerate beyond redemption.

According to him, the move to wade into the issue was in line with the priority placed on education by the legislative agenda of the Gbajabiamila-led House of Representatives.

National Assembly Complex Renovation

The much awaited National Assembly Complex Renovation finally commenced shortly before the lawmakers embarked on their annual vacation.

Gbajabiamila had last week while inspecting the ongoing renovation work on the green chamber as well as the construction of the National Assembly Service Commission office, said the temporary chamber will be ready for use when the House resumes Tuesday.

The Speaker tasked the project managers to complete the renovation before the inauguration of the 10th Assembly.



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