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Major issues that shaped 9th House of Reps

As the lifespan of the 9th House of Representatives under the leadership of Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila draws to an end, Daily Trust Saturday examines some…

As the lifespan of the 9th House of Representatives under the leadership of Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila draws to an end, Daily Trust Saturday examines some of the landmark issues that shaped the outgoing parliament.

The 9th House of Representatives which came into being on June 11, 2019, is to wind down on June 11, 2023, while the incoming 10th Assembly is billed for inauguration with a new set of leaders on June 13.

Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila and other principal officers of the 9th Assembly assumed leadership of the House on June 11, 2019, after intense political horse-trading, intrigues, and manoeuvrings that usually herald the inauguration of every National Assembly.

The last four years of the House of Representatives have been a mixed bag under the leadership of Speaker Gbajabiamila.

From the outset, Speaker Gbajabiamila told his colleagues that the 9th Assembly under his leadership would not be business as usual.

He promised that the Green Chamber would witness landmark legislative reforms and would pass legislation that would have far-reaching impacts on the lives of Nigerians.

He said, “The 9th Assembly under my leadership is going to be a House of Reforms or if you like a reform Assembly. The reforms will be dished out piecemeal and at intervals so as not to shock the system.

“Moving forward, therefore, my dear colleagues, it will not be business as usual, and we will be shaking the table just a little. We will be introducing various reforms that will reposition this institution, but please rest assured that they will be for the greater good.”

To get the business of the House going, the Speaker constituted the House Standing Committees and some special committees on July 25, 2019.

Legislative Agenda

A committee on Legislative Agenda was equally set up to fashion our agenda, which is a document that encapsulated everything the House set out to do and meant to deliver to Nigerians from 2019 to 2023.

First launched in October 2019, the Legislative Agenda was later reviewed in 2020 at the outbreak of COVID-19 to accommodate programmes that would tackle the economic and health challenges brought by the pandemic but were not envisaged in 2019 when the first document was rolled out.

The agenda captured 10 key areas where the House would focus its legislative interventions and decisions.

The 10-point agenda revolved around healthcare delivery; education; economy; security; agriculture and food security; sustainable power; environment and climate change; human capital development and social development; governance and House reforms.

Going by the outlined document, bills, motions, debates, oversight duties, constituency outreach, investigative hearings, budget, and budgeting, or parliamentary visitations were supposed to be geared towards the actualisation of the set agenda.

But how far has the House gone in ensuring the realization of the set goals as encapsulated in the legislative agenda?

Security

The challenges of insecurity were among the burning issues that received the most attention from the House through motions, bills, and resolutions aimed at addressing the challenge.

In the last four years, the House had passed hundreds of resolutions asking the executive and other relevant authorities to take action in taming the tide of insecurity. But as to whether these resolutions were adhered to, it’s a question for another day.

The House on some occasions summoned service chiefs for an interface on how to address rising security challenges in the country.

After insurgents beheaded over 43 rice farmers in Borno State on November 28, 2020, the House resolved that President Muhammadu Buhari must act faster in addressing insecurity.

In a fresh resolution on December 1, the House invited the president to appear before members to speak on the security situation in the country.

The leadership of the House followed up on the resolution by holding a physical meeting with Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

At the meeting, Buhari assured the leadership that he would come to address the members.

Although, the visit did not materialise, the resolution and constant calls on Buhari to review the security architecture of the country, including bringing new hands to head security agencies, paid off much later when the president eventually changed the service chiefs.

The House also held a special summit on national security where it engaged stakeholders both in and outside government from May 26 to May 29, 2021, to find broad-based solutions to insecurity.

The recommendations from the summit were approved by the House and forwarded to President Buhari for implementation as another legislative intervention.

The House had equally passed a number of legislations that bordered on healthcare delivery; education; economy; agriculture and food security; sustainable power; environment and climate change; human capital development and social development; governance and House reforms.

Lawmaking

In the main business of lawmaking, the 9th House introduced and passed several bills.

As of March 2023, it had introduced a total of 2, 209 bills, excluding another set of 137 it received from the Senate for concurrence. Constitution amendment bills alone stood at 258.

Out of this number of bills, 451 have been passed as of March 2023, thereby beating the record of previous assemblies on the number of bills.

In the aspect of motions, the current House treated a total of 730 motions in the first two years; 484 of which were introduced in the first session, while another set of 246 was introduced in the second session with a sizeable number resolved. Several more motions have equally been treated in the last two years of the House.

Notable Bills

Some notable bills were passed by the House within the period under review. The Petroleum Industry Bill (Now Petroleum Industry Act) tops the chart. It became one of the longest bills stalled at the National Assembly since 1999. However, the House after a rigorous debate in November 2020 passed the PIB for second reading.

After passing third reading, Gbajabiamila took further actions by naming a standing House Committee on Host Communities, a key provision of the PIB, to adequately address the concerns of oil-bearing communities, otherwise known as ‘Host Communities.’

The bill (PIA, 2021) was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on August 16, 2021.

Another important bill passed by the 9th House was the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill. Issues like the electronic option of transmitting election results; funding of political parties, mode of primaries, and campaign funding, among others, were captured in the bill, which Buhari into law well ahead of the 2023 general elections.

A third important bill was the Companies and Allied Matters Bill passed by both the House and the Senate and eventually signed into an Act in November 2020 by President Buhari.

Also, a review of the 1999 Constitution introduced 258 bills; the House passed 68 of them, while the National Assembly jointly transmitted 44 to state Houses of Assembly. The state legislatures approved 35 of the bills.

In March 2023, President Buhari assented to 16 of the approved bills transmitted to him. Among the bills were on “ensuring financial independence of State Assemblies and State Judiciary and regulating the first session and inauguration of members-elect of the National and State Houses of Assembly and for related matters, among others.

There were other noteworthy bills that secured passage. One of them is the National Agricultural Development Fund (Establishment) Bill, which sought to establish the National Agricultural Development Fund to provide funding for agricultural development. It was passed by the House on October 13, 2021.

Others on the list include Climate Change Bill 2021; the Deep Offshore Bill; the Finance Bill and the National Roads Fund Bill, 2021, among others.

Legislative interventions

In the course of the four years, the House intervened in several labour disputes that threatened to ground critical sectors.

One such was the case of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), which threatened to embark on a strike in 2020 amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic over the non-payment of allowances, among other demands.

The Speaker moved in to address the concerns of the doctors by pushing for a provision of N4 billion in the budget for offsetting some of the demands.

When ASUU embarked on one of its longest strikes, lasting 8 months in 2022, it took the intervention of the House under Speaker Gbajabiamila to make the lecturers call off their action.

In February 2022, the House initiated the process, through a resolution, that led to the federal government speedily intervening to evacuate Nigerians, especially students, trapped in the Russian/Ukraine war, back to Nigeria.

It will be recalled that the Leader of the House, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, in compliance with the resolution, personally travelled to the war region to supervise the evacuation.

In the ongoing factional military confrontations in Sudan over the control of Khartoum, its capital, the House again rose to safeguard the lives of Nigerians trapped there.

Naira redesign policy debacle

The House also intervened in the naira redesign policy crisis by summoning the Central Bank of Nigeria and subsequently passing a resolution asking the apex bank to put the policy on hold following the hardship it brought on Nigerians.

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