The 8th Senate is rich in parliamentary highs and lows and would go down in history for its remarkable turnover of bills including the controversial PIB. Taiye Odewale reports.
296 bills passed
Arguably, for the 8th National Assembly (NASS), which is left with just about three weeks to wind down for the 9th Assembly to take off on the 10th or 11th of June, 2019, in the area of bills passage, it has within the last four years, been a case of the higher the number of bills passed and transmitted to the president for assents, the higher the number rejected.
Remarkably, while the outgoing 8th National Assembly (NASS) has the highest records of bills passed and transmitted to President Muhammadu Buhari for assents, it also has the highest number of bills refused assents by the president in the history of parliamentary democracy in Nigeria.
As at the last count last week, especially from the senate, the total number of bills passed can be said to be 296 out of which 202 got concurrences from the House of Representatives were subsequently transmitted to President Buhari for assents. However, over 50 of those bills sent were refused assents by the President for one reason or the other while close to 100 were not attended to, in anyway by the president.
NEDC and bills passed
For record purposes, some of the 296 bills passed so far by the senate between June 2015 and May 2019 were the Nigerian Railway bill 2015, bankruptcy and insolvency act CAP B2 LFN 2011 (repeal and re-enactment) 2015, National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment (est., etc) bill 2015, Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (est., etc.) bill 2015, electronic transaction bill 2015, Agriculture Credit Guarantee Scheme Act (amendment) bill 2015, Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (Est., etc.) bill, 2015, Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (prohibition) bill 2015 and National Poverty Eradication Commission (Est., etc.) bill 2015.
Others were, the North East Development Commission (NEDC) (Est., etc.) bill 2015, Erosion Control and Prevention Commission (Est., etc.) bill, 2015, Counterfeit and Fake Drugs and Unwholesome Processed Foods (Miscellaneous provision) Amendment Bill 2015, Federal University of Petroleum Resources Effuru (Est, etc) bill 2015, food security bill 2015, Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (establishment, etc) bill 2015, Environmental Managers Registration Council of Nigeria (establishment, etc) bill 2015.
Nigeria Institute of Soil Science (establishment, etc) bill 2015, Nigeria Football Federation (Establishment, etc) bill 2015, National Sports Commission (establishment, etc) bill 2015, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection bill 2015, witness protection programme bill 2015, Defence Space Agency (establishment, etc) bill 2015,
High Court of the Federal Capital Territory Abuja (amendment) bill 2015, Air Force Institute of Technology (establishment, etc) bill 2015 and Credit Bureau Reporting bill 2015.
PIGB, Electoral Act and others in 2016
Passed in 2016 in this category were, the Federal Roads Authority (establishment, etc) bill 2016, National Assembly Budget and Research Office (establishment, etc) bill 2016, mutual assistance in criminal matters bill 2016, National Lottery Act 2005 (amendment) bill 2016, Electoral Act №6 2010 (amendment) bill 2016, Public Procurement Act (amendment) bill 2016, Petroleum Industry Governance Bill 2016, National Inland Waterways Act Cap N47 LFN 2004 (repeal and re-enactment) bill 2016, Nigerian Ports and Harbours Authority Act (amendment) bill 2016.
JAMB Act (amendment) bill 2016, Nigerian Customs Service bill 2016 and Nigerian Customs Service Act (repeal and re-enactment) bill 2016, warehouse receipts bill 2016, secured transactions in movable assets bill 2016, Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educational Institution bill 2016, Federal University of Wukari (establishment, etc) bill 2016, Maritime University of Nigeria, Okerenkoko (establishment, etc) bill 2016 and Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act 2004 (amendment) bill 2016 and Universal Basic Education Act 2003 (amendment) bill 2016.
Peace Corps and other bills
Passed in 2017 in this category were; the National Open University of Nigeria Act (amendment) bill 2017, Nigerian Peace Corps (establishment, etc) bill 2015 and the National Unity and Peace Corps (establishment, etc) bill 2015, Federal University of Maritime Studies, Oron bill, 2017, National Institute for Legislative Studies Act (amendment) bill 2017, National Research and Innovation (establishment) bill 2017.
Nigeria Financial Intelligence Agency (establishment) bill, 2017, Institute of Chartered Biochemist and Molecular Biologist bill, 2016, Whistle Blowers Protection bill 2015, Abduction, wrongful restraints and wrongful confinement for ransom bill 2017,
prohibition and protection of persons from lynching, mob action and extra-judicial executions bill, 2017, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation Act (repeal and re-enactment) bill 2017, Hydro-electric Power Producing Area Development Commission (amendment) bill 2015, Chartered Institute of Entrepreneurs (establishment) bill 2015,
Chartered Institute of Capital Market Registrars bill 2017, presidential inauguration bill 2016.
National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (establishment) bill 2016, Federal University of Agriculture Kabba (establishment) bill 2016, Federal Colleges of Education Act (amendment) bill 2017, Niger Delta Development Commission (amendment) bill 2017, Nigeria Arabic Language Village, Ngala (establishment) bill, 2017 and Nigeria French Language Village, Badagry (establishment) bill, 2017.
Emergency powers, others sailed through in 2018
Passed in 2018 were; the revised edition (Laws of the Federation of Nigeria) Bill, 2018, Arbitration and Conciliation act cap A18 LFN 2004 (repeal and re-enactment) bill 2018, Emergency Powers (repeal and re-enactment) bill, 2018, Federal University Gashua (establishment, etc) bill 2018 (SB459), National Transport Commission (Est., etc) bill, 2018 (SB. 242), Real Estate (Regulation and Development) bill, 2018 (SB. 216), River Basin Development Act cap R9LFN2004 (amendment) bill, 2018(SB. 358).
National centre for disease control prevention (establishment) bill, 2018 (SB, 256), Industrial Development (income tax relief) Act (amendment) bill, Chartered Institute of Directors of Nigeria (establishment) bill 2018, Chartered Polymer Institute of Nigeria (establishment) bill 2018 (SB396), Companies and Allied Matters bill, 2018 (SB 355), Federal Polytechnics Act (amendment) bill, 2018(SB241), Federal University of Health Sciences Otukpo (establishment) bill 2018 (SB 504).
Minimum wage highlights 2019 passed bills
Even in 2019, the number of bills already passed by the senate and by extension, the House of Representatives aside the N30,000 minimum wage bill which has been assented to, by President Muhammadu Buhari and the Appropriation Bill, not less than thirteen bills had been passed so far.
Reasons for high turnover of rejected bills
The enormousity of the attainment made the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in a statement issued on Monday, April 22, 2019 said: “This senate has surpassed the records of all previous senate in the number of bills passed, the significance of these bills to the revival of the economy, the fight against insecurity and corruption, improvement in the provision of health service and the education sector, as well as better social service delivery to the generality of the people.
“The bills passed, motions moved, intervention made and frequent engagements with the people were all directed towards addressing the day-to- day issues that affect the lives of the ordinary Nigerians.
“This senate has passed 282 bills (the highest any senate had passed is 129 bills recorded by the 5th senate), among which is the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, Public Procurement Act (amendment) bill, Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, Electoral Act (amendment) bill, Police Reform bill, Police Trust Fund bill, Nigeria Railways Authority bill, Company and Allied Matters Act (amendment) bill, Secured Credit Transactions Act, Whistleblowers Protection bill, constitution amendment bills, Discrimination Against Persons With Disability bill, Electronic Transaction bill, Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, North East Development Commission (NEDC) Act, Witness Protection Programme bill, Credit Bureau Reporting bill, Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educational Institution bill and Compulsory Treatment and Care of Victims of Gunshots bill, National Financial Intelligence Agency Act, Federal Audit Services Commission bill, among others.
“Most of the bills listed above got international and national endorsement from stakeholders who lauded the senate for the move. For example, the Financial Intelligence Database Agency (Ultra scan) commended the senate for passing the NFIU Act which enabled the country to be re-admitted into the Egmont Group.
“Also, the Nigerian Police leadership have praised the senate for passing the Police Reforms bill and the Police Trust Fund bill. Again, when the National Assembly in the 2018 budget gave effect to the law allowing one percent of the budget to be devoted to Primary Health Care Delivery, it got kudos from Bill Gates, Bono, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of WHO, and various national groups who believe the move would bring health care delivery to the poor people across the country.
“The passage of the UBEC Act (amendment) bill was praised by Pakistani child education campaigner and youngest Nobel Laureate, Yousafzai Malala. When the PIGB was passed, political parties, National Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE), among others, hailed the senate for a good job. Even, the World Bank commended the National Assembly for the passage of the Company and Allied Matters Act and Secured Transactions in Movable Assets and Credit Bureau Reporting Act.
“The Eighth senate has done very well and will leave a good legacy. Despite all the underhand tactics to undermine the legislature by outsiders and the public posturing, members have always worked as a team on critical issues that have benefits for our people and our nation. That is why hitherto unachievable legislations like the PIGB, Police Reforms Act and other bills or amendments to existing laws were passed with ease because the members and the leadership know that they are elected as Senators of the Federal Republic and not as party representatives”.
However, as high as the number of the bills passed by the senate and by extension, Eight National Assembly, so high were also numbers of those bills totalling 50 as at May 9, 2019, vetoed by President Muhammadu Buhari on reasons ranging from duplication of functions between envisioned agencies and existing ones, to infractions on extant laws.
Explanatorily, in 2017, Buhari rejected 11 bills, including the National Broadcasting Commission (amendment) bill. In 2018, he rejected another 20 bills, including the popular Peace Corps bill, the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, and the fourth amendment bill of the 1999 constitution.
Other bills that kissed the dust in 2018 were the stamp duty (amendment) bill, the Advance Fee Fraud (Amendment) Bill, and of course, the 2010 Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018 which was rejected four times, the first being on re-ordering of general elections and the last being because, according to the president, the elections were already too close and changing the rules would be confusing.
In the four months of 2019, President Buhari has rejected almost as many bills as he did in the whole of 2018. A total of 19 bills have so far been thrown out by the president, five in January, five in March, and eight in April. These were in addition to the Nigeria Tourism Development Authority and Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority bills, which he rejected last week Wednesday (May 8, 2019).
While many political pundits and observers were of the view that many of the passed bills were vetoed by the president as a result of frosty relationship between the Presidency and the eight National Assembly (Saraki and Dogara leaderships, the special assistant on new media to the president, Tolu Ogunlesi cited completely different reasons.
Why bills were rejected
In a Twitter thread on March 21, 2019, Ogunlesi explained why a good number of the bills sent to the president for assent were being thrown out.
He said: “One is that a good number of these bills tend to be rent-seeking in nature. They seek to carve out a special ‘fund’ for the exclusive benefit of an agency,” Ogunlesi tweeted.
“So, one per cent here, two per cent there, 0.5 per cent there, too many bills have clauses that are designed to corner some money.
“Another reason is that some of the bills are “conflicting with or duplicating existing legislation. That is, a bill gets passed that contains provisions that contradict or duplicate provisions of one or more existing acts”.
He cited an instance with the Chartered Institute of Pension Practitioners bill, which was rejected by Buhari because it is “similar to and duplicates the objectives of the Certified Pension Institute of Nigeria (CPIN)”.
He added that another major reason for the rejection of bills by the president “is the quality of the drafting of some of these bills. Poorly/clumsily worded, containing internal contradictions, lending self to confusing interpretation”.
Therefore, according to him, because the president can only consider the versions of the bill sent to him, the exact way it was sent, without making any amendments or corrections even as insignificant as removing a comma or adding a full stop, such faulty bills “declined are returned (to the lawmakers) with explanations”.
Nonetheless, the eight Senate and by extension, 8th National Assembly, even with the high turnover of vetoed bills from the president, for now, remains the one with the highest number of bills passed and transmitted for assents in the history legislative arm of government at the centre in Nigeria.