In view of very important bills before it for consideration and raging issues in the polity requiring its intervention, postponement of resumption made by National Assembly on Sunday, took many people by surprise. TAIYE ODEWALE reports.
When on Monday, December 21, 2020, both Chambers of the National Assembly (NASS), adjourned for end of the year recess by fixing Tuesday, January 26, 2021 as resumption date, many thought the five weeks break was arrived at, to avoid any postponement later, as it is usually the case when resumption date is fixed for second week of January.
But on Sunday, when it was just two days to the January 26 resumption date , the Clerk to the National Assembly ( CNA) , Arc Amos Ojo Olatunde apparently through directives given by the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Femi Gbajabiamila; announced postponement of the resumption by two weeks.
Precisely, the CNA in a three paragraphs statement personally signed by him, stated that the resumption date has been shifted from January 26, 2021 to February 9, 2021, which is exactly two weeks, making the entire recess duration to be seven weeks now, almost equalling the 8 weeks long recess the federal lawmakers used to have between July and September of every year.
The statement reads: “This is to inform all distinguished Senators and Honourable members of the National Assembly the resumption of plenary sessions earlier scheduled for Tuesday, 26th January, 2021, is hereby rescheduled for Tuesday, 9th February, 2021.
“This postponement is to enable members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), participate in the reregistration and revalidation of its membership, scheduled to commence on Monday, 25th January, 2021.
“All inconveniences caused by this change of date are regretted.”
Though the CNA in the statement, attributed the resumption postponement to registration and revalidation of membership exercise the All Progressives Congress (APC), planned to embark upon from Monday this week ( 25th January, 2021), but polity watchers felt a week would have been enough for the federal lawmakers to get that done for themselves and their supporters.
The hightened tension in the land on issues of insecurity perpetrated by criminals masquerading as herders in the Southwest and critical bills begging for urgent attention like the ones on constitution reviews, are felt required expeditious intervention of the Federal lawmakers at this time and not extension of resumption date.
A pointer to this effect was an appeal made by the immediate past President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki in a statement on Sunday on the hightened tension in the land, for the National Assembly to give the required legislative intervention .
Saraki in the statement said: “I want to also make a passionate plea to my brothers, Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila, both of whom are experienced legislators, to provide the far-reaching legislative intervention that will help the executive arm in the search for peace.
“The situation is getting worse by the day. Insecurity has become the order of the day and it is fueling disunity and criminal activities. It obviously requires urgent attention”
Even the President of the Senate , Ahmad Lawan, penultimate Tuesday while fielding questions from journalists on what should be expected from federal lawmakers on resumption from recess , which is now extended, said expeditious attention and consideration will be given to bills such as the Petroleum Industry Bill ( PIB), Constitution review or amendments bills etc.
He said the urgency being attached to the bills by the federal lawmakers is necessitated by the need to get them passed and assented to, by the President this year, since politics will be setting in, from next year.
Specifically on the PIB, Lawan said, “PIB is like a demon. People both within and outside the country, are ready to work against it as they have been doing for the past fourteen years but the 9th Senate and by extension, 9th National Assembly, will defeat the demon with the current bill before both Chambers.
“The patriotic zeal, sheer determination and unity of purpose by all serving senators across party lines, to do this latest by the end of first quarter of this year, will be deployed on the bill immediately the Senate resumes on 26th of this month the way it did with Deep Offshore Oil Production Sharing Contracts”.
But the bills that may suffer serious setback in terms of consideration and possible passage by both Chambers of the National Assembly in the face of extension of recess from time to time, are the ones on constitution reviews or amendments.
As tedious as the exercise is , none of the committees at both Chambers of the National Assembly, has gone beyond the level of memoranda collections not to talk of bringing out the salient issues or proposals raised by concerned Nigerians through public hearings, where leaders of each of the groups of agitators, would be made to make presentation.
This is aside taking the exercise to zonal levels for aggregation of views before presenting final reports for submission and consideration on the floor of both chambers, the outcome of which will be transmitted to the various State Houses of Assembly for concurrence of at least 24 of them, which represents the required 2/3.
In a telephone conversation with the Blueprint, the Chairman of the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), Dr Clement Nwakwo, said the speed at which the committees on Constitution Review at both Chambers are moving , is not fast enough to suggest thorough consideration and completion of the exercise”.
“By October or November this year, it will be exactly two years, the committees have been inaugurated and yet, not much of the expected exercise, has been carried out.
“It is one thing to collect memoranda , it is another thing to consider issues raised in them for possible amendment of relevant provisions of the constitution.Time to me, is already running out for the two Committees . They need to increase their speed in preventing politics from swallowing them up from the middle of next year ” , he said.
But the Chairman of the Committee in the Senate, the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, said everything is on course for the committee to deliver.
According to him, consultants have already been engaged to work on the various issues raised in the memoranda submitted and once that is done, public hearings will be held here in Abuja and at zonal levels for the required aggregation of views which will form the bulk of report to be presented later at both Chambers .
In view of time seeming to be running out on the 9th Assembly on some legislations like constitution review, Nigerians are obviously waiting to see whether the federal lawmakers will meet up or not .