Bill seeking for empowerment of poor Nigerians passes second reading in Senate

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The Senate Wednesday considered a bill seeking to empower poor Nigerians in rural areas with guaranteed income and jobs that would provide 100 days of paid work per year.

The Rural Employment Guarantee Bill, 2021, which scaled second reading on the floor was sponsored by Senator Mohammed Sani Musa (APC, Niger East).

Leading debate on the general principles of the bill, Senator Musa explained that the bill among others,  essentially seeks to provide livelihood security in rural communities by providing at least one hundred days of guaranteed wage employment in every financial year to every household whose adult member volunteer do do skilled manual work.

According to the lawmaker, the bill when passed into law , would empower rural poor through the processes of a rights-based Law; ensure a strong social safety net for vulnerable groups; strengthen the natural resource base of rural livelihood; and serve as a model of governance reform anchored on the principles of transparency and grass root democracy.

He added that the National Rural Employment Guarantee bill aims to reduce poverty by providing extra work for those who need it, while also providing empowerment and insurance when other sources of work dry up.

Citing the Poor Employment Act of 1817 in Britain, and the New Deal Programs in the United States in the 1930s, Musa explained that the piece of legislation was similarly intended to be an intervention that makes government an employer of last resort. 

He noted that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development would monitor the implementation of the scheme in association with state governments.

Contributing to the debate, Senator Smart Adeyemi (APC Kogi West), threw his weight behind the passage of the bill into law.

According to the lawmaker, having agencies backed by law to oversee the implementation of such schemes for the poor would ensure that they are not abused.

He said, “In our nation today, Mr. President, most of these palliatives that the present government has put in place has been abused, because you have a situation where names are duplicated.

“It is even difficult for you to know those who are benefiting.

“The bill my brother is seeking, is for us to have a formal agency for social security that will take care of all employment problems and even health problems of people who are not gainfully employed. It must be holistic.

“This bill is good, the intention is good, but I think this bill must go further to make it a holistic solution to the problem of unemployment in our nation, so that it is not abused, and so that in every local government in Nigeria, you have an agency in charge  that will take care of unemployment of our people.   

“In having the law, we must also have the punitive measures in place for those who would abuse it, so that people will know that this bill is intended to alleviate the sufferings  of people, and by extension, Mr. President, guarantee security of our nation.

“Most of the people who are into crime today, is out of frustration of unemployment. We have a large number of people who are unemployed”.

The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, referred the bill to the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development for further work after passing second reading.

The Committee which is chaired by Senator Abdullahi Adamu was given four weeks to report back to the Senate.

In a related development, the Smallholder Farmers (Protection) Bill 2021, also scaled second reading on Wednesday.

The bill sponsored by Senator Muhammad Enagi Bima (Niger South) was also referred by the Senate President to the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development.

Also, the Petroleum Industry Act  (Amendment) Bill, 2021; Chartered Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering of Nigeria (Establishment) Bill, 2021; and Federal College of Agriculture, Shani (Establishment) Bill, 2021, passed second reading during plenary. 

While the Petroleum Industry Act (Amendment) bill 2021, was referred to the Joint Committees on Petroleum (Upstream); Petroleum (Downstream); and Oil and Gas, the other two were referred to the Committees on Establishment and Public Service; and Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND for further imputs, respectively.

The Committees were all given four weeks to turn in their reports to the chamber in plenary.

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