Constitution review, PIB, others in focus as Senate resumes

As the Senate and the House of Representatives resume from Christmas and New Year break today , some salient legislations  like constitution review , amendment of the Electoral Act, Petroleum Industry bill etc , will be in the front burner . TAIYE ODEWALE reports.

Before both Chambers of the National Assembly embarked on the 40-day Christmas and New Year recess on Friday , December 20, 2019, highlights of proposals that will shape their  legislative directions were made at different fora by the Senate President , Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan and the Speaker of House of Representatives , Hon Femi Gbajabiamila .

Specifically, the Senate President in rolling out such proposals on Monday , December 16, 2019 at a media briefing in Rockview Hotel, Abuja said : “Some of the bills that will be accorded priority when we return from the Christmas and New Year break in January are the Petroleum Industry Bill, Electoral Reforms Amendment Bills and Amendment of the 1999 Constitution.

“The  Petroleum Industry Bill was first introduced in the National Assembly in 2007 but is yet to be passed in its entirety. The National Assembly will this time around adopt a different approach to make the passage of the PIB a reality. 

“We want to see a situation where the Legislature and the Executive work very closely to have a PIB that will attract investment into the oil and gas sector in Nigeria. We want to create an investment climate that will be competitive. We know some other countries have this product, therefore, we have to be competitive, we have to create an environment where the businesses make profit.

“This is a journey that involves everyone. We want both government – and that includes the legislature and executive – on the one hand and other relevant stakeholders in the sector, particularly the IOCs (International Oil Companies), to work together to ensure that this environment we are trying to create is an environment that will work for all of us.

“The Electoral Reforms Amendment Bill is a priority because of the urgent need to improve our electoral processes and secure the democratic gains that we have made in the Fourth Republic. 

“We want to pass the Bill well ahead of the next electoral cycle in 2023 and avoid the political heat and pitfalls that imperiled the efforts of the eight National Assembly which passed the same bill close to the last general elections.

“We are not oblivious of the interest and concerns some of these bills have generated from the public. But we must not forget that lawmaking is a rigorous process that allows for all sides of the argument to be heard and the true will of the people established before a bill becomes law. 

“On behalf of my Distinguished colleagues, I pledge that we, as elected representatives of the people, will always ensure that the will of our people is pivotal in our legislative business. 

“This Senate and indeed the ninth National Assembly will not pass any bill that is not in the national interest. Ours is and will remain a Senate that will always work for Nigerians”

Practically as declared by the Senate President aside the Petroleum Industry Bill ( PIB) that they intend to collaborate  with the executive arm of government at bill drafting stage , bills for full blown legislative business on constitution review and Amendment of the 2010 Electoral Act have already been sponsored by individual lawmakers at both Chambers .

While in the Senate on Electoral Act Amendment Bill, only the Deputy Senate President , Ovie Omo-Agege ( APC Delta South ) , has sponsored a bill to that effect , two different lawmakers have done so in the House of Representatives .

But on Constitution review , not less than 10 Senators have sponsored bills seeking for one amendment or the other in the 1999 Constitution .

One of such bill is the one sponsored by the former Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu ( PDP Enugu West) ,  seeking for removal of Policing from the exclusive to the concurrent list in paving way for creation of State Police .

Other bills on constitution review  are  Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (Alteration) Bill, 2019 (SB. 109), sponsored by  Senator Babba Kaita Ahmad (APC Katsina North), Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (Alteration) Bill, 2019 (SB. 75) sponsored by  Senator Istifanus Gyang (PDP Plateau North),  Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (Alteration) Bill, 2019 (SB. 48) sponsored by Senator Rose Oko (PDP Cross River North) and  Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (Alteration) Bill, 2019 (SB. 184) sponsored by  Senator Uche Ekwunife (PDP Anambra Central).

Also being considered in this respect are Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (Alteration) Bill, 2019 (SB. 204) sponsored by Senator Gabriel Suswam (PDP Benue North East), Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (Alteration) Bill, 2019 (SB. 218) sponsored by  Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi (APC Ekiti North), Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (Alteration) Bill, 2019 (SB. 240), Senator Abdullahi Adamu (APC Nasarawa West), Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (Alteration) Bill, 2019 (SB. 247), Senator Surajudeen Ajibola Basiru (APC Osun Central) and Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999(Alteration ) Bill, 2019 (SB. 259) sponsored by  Sen. Bamidele, Micheal Opeyemi (APC Ekiti Central) .

Being a legislation requiring concurrence of the State Houses of Assembly , elaborate Ad-hoc Committees at both Chambers used to be set up for consideration of such amendments and the Chairmanship of which used to be the Deputy President of the Senate in the Senate and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives in the House. 

However signs that the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi ( APC Kebbi North) may be assigned to head the committee in the Senate as against the Deputy President of the Senate , Ovie Omo-Agege, are emerging .

The  choice of chairmanship of the committee as explained to the Blueprint by one of the ranking Senators at the weekend , is at the discretion of the President of the Senate  , since is not specifically provided for in any of the provisions of the Senate Standing rules .

” Though over the  years since the 5th Assembly in 2003 to the last Assembly between 2015 and 2019 ,  the Deputy Senate President has always been the Chairman of the  Committee but any ranking Senator in the category of the Senate Leader to other principal officers on the platform of the ruling party , can be made Chairman of the committee” , the Senator said .

Regardless of whoever will be made the Chairman of the Committee either in the Senate or the House of Representatives , the concern of Nigerians is for the exercise not to be cosmetic as it has always been in the past but practically substantial in giving value to the N1bn that will be spent on the exercise and invariably gradually decentralizing the over centralized Nigerian federation. 

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