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Challenges And Prospects Of 9th National Assembly. Manasseh F. Paul-Worika

Despite the”frosty” relationship between the President Muhammadu Buhari-led executive and the leadership of the Eighth National Assembly, the legislature passed over 300, the highest number of bills since the return of democracy in 1999.

The Eighth National Assembly, under the leadership of Bukola Saraki as senate president and Yakubu Dogara as speaker of the House of Representatives, also, recorded the highest turnover in terms of rejected bills, put at over 40.

The rapport between the executive and legislature during the period also saw the abandonment of over 100 bills on the table of the President. Observers and close watchers of developments at the nation’s parliament since the inauguration of the Eighth Assembly in June 2015 noted that critical bills that would have affected lives positively were out rightly rejected or abandoned by the Presidency.

Some critical legislations rejected were, the Electoral Amendment Bill; Petroleum Industry Governance Bill; Bill Seeking to Amend the Constitution for an annual State of the Nation Address by the President; Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) Amendment Bill; Chartered Institute of Pension Practitioners Bill; and the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (Amendment) Bill.

Others were Bankruptcy and Insolvency Bill; Small and Medium Enterprise Agency Bill; Energy Commission (Amendment) Bill; Ajaokuta Steel Company Completion Fund Bill; National Housing Fund Bill; Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences (Amendment) Bill; National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency Act (Amendment) Bill; and the Federal Polytechnics Act (Amendment) Bill.

However, legislations like the Not Too Young to Run Bill, Minimum Wage Bill, June 12 Bill, The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention Bill, the Prevention of Crime Amendment Bill and others, were signed into law by Buhari.

Also, the Eighth National Assembly either due to intrigues or differences in political affiliation, failed to pass the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill; South East Development Commission Bill; and the Company and Allied Matters Act Amendment Bill.

The Eighth National Assembly also failed to address the issue of late budget passage, non-revelation of items contained in the annual budget of the federal parliament, and budget padding scandal, among others.

There is no doubt that the 9th National Assembly will have a lot to do, to continue from where their predecessor stopped and build a harmonious relationship with the executive arm of government.

A Port Harcourt based lawyer, Somina Johnbull, while commenting on the emergence of the new National Assembly leadership told The Vortex that President Buhari-led APC government would no longer have an excuse not to perform because its party has taken control of the federal legislature.

Johnbull said, “In as much as Nigerians are not expecting a rubber stamp legislature, we are looking forward to a robust relationship that would translate to early passage of budget, screening and clearance of appointees for appointments, and initiation of bills or motions that would assist the government to tackle security challenges and improve the economy.”

Also, a lecturer at the Niger Delta University, Amassoma, Bayelsa State, Dr. Preye Inokoba, said the Ninth National Assembly should focus on passing critical bills that will turn the country around for better and impact the lives of the citizens significantly.

Inokoba, who is of the Department of Political Scienceat the university said, “the responsibilities of INEC should be reviewed with a view to increasing the technological content of their delivery to the Nigerian electorate.”

He said, “Another task which comes to mind is the much-talked about issue of restructuring. All shades of opinion on restructuring across party lines should be considered, packaged and sent to the executive arm of government for consideration and implementation.

“I am convinced that the badly needed harmony between all geo-political regions, which is a recipe for political stability in the country, will be achieved if the issue of devolution of powers in this country is given a face lift in the next dispensation. It is obvious that the tasks ahead of the ninth National Assembly is multifarious. One of the agenda is to take a look at our electoral laws and introduce amendments and reforms that will discourage proliferation of political parties.” he added

Also, the Head,Department of Journalism at the National Broadcast Academy, Lagos State, Barr. Olowu Abiodun said Nigerians had passed through a lot and as such, the leadership of the Ninth Assembly must not disappoint them.

He said, “I believe we are expecting a vibrant Senate in the ninth National Assembly. I have had opportunity of studying closely the new President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, and I have done a review of his background; he has a PhD in Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System from a United Kingdom university.That shows he is an academic. He is an intellectual who has information. I have also had cause to work with him when he was the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. I have also had opportunity to interact with him and I have found him a gentleman.

“He comes across as a man in total control of his temperament. So I am looking forward to working with him. He certainly has my support. I believe he is going to steer the Senate with listening ears,” Abiodun added.

Abiodun urged the leadership of the Senate to act independently and assert itself without confronting the executive or jeopardizing the goals of discipline, and expressed confidence that Senator Ahmad Lawan is going to find a meeting point between the level of independence and the level of frustrating by the Executive.

It would be recalled that in his acceptance speech following his election, the new President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, had pledged that the Senate under his leadership would be united in its commitment to work for the Nigerian people.

He said, “Working together, we will begin the urgent task of rebuilding our institution and renewing the Nigerian dream. As we commence the third uninterrupted decade of our National Parliament, we pledge to remake reform and revitalize the Senate in line with our constitutional duties, the urgent expectation of our citizens and global parliamentary best practices.Our determination is to evolve a well-resourced Senate with a vision and a great sense of commitment to securing a prosperous future for our great nation.”

“I strongly believe that for the 9th Senate to live up to this declaration, it must be operated as an institution that is largely accountable, participatory, collaborative and responsive to the needs, aspirations, rights and liberties of the masses whose mandate we hold in trust.To this end, we will focus on improving the institutional capacity and capabilities of the Senate for effective performance of its constitutional and political duties in the most cost effective and service enhancing manner,” he affirmed.

Lawan further explained, “Issues such as bill and motion progression and tracking, enhanced internal operations and funding of committees, an open and ICT-enabled Senate will be on our front burner.We are going to work collaboratively with the executive arm of government to strengthen our planning and budget linkage that ensures effective service delivery and fulfillment of essential government obligations to the citizens, while taking care of the perennial delays in our annual appropriation bill passage and implementation.”

The new senate President said, “We will embark upon a sustained pursuit of national ethical renewal, through legislative and political support for the fight against corruption and other major security challenges that Nigeria faces today, namely; rural and highway banditry; inter-ethnic conflicts; herdsmen and farmer conflicts, cattle rustling; kidnapping and all other forms of criminality in the country.”

Lawan also promised to, through legislative and policy coordination with the executive, put in place necessary reforms and legal instruments that promote diversification and investment in the critical (real and service) sectors of the Nigerian economy.

He also pledged to address the current high level of youth unemployment, underemployment and high use of illicit drugs as well as depression and high rate of suicide.

The Senate, Lawan said, will collaborate with the House of Representatives and state Houses of Assembly, with a view to having legislative partnerships that address the existential challenges of corruption, insecurity, emerging criminal gangs, kidnapping, poverty, decayed educational system that has left Nigeria with an embarrassing reported figure of 14 million out of school children.

He assured Nigerians that the Senate and indeed the legislature would operate independently in accordance with its own rules, procedures and time honored norms and best practices while working closely with the executive arm to deliver the dividends of democracy to the Nigerian people.”

Similarly, the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said the Ninth House of Representatives under his leadership would not be business as usual because “we will be shaking the table just a little.

He said, “We will be introducing various reforms that will reposition this institution but please rest assured that they will be for the greater good. On our shoulders lies the responsibility of working together as a House to safeguard the future of our great country.

“Nigeria as a country, has come of age regardless of her chequered history and in doing this, basic principles of nationhood predicated on equity, fairness , unity, justice and rule of law ; must prevail at all times between the government and the governed at all levels and among her peoples,” Gbajabiamila added.

Nigerians expect so much from the 9th National Assembly judging from where we are as a nation and where we could be if things are gotten right.

So to start a new tenure, Nigerians eagerly expect the National assembly to ensure that the resources of the people are devoted to attending to their immediate and long term needs. The expectation is that more fire is put to burnthe well-heads of corruption.

Despite the syndicated attempt to frustrate the present government’s efforts to cripple this ennui, the indisputable fact is that Nigeria would sink if the present effort to deal with corruption is not sustained. So the National Assembly needs to work in harmony with the Buhari-led executive in the fight against corruption.

The cost of corruption is being felt by Nigerians in the huge obligations the Buhari government had undertaken in the past four years in spite of dwindling resources. The huge tranche of salary arrears, the pensions and gratuities and the huge contractual obligations that mounted before Buhari came into office and which he had deftly cleared.

Nigerians will want the national assembly to enact laws that directly target the unemployed, the weak, the vulnerable and the elderly and lift millions of Nigerians from abject poverty. The N-Power employment scheme, the Trader Moni scheme, the school-feeding programme, the cash transfer scheme, among many other direct schemes that target the weakest cadre of the population, are laudable innovations that aim at degrading poverty in past four years.

Nigerians would desire not only sustenance of the schemes but also their expansion to reach as many Nigerians as possible.With so much to say and expect from the 9th National Assembly, Nigerians can indeed have a glimmer of hope if the words of the Leadership of the 9th National Assembly is anything to hold.

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