Eighth national assembly winds down, passes over 300 bills in 4 years

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*Outgoing senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki, speaker, House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara

As the 8th national assembly formally winds down its legislative activities today, Thursday, June 6 ahead of June 11 official inauguration of the 9th Assembly, investigation reveals that the senate had passed over 300 bills between 2015 and 2019 with President Muhammadu Buhari vetoing about 65 of such bills.

Besides, it treated 219 public petitions brought before it.

For its part, the House of Representatives passed 382 bills, 1,588 motions, and treated 1,192 petitions.

Some of the bills are 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 and Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Bill 2015.

The others are 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 Effurun (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 and Nigeria Football Federation (Establishment, etc) and others Bill.

In the last six months alone, the senate passed no few than 60 bills, including the National Minimum Wage Bill, which pegged the least salary of a worker at N30, 000.

Forty of such bills were passed within the last three weeks.

Some of the bills declined assent by the president are Electoral Amendment Bill (rejected four times), Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), Bill Seeking to Amend the Constitution for an annual State of the Nation Address by the President, Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) Amendment Bill, Immigration (Amendment) Bill, Chartered Institute of Pension Practitioners Bill, Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (Amendment) Bill, Maritime Security Operations Bill, Bankruptcy and Insolvency Bill, Small and Medium Enterprise Agency Bill, Energy Commission (Amendment) Bill, Federal Roads Authority (Establishment) Bill,  Transport Commission Bills, Ajaokuta Steel Company Completion Fund Bill, National Housing Fund Bill, Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria Bill 2018, Nigerian Aeronautical Search and Rescue Bill, National Biotechnology Development Agency Bill, National Institute of Credit Administration Bill, Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria Bill, Chartered Institute of Training and Development of Nigeria (Establishment) Bill, Nigerian Film Commission Bill, Climate Change Bill, Chartered Institute of Pension Practitioners Bill, Digital Rights and Freedom Bill, Stamp Duties (Amendment) Bill, National Research and Innovation Council (Est.) Bill, Chattered Institute of Entrepreneurship (Est.) Bill, Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences (Amendment) Bill, Subsidiary Legislation (Legislative Scrutiny) Bill, National Broadcasting Commission Amendment Bill, National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) Act (Amendment) Bill, Federal Polytechnics Act (Amendment) Bill, among others.

Assessing the performance of the 8th national assembly, a Second Republic politician and critic of the Buhari administration, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, described the outgoing legislature as the “worst in recent times” and branded the upper and legislative chambers as “corrupt.”

He said both legislatures focused more attention on frivolities, leaving the country to grapple with several daunting challenges.

“Frankly speaking, I have low opinion of the current national assembly. In assessing the national assembly, you do that vis-a-vis the challenges that confronted them at the time they took charge. I cannot point out one contribution, which I can, in good conscience, say they made.

“Instead, they have made life more complicated not only for the government but also for the entire country. I cannot now tell you what contribution they made to the main problems confronting this country. I can’t remember how they helped the country fight terrorism and Boko Haram. I can’t remember what contribution they made in addressing abduction, banditry, farmer/herder crisis, especially in the North.

“If the job of the national assembly is to provide not only the wisdom but the necessary cash and other advice that will help those who are governing to govern well and encourage harmony among the people of this country and also make sure that areas such as health, education, strategic infrastructure are well maintained for general economic development, I don’t know how I can say they have contributed to solving the country’s challenges. They are the worst in recent times. I think so. They are the worst; you can quote me,” he said.

Similarly, former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), rated the eighth national assembly below average.

he explained that all over the world the legislature is the engine room of national development, but in Nigeria the reverse is the case.

He lamented that the National Assembly that was supposed to check the excesses of the executive was always pushing its selfish agenda and bickering over what to get.

Although he partially held the executive arm responsible for the late passage of the budgets each year, Agbakoba equally frowned at the lawmakers for constantly passing the budgets late year with no hope of improvement.

He also faulted the calibre of members of the national assembly, saying over the years, they have not shown knowledge or expertise in any particular subject or field.

“I can’t identify any member of the national assembly, whether in the senate or House of Representatives that is an authority or has shown vast knowledge over a particular subject such as health, foreign relations, defence, education, etc.

“In America, there are so many lawmakers that are experts and authorities with in-depth knowledge in the committees they oversee. Here, I cannot identify any. We do not have such here,” he said.

In the same vein, the former minister of education in late Gen. Sani Abacha’s regime, Mr. Dauda Birmah, scored the outgoing lawmakers low in terms of performance and working relationship with the executive arm.

He said the disregard for President Buhari by the Dr. Bukola Saraki-led senate, was responsible for major setbacks experienced in the first administration of the president.

Birmah said no legislature can exist without the backing and support of the executive.

He described the outgoing senate as “a rebellious one” and warned the ninth assembly to learn from its mistakes.

“This outgoing senate emerged in a clandestine manner. They emerged against the wishes of President Muhammadu Buhari. And that was a problem from the beginning.

“Nobody is against the independence of the legislature. It is their right. But the leadership of the national assembly can’t emerge without the inputs of the president. It is not done.

“As soon as the Senate came, they turned themselves into a strong opposition and frustrated the administration. Most of the failures or setbacks experienced by the president were as a result of the lack of support for him by the Senate.

“So, I don’t think this outgoing Senate contributed anything. Instead, it was a clog in the wheel of progress of this country. And I hope the incoming national assembly will learn,” he said.

However, the national chairman of African Democratic Congress (ADC), Chief Okey Nwosu disagreed saying but for the national assembly, which   gave the country some form of direction in the last four years, there would have been serious crisis.

“It took the national assembly to give this country some form of direction in the past four years, because the executive was not forthcoming. And if we didn’t have some capable hands to navigate that arm of government, we could have had a major crisis in our hands,” he said.

For his part, the national publicity secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said the eighth assembly deserves the commendation of Nigerians for preserving the tenets of democracy.

“They came in at a very trying moment for the Nigerian democracy; when we stand to have what would be an elected dictatorship. Even under the military administration, we had judiciary.

“But under this administration, we were going to have only an executive arm of government where the other arms would have been subservient to the executive.

“But no matter what we may have against the national assembly as presently constituted, we must give it to the Dogara and Saraki’s House of Representatives and senate respectively.

“They did their best in ensuring that they cooperated with the executive, when required. They stamped the authority of the legislature where necessary at all times and that was what gave us some semblance of democracy in this country; otherwise we would have had a full elected dictatorship in Nigeria.”

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) also lauded the outgoing legislature for discharging its constitutional roles.

Media aide to CAN president, Pastor Oladeji Adebayo, while assessing the performance of the national assembly members, said they were able to pass many bills.

He said the legislators exhibited understanding and patriotism in the discharge of their functions.

“We congratulate the leadership of the Eighth National Assembly for their patriotic roles while the four years lasted. By our records, they have passed more bills and motions than any of their predecessors.

‘’We commend them for their roles while President Muhammadu Buhari was sick abroad; they showed understanding and patriotism. Even when there were disagreements between them and the executive, there was never a time they failed to perform their constitutional roles,” he said.

With ThisDay/The Sun reports

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