As the Eighth National Assembly winds down, there are growing concerns among analysts as over 500 bills are still pending in both chambers of the National Assembly.
Findings has revealed that while the Senate has passed over 285 bills since inauguration on June 9, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari has so far declined assent to 41 bills passed by the National Assembly within the period under review.
Although the National Assembly has commenced the process of reconsidering and passing some of the bills earlier rejected by President Buhari, pundits say with less than one month to the end of the Eighth National Assembly, this would be a tall order.
Our reports that the life of the Eighth National Assembly ends on June 8, 2019.
Investigations showed that some of the bills still pending in the National Assembly include the National Housing Fund Bill, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency Bill, Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria Bill, Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) Amendment Bill, Stamp Duties (Amendment) Bill and National Agricultural Seeds Council Bill.
Also yet to be passed are the four petroleum industry-related bills, namely, the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, Petroleum Industry Administration Bill, Petroleum Industry Fiscal Bill and the Petroleum Host and Impacted Communities Bill.
The Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme Fund (Amendment) Bill, Chartered Institute of Entrepreneurship (Est.) Bill, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (Amendment) Bill, Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences (Amendment) Bill, as well as over 10 constitution amendment bills are also yet to be passed.
Others include Climate Change Bill, National Transport Commission Bill, Federal Road Authority (Establishment) Bill, National Broadcasting Commission Amendment Bill, National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) Act (Amendment) Bill, Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Bill, Federal Audit Service Bill, Anticipatory Opening of Bank Accounts for Corporate Customers (Prohibition) Bill, among others.
While some of the bills are awaiting second reading, third reading and committee stage, others are pending concurrence, even as other proposed legislations are being reconsidered after the President rejected them.
In the same token, some bills have been passed but are still being cleaned up by the Legal Services Department.
Kabiru Gaya (APC, Kano), chairman, Senate Committee on Works, told BusinessDay in an interview that the National Assembly would make conscious efforts to ensure that most of the bills are passed before the end of the Eighth Assembly.
Gaya, who is also a senator-elect in the Ninth Assembly, admitted that taxpayers’ money would go down the drain if the bills are not passed by the Eighth Assembly.
The former governor of Kano State, however, said there was no cause for alarm as, according to him, bills that could not be passed by the current National Assembly would be rolled over and passed by the incoming Ninth Assembly.
“We are trying hard to make sure that these (pending) bills are passed. For those the President made observations, we are trying to correct those observations the way the Executive wants it and send it back to the Executive to sign it quickly. Why we are doing that is because we don’t want to lose the time, the taxpayers’ money we have spent in preparing these bills,” Gaya said.
“It takes not less than six months to one year to do a bill. And all that includes taxpayers’ money we have spent. So, we need to fast-track that. Otherwise, if all these lapse, it means we will start all over in the new Senate. Bring the bill for first reading, second reading, public hearing and third reading.
“So, we will look at those bills and appeal to Mr President that where these bills do not need another alteration, he can approve them and sign them, just like he signed the North East Development Commission Bill,” he said.
Gaya, however, cautioned his colleagues to be mindful of the kind of bills they sponsor, else the Executive may find it difficult to assent to them.
“We should be sending bills that are more dynamic and in tune with the current situation, not bills on associations, unions and so on. Let us have few bills that are good enough for the country,” he said.
Stakeholders also expressed worry that they may have to start from the beginning by re-initiating the bills and lobbying members of the Ninth National Assembly in order to begin fresh legislative process for the enactment of the bills.
Ralph Agama, a constitutional lawyer, called on lawmakers to devote more time to enacting critical legislations rather than embarking on endless breaks.
He, however, submitted that it was better for the National Assembly to delay the enactment of bills than hurriedly passing them and creating a lacuna when the bills are eventually signed into law.
This, he argued, is responsible for the increasing number of rejected bills.
“I don’t think that the National Assembly operates without rules governing procedures of whatever they do. So, if their assignment is governed by rules, they must first be seen to do it within the ambit of the law or the timeframe within which the law permits them to pass them.
The fact that these bills are critical for one reason or the other needs a lot of scrutiny to ensure that what they are delivering to Nigerians is that which can stand the test of time,” Agama said in a telephone interview with BusinessDay.
“And that is one of the things that we see when bills are transmitted to be signed into law without proper scrutiny, you discover that when these bills metamorphose into law, they will come with a whole lot of lacuna that at the end of the day, giving the interpretation to some of those provisions, people begin to cry foul for injustice.
“On the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, it is very vital to our democracy. And if anything is hurriedly done, it may still not stand the test of time. On one hand, there is the need for time to properly scrutinise bills, both executive and private bills, so that whatever will be given to Nigerians will stand the test of time.
“On the other hand, we can’t because this Eighth Assembly is running out, hurriedly pass those bills. You are sacrificing the interest of Nigerians on the altar of time. Take it leave it, governance is a continuous process. And so wherever they have stopped, these bills can still be brought back to the Ninth Assembly. It will be better than hasten up to pass those bills where at the end of the day, it will not satisfy the yearnings of Nigerians,” Agama said.
Source: By OWEDE AGBAJILEKE