The 8th House of Representatives last week Thursday marked its anniversary having been inaugurated on June 9, 2015. As part of the celebration, there was an anniversary speech delivered by the Speaker of the House, Hon. Yakubu Dogara where he reeled out the achievements and challenges they encounted thus far in its legislative business.
No doubt, the lawmakers have received commendation in some areas and knocks in some others. In retrospect, the last one year has been turbulent as well as exciting.
Shortly after its inauguration, there was serious leadership problem squarely between the pro-Dogara group and Femi Gbajabiamila’s faction.While lawmakers from Dogara’s camp insisted that Gbajabiamila will not be the House Leader after he failed to clinch the speakership position, Gbajabiamila’s loyalists persisted in their demand that they would not accept anything less.
Unfortunately, the leadership tussle between the two factions continued until President Muhammadu Buhari interveved and settled both factions.
Of course, while this crisis was going on, the business of legislation took the back seat. Funny enough, what most of the lawmakers were interested in was the position they can get and not really what they can offer their respective constituents.
After close to one month of leadership crisis, the lawmakers eventually settled down for the business of lawmaking with the drafting of a legislative agenda (2015-2019) to guide its legislative activities for 4 years. The proposed agenda was thoroughly debated by members and approved.
However, key component of the legislative agenda is the novel idea of constantly engaging the executive on a sectoral debates so as to be properly guided on how the economy can be diversified.
So far, six ministers have appeared on the sectoral debates. They are: Lai Mohammed (Minister of Information and Culture); Audu Ogbeh (Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development); Okechukwu Enelamah (Minister of Trade, Investment & Industry); Kayode Fayemi (Minister of Solid Minerals); Adebayo Shittu (Minister of Communications) and Kemi Adeosun ( Minister of Finance).
Lo and behold, what the lawmakers and indeed Nigerians have seen from the sectoral debates is not cheering and inspiring.
The sectoral debates, designed specifically to ascertain what the ministers are doing to diversify the economy via their respective sectors, has been turned into a rather long boring speech-making event deviod of clear-cut ideas on how to diversify the economy.
Admittedly, the debates will enhance a better oversight performance and improved executive-legislature relations, but the legislators have been criticised for allowing the ministers to rubbish the intent of the exercise by not really telling Nigerians in concrete terms how they intend to diversify the economy.
The number of bills introduced in the last one year represents the highest annual consideration of bills by the House since the return to democratic governance in 1999. Under the current legislative session, a total of 685 bills have been received out of which 675 are members bills, while 10 are executive bills. Out of this figure, 416 bills are awaiting second reading; 130 bills have been referred to committees; three bills are awaiting consideration, while 85 bills have been into law.
For instance, there is a ‘Bill for an Act to Establish Constituency Development Fund for the Purpose of Even Development of all Constituencies in the Federation and for Other Connected Purposes 2015’. The bill proposed five years imprisonment for any person guilty of misappropriation of funds or assets of constituency projects.
Part VII of the bill read thus: “Any person guilty of misappropriation of any funds or assets shall be liable upon conviction to 5 years imprisonment without option of fine”.
Leading the debate on the general principal of the bill, sponsor of the bill, Hon. Solomon Adaelu (PDP-Abia) said that the bill proposed that 2.5 percent of the country’s annual budget be set aside for constituency projects.
Similarly, House has also proposed 30 years as the age limit for any Nigerian vying for the office of the president, governor and National Assembly seats in subsequent general elections.
This followed a robust debate on a bill seeking to reduce the age qualification for the office of the president, governor and membership of the Senate and House of Representatives by altering Sections 65, 106, 131 and 177 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Leading debate on the bill, the sponsor, Hon. Tony Nwulu (PDP-Lagos), explained that the bill seeks to reduce the age qualification for the office of president from 40 to 30 years and office of governor from 35 to 30 years
On motions, as at June 8, 2016, 530 motions have been introduced out of which 15 were withdrawn. The bulk of the motions moved were considered and resolutions passed accordingly.
Having exhausted one year, many people are of the firm beleive that members of the Green Chamber have done marginally well, but said there is room for improvement. They argued that for the lawmakers to prepare grounds for the real change agenda of this administration, there must be a complete departure in the manner they carry out its oversight function. Regrettably, most of these oversight visits to government agencies are largely due to some percuniary reasons.
Again, there is need for the lawmakers to focus more on legislations that will not only address poverty and unemployment, but also enhance the general wellbeing and safety of Nigerians irrespective of which part of the country they reside.
As members of the 8th House of Representatives begin their second term as lawmakers, it is absolutely necessary that they shun partisan politics and rededicate themselves to the task of effective oversight and making laws for the common good of all.


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