Politics

Key issues as Reps resume plenary

Several pressing national issues await the attention of members of the House of Representatives as they resume for plenary in 2021. PHILIP NYAM writes

 

Members of the House of Representatives have been on break since December 21, 2020.

 

Their resumption had been postponed once and they are due to reconvene plenary, yesterday, Tuesday, February 9, 2021. The revalidation and registration of party members by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which caused the initial postponement has just kicked off and it is not clear whether there will be another postponement or not.

 

However, there are very many issues waiting to be attended to by the legislators whenever they reconvened from the Christmas and new year holidays. Some of the major issues waiting for their consideration include the following:

 

Constitution review:

 

Agitations for the restructuring of the polity have taken the centre stage in the nation’s political discourse. Hence, constitution amendment by the National Assembly has become imperative. It is expected that the House of Representatives will commence in earnest the process of altering the 1999 constitution.

 

Chairman of the House ad hoc committee on the review of the constitution and Deputy Speaker, Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase, had on Tuesday, November 17, 2020 called for the submission of memoranda to the committee for the constitution review exercise.

 

The general public, executive and judicial arms of government, civil society organisations, professional bodies and other interest groups are expected to submit proposals to the committee’s secretariat, in relation to federal structure and power devolution, local government autonomy, fiscal federalism, revenue allocation, security architecture reform, electoral and judicial reform. Other subject matters for consideration include the legislature, state creation and immunity for public officials.

 

It will be recalled that the committee was inaugurated on October 15, 2020, to look into constitution alteration bills and proposals. The committee was expected to have collated enough memoranda and started sieving them out.

 

Of course, the constitution review exercise is coming at a crucial period. Recent occurrences in the country have given rise to agitations for true federalism, devolution of powers to state governments, overhaul of the nation’s security structure, sustainable economic development, among other issues, which have continued to be amplified.

 

The legislators are, therefore, expected to pursue this project with utmost seriousness as all eyes are on them for a comprehensive review and amendment that will provide Nigerians with a stable legal framework that can adequately address the prevailing problems in the country.

 

774,000 public works:

 

Although, the federal government 774,000 special public works for unemployed youths across the country has been launched, the House of Representatives still have scores to settle with the executive.

 

It will be recalled that the Minister of   State for Labour and Employment, Mr. Festus Keyamo (SAN) and members of the National Assembly had fracas over the implementation of the programme due to personal interest regarding the mode of selection of candidates for the scheme.

 

Specifically, the House had on the 15 of December 2020 adopted a motion urging President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately reinstate the sacked Director-General of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Nasir Argungu.

 

The matter was brought under matters of urgent national importance sponsored by Hon. Olajide Olatunbosun (APC, Oyo).

 

The lawmakers disagreed with the Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo over the selection process, which reportedly ‘fenced’ them out even though they were supposed to be carried along. They also condemned the sack of Mr Argungu by President Buhari.

 

 

Keyamo, was directed to nominate an acting DG from amongst the most senior directors based on competencies and seniority to take over from Argungu until a substantive holder of the post is appointed by the president.

 

While passing the motion, the lawmakers urged the Ministry of Finance not to release the funds meant for the exercise until the controversies surrounding it are sorted out.

 

Also, the minority caucus in the House of Representatives had issued a statement rejecting the 30 job slot given to each member of the House for the local government areas within their respective constituencies in the recruitment for the ‘public works scheme’.

 

PIB passage:

 

Another issue that will occupy space when the House reconvenes is the consideration and passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).

 

The PIB ad hoc committee headed by the Chief Whip, Hon. Mohammed Tahir Monguno (APC, Borno) had in January conducted a public hearing to aggregate the views of stakeholders and Nigerians on the bill.

 

The report of the public hearing is expected to be laid on the floor of the chamber for debate. Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila has also vowed that despite the positions of any vested interest, the House will ensure that it protects the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians in the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).

 

The speaker, who expressed optimism about the process adopted by the House to engage all relevant stakeholders, said he was confident that the Monguno-led ad hoc committee will do a thorough job, promising that the House would do all within its jurisdiction to pass the PIB in April.

 

Supplementary budget:

 

The House will also be working jointly with the Senate to consider a supplementary budget expected to be forwarded to the National Assembly by President Buhari.

 

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, had told the leadership of the parliament that the federal government needs about N400 billion to vaccinate 70 percent of Nigeria’s 211 million population: N156 billion will be needed in 2021, N200 billion in 2022.

 

He had explained that the country, which had successfully fought polio, would use the same storage facilities (cold chains) to store the COVID-19 vaccines and urged the National Assembly to have confidence in the plan for COVID-19 vaccine campaign.

 

Insecurity:

 

In spite of the appointment of new service chiefs, killings across the country has not abated. The House would continue to intervene and advise the executive on how best to tackle the growing insecurity.

 

It is expected that some members of the House may be sponsoring a motion also rejecting the extension of the tenure of the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu for three months by President Buhari. Some of the lawmakers have already individually kicked against the president’s action.

 

Probe of CNA:

 

There are also reports that some members of the House may be calling for the investigation of the clerk to the National Assembly, Architect Amos Ojo over allegations of espionage.

 

A non-governmental organisation, Equity and Transparency Development Intiative had petitioned the Independent and Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) accusing the CNA for allegedly aiding and abetting espionage thereby compromising national security.

 

Consequently, some members of the House are said to be pushing for the chamber to look into the allegations by the NGO against the CNA. A motion of this matter is likely to be presented. These and many other national issues will headline deliberations in the House in the first few weeks of resumption.

 

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