As both chambers of the National Assembly reconvene in plenary on February 9, PHILIP NYAM takes look at issues before the parliament
The 9th National Assembly will be 18 months old by February when the lawmakers return from the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Before both the senate and House of Representatives proceeded on the break, the legislators had spent 16 months representing their constituents, making laws and over sighting. Both chambers have passed many motions, resolutions and bill.
They jointly initiated a total of 1,546 bills since inauguration with the House of Representatives accounting for 1,097.
This is as compared to the 8th Assembly that handled 2,640 bills in 4 years with the senate accounting for 815 and the House 1, 674.
In terms of lawmaking, at least 102 senators sponsored a total of 448 bills since the inauguration of the 9th Senate on June 11, 2019.
Only seven senators have not been able to initiate any bill in the last 18 months.
Details of the bills progression gleaned from the National Assembly sources and the Policy Legislative and Advocacy Centre (PLAC) indicate that the senate majority leader, Senator Abdullahi Abubakar Yayaha (APC, Kebbi) leads the pack with 25 bills, while deputy senate president, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta) is second with 22 bills.
Former Aviation minister, Senator Stella Oduah (PDP, Anambra) is third with 20 bills, Senator Mohammed Sani Musa (APC, Niger) is with 16 bills, while Senator Uche Ekwunife (PDP, Anambra) and Senator Ifeanyi Ubah (YPP, Anambra) have 12 bills each.
Senator Abdulfatai Buhari (APC, Oyo) and Senator Gyang Dung Istifanus (PDP, Plateau) are sixth having sponsored 10 bills each while Senator Barau Jibril (APC, Kano) and Senator Betty Apiafi (PDP, Rivers) are following closely with nine bills.
Senate Deputy Whip, Senator Abdullahi Aliyu Sabi (APC, Niger) and Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume (APC, Borno) have eight bills each to their names. Similarly, Senator Gershom Henry Bassey (PDP, Cross River), Senator Uba Sani (APC, Kaduna) and Senator Solomon Adeola Olamilekan (APC, Lagos) have eight bills each.
In the House of Representatives, 190 lawmakers sponsored a total of 1,097 bills just as 170 of them are yet to sponsor any bill. Hon. Tajudeen Abass (APC, Kaduna) has so far sponsored the highest number of bills totaling 61 and is followed by Hon. Ali Abdul Ibrahim (APC, Kogi) with 45 bills with Chief Whip of the House, Hon. Mohammed Tahir Monguno (APC, Borno) third with 42 bills.
Chairman of the House Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreement, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta) is fourth with 41 bills, while Hon. Uzoma Nkem-Abonta (PDP, Abia) is fifth with 33 bills. Hon. Dachung Musa Bagos (PDP, Plateau) is sixth with 31 bills and he is also the leading firsttimer in bill sponsorship.
House spokesman, Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu (APC, Abia) is seventh with 30 bills just as his fellow Abian and House Deputy Chief Whip, Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (APC, Abia) is the leading principal officer and female lawmaker with 29 bills. She is eigth on the bill sponsorship chart.
The Minority Whip, Hon. Lucas Gideoan Gwani (PDP, Kaduna) is nienth with 23 bills, while Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos) is 10th with 19 bills.
Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Hon. Onofiok Luke (PDP, Akwa Ibom) and Hon. Francis Charles Uduyok (PDP, Akwa Ibom) are jointly 11th with 18 bills each, just as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Hon. Wole Oke (PDP, Osun) is 12th with 17 bills to his credit.
Deputy Speaker, Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase (APC, Plateau) is 13th on the list with 15 bills, while Hon. Abdullahi Saidu Musa (APC, Niger) is 14th with 14 bills.
Pending issues in 2021
Service Chiefs: Due to the heightening insecurity across the nation, both chambers had at different times passed resolutions calling on the president to sack the service chiefs and rejig the nation security architecture.
The situation degenerated into a standoff between the House and the presidency, when the lower chamber invited President Muhammadu Buhari to appear before it and shed light on the security state of the nation.
Although, the president initially expressed his desire to honour the invitation, he later changed his mind after the Attorney General and minister for justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) argued that the House had no constitutional power to summon the president.
But a few days ago, the president relieved the Service Chiefs of their appointments and appointed new ones. He has already forwarded to the senate their nominations for confirmation.
This will certainly be one of the first assignment to be undertaken by the Senate. The House, however, does not have any role to play in the screening and confirmation of the service chiefs. President Buhari in a letter to the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, dated January 27, 2021, said that the screening was being sought in furtherance of Section 18 (1) of the Armed Forces Act Cap. A. 20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
In a statement on Friday by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly matters, Senator Babajide Omoworare, he said: “President Muhammadu Buhari has communicated the appointment of the Service Chiefs to the National Assembly and has sought for the confirmation of the said appointment by the Senate through his letter to the Senate President dated 27th January 2021.
This was done in furtherance of Section 18 (1) of the Armed Forces Act Cap. A.20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria. “Contrary to fears expressed in some quarters that President Muhammadu Buhari has “bypassed” the National Assembly in the process of appointment of the Service Chiefs and that he has no intention of seeking consideration and confirmation of their appointment, Mr. President upon nomination for appointment sought confirmation of the Senate for the appointment of Major General Lucky Irabor, Major General Ibrahim Attahiru, Rear Admiral Awwal Gambo and Air Vice Marshal Isiaka Amao as Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff and Chief of Air Staff respectively, vide his aforementioned letter.
“It is on record that this same procedure was adopted when the immediate past Service Chiefs were appointed. Upon announcement of the appointment of the then Service Chiefs – Major General Abayomi Olonisakin (Chief of Defence Staff), Major General Tukur Buratai (Chief of Army Staff), Rear Admiral Ibok-Efe Ibas (Chief of Naval Staff) and Air Vice Marshal Sadique Abubakar (Chief of Air Staff), Mr. President had written the 8th Senate on July 14, 2015 for confirmation.
Whilst the correspondence was read on the floor of the Senate on July 28, 2015, consideration and confirmation of the appointments was carried out at the Committee of the Whole on August 4, 2015″.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on December 31, 2020 signed the 2021 Appropriation Act. The National Assembly had on December 21, 2020, passed the 2021 Appropriation Bill with an aggregate expenditure of N13, 588, 027,886, 175 trillion.
Part of the provisions of the 2021 appropriation act is the simultaneous implementation of the 2020 budget up till March 2021 ending. But a supplementary budget to purchase COVID-19 vaccines and also take care of other expenses related to the virus is expected to be forwarded to the National Assembly by the executive as soon as they reconvene.
The Federal Government said it would need N400 billion to vaccinate 70 per cent of Nigerians between now and 2022. This is not captured in the 2021 budget which was signed in December hence supplementary budget to take care of this would be sent to the National Assembly for approval. Although, N5.8billion has been earmarked in the budget for research institutes for COVID- 19 vaccines.
Before the break, the Senate stepped down the confirmation of the Special Assistant to the President on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie, as a National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Onoche’s nomination had divided the Senators and opposition parties, even as many political analysts kicked against because of her manifest partisan position. Though the presidency is weighing the options, but judging from President Buhari’s antecedents, there are indications that he might re-present the name for confirmation.
Other three nominees for INEC are Prof. Mohammed Sani, (National Commissioner, Katsina), Prof. Cornelius Ajayi (Ekiti) and Saidu Babawa Ahmed, (Jigawa).
The controversial probe of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), initiated by both chambers of the National Assembly will also come up in the legislative years.
The probe had uncovered a can of worms including non-execution of hundreds of contracts in the region and the commission’s claims to have spent N81.5 billion in seven months.
Though some lawmakers were named in the contract scam, the probe led to the dissolution of the Interim National Management Team headed by Professor Kemedraidikumo Pondein and consequent appointment of the Acting Executive Director, Finance and Admin as Interim Managing Director.