Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila presented before his colleagues the outline of activities for the New Year. PHILIP NYAM examines the agenda
t the commencement of every year, many individuals, groups, institutions and nations often draw their programme of activities and plans. In the House of Representatives, there is a legislative agenda, which was launched at the inauguration of the 9th Assembly.
The House said the agenda “is a declaration of our intent to serve Nigeria with dedication, focusing our considerable energies on those issues that most affect the lives of our citizens.”
The issues in the agenda include the insertion of the national pledge in the House Standing Orders and other amendments; engagement of critical stakeholders on early national budget presentation and passage, deployment of Information and Communication Technology in legislative activities at the plenary and committee sittings; as well as recognition and honouring of patriotic Nigerians.
The agenda is also committed to the creation of community police, opening up of the finances of the House to the public, special corruption courts and the separation of the Federal Ministry of Justice from the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation.
The House also proposed redemption of the image of the National Assembly in the eye of the Nigerian public.
The House said in the document that the members were elected at a time in the country’s history “when we are confronted with great peril and even greater opportunity to turn around our nation’s fortunes and put us back on the path to genuine peace and progress that impacts on all, rather than just a privileged few.”
On resumption from the Christmas and New Year break, Speaker of House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila set the tone for what the House intends to achieve out of the agenda in the year 2020 in relation with the exigencies of the time. But for the House to actualise its set target, Gbajabimaila believes that the commitment of lawmakers is paramount. However, the lawmakers must be healthy and fit to discharge their responsibilities.
Addressing his colleagues, Gbajabiamila said, “Beyond the obligations of our office, we have other responsibilities as fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters that require us to take matters of our personal health with the utmost care. Let us never lose sight of this fact. And may God guide, protect and keep us all in good health and good fortune.
“Upon the inauguration of this 9th House of Representatives in June 2019, we hit the ground running, working with the executive, and engaging the citizens of our country to discover and present solutions to the problems of our country. Some of our efforts have already yielded positive results in certain regards and I am hopeful that we will continue in this New Year to meet and exceed the standards that we have set for ourselves.”
He noted that for the first time since 1999, “we have a budget passed by the legislature and signed into law before the start of the implementation year. I commend and thank all the members of this House for your efforts towards achieving early passage of the Appropriation Act 2020 and the Finance Act, both of which have now been signed into law by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR”.
According to him, “passing the budget into law is merely the beginning. We now have a duty to ensure faithful compliance with the letter and spirit of the law by the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government. We will carry out this responsibility and we will do so with integrity, taking pains to ensure that we leave no room for neither friends nor foes to find fault with our words or deeds.”
Hitting the nail on the head, Gbajabiamila disclosed that: “In this new year, this House will further take all necessary action to pass into law the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and to implement the much needed and long-delayed reforms of the sector. It is an unavoidable truth that the oil and gas industry is integral to the economic life of Nigeria. Achieving efficient operation in this sector is, therefore, a matter of national survival.
“We cannot allow these much-needed and too long-delayed reforms to continue to be hostage to the privileged interests of a few or the myopic considerations of those whose interests are served by the status quo. We will seek reform, we will achieve reform, and we will do so in collaboration with the executive, with stakeholders in the industry and with those communities that most directly bear the highest costs of our exploration and sale of fossil fuels.”
Gbajabiamila also assured that “the House of Representatives will live up to those commitments, and we will do so expeditiously through legislative action and through collaboration with stakeholders across the country, in government and in the private sector.
“Honourable colleagues, the ongoing evolution of our nation’s democracy requires of us that we continually review and update the rules of our engagement. We have just emerged from an elections season that for its numerous successes, nonetheless exposed significant gaps in the process that if left unaddressed, threaten our democracy.
“Electoral reforms are not a party political issue, they are a matter of loyalty to an ideal that is greater than the party to which one belongs to, or the personal ambitions we may each hold. Electoral reforms are a matter of our nation’s future, and I ask of you all that when the time comes to achieve the reforms we need, we do so with the utmost commitment to fairness and equity, respect for the rule of law and with abiding hope for a better future for all our people”.
According to him, “there are a number of other initiatives we began in 2019 that require our continued commitment. These include efforts by the House to see to the full and profitable operation of the Warri, Port – Harcourt, Calabar, Onne and Onitsha Inland Ports; reforms of the power sector to ensure fairness in the billing system as well as allow for the development of an industry that is attractive to investment and capable of serving the best interests of the Nigerian people.
“We will not relent in pursuing these goals, as creating economic opportunity for all our people helps us solve the other problems that threaten the continued viability of the Nigerian state”.
On the worsening insecurity, he said “since we last convened in these chambers, there have been developments in the public space that concern us. We have witnessed across the country, a recognisable uptick in crime, manifested through the activities of bandits destroying communities, kidnappers operating for profit and insurgents seeking to remake our world in the image of a discredited theocracy.”
The speaker opined that “all people of conscience mourn the loss of a reverend and a senior member of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Adamawa State, Mr Lawan Adimi, a good and honourable man, who through the church and in his personal capacity served the people of his community earning their reverence and our collective gratitude.
“God forbid that it is now our nation’s fate to live forever under the threat of abduction and murder. What gaps and weaknesses continue to exist in the national security infrastructure that makes us more susceptible to the machinations of those who seek to achieve wealth and power through brutal violence? How do we achieve for all our people, a just and honourable peace?
“This House will shortly take action to put these questions before those agencies of our national security to whom our constitution and other legislation have granted the powers and the resources to ensure the safety and security of all our people. Our cup of endurance has run over and we are no longer willing to labour under these dark clouds of random violence inflicted upon our people by faceless cowards whose ends we do not understand, and whose means we do not know.
“Overcoming our overwhelming national security challenges now requires of us all that we be willing to accept new approaches and consider novel ideas. Neither the security institutions nor political leaders can afford to hold on too tightly to a status quo whose frustrating limitations are painfully evident, whilst reflexively rejecting innovations that may improve our fortunes if properly implemented.”
On the establishment of Amotekun by South-West states, the speaker said “The establishment of Àmòtékùn, as the network is called, has met with commentary from across the country, both for and against. Too often, it has seemed to me that lost in these interactions is the hard, brutal and unavoidable fact that Àmòtékùn and other such state or zonal interventions that already quietly exist in other parts of the country are a desperate response to the vile manifestations of insecurity that trouble the lives of citizens, depriving them of the peace and security that gives life meaning.
“I do not know that Àmòtékùn or whatever iterations of it may follow represents the ultimate or perfect solution to the problem of insecurity in our country. What I do know with absolute clarity and certainty is that the localised manifestations of insecurity across the different parts of our country call for unique and localised approaches that take those peculiarities into account. What I also know, is that whichever approach we seek; we are obligated to work within the limits imposed by the constitution to which we all swear allegiance.
“Above all else, I am certain in the knowledge that doing nothing is not an option. We have a responsibility as legislators to support the best efforts of those who act with noble intent to protect our citizens. I therefore, call on the Leader of the House of Representatives and the Minority Leader to take active steps to bring to the floor, appropriate amendments to the constitution that will ensure that these and other righteous interventions to protect the life and property of our citizens are firmly in compliance with the laws of the land.”
Speaking on the high number of out of school children in Nigeria, Gbajabiamila proposed that “this House of Representatives resolves to dedicate a special plenary session with nothing else on the order paper, save to consider the issue of Nigeria’s millions of out of school children, with a special focus on the fate of Almajiri children in Nigeria. This will be an open session and all members are enjoined to develop proposals for consideration, for debate and adoption by the House.
“We do not intend for our deliberations and resolutions on this important issue to languish unattended. Therefore, we will extend invitations to the various ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government who have roles to play and we will seek the participation of non-governmental organisations that have a proven track record of successful interventions in this regard. In this way, we can hope to achieve immediate implementation and measurable improvement of these dire statistics”
On the deadly Corona virus, Gbajabiamila asked “all Nigerians and people resident in Nigeria to assist the efforts of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) by taking basic sanitary precautions. Avoid self-medication, avoid panic and report to the nearest medical facility if you or anyone you know has travelled to the affected regions within the last 14 days.
“Finally, my dear colleagues, I wish to acknowledge with the greatest gratitude the efforts of our men and women in uniform who are at this moment, taking risks and offering the supreme sacrifice to help peace take hold in troubled places all across our dear country. They are the best of us, to whom we owe not only our gratitude but also our continued dedication to the offices we hold. We must through our efforts in improving the lives of our people, make ourselves worthy of the sacrifices that these men and women have made and continue to make on our behalf.”
The question now is, can the Gbajabiamila led 9th House of Representatives walk the talk in the next ten months.