2018 will be remembered as the year the parliament raised their hopes and dashed it. It was a year they looked up to their lawmakers for succour but were left despondent.
2018 is not particularly a very successful year in the House of Representatives in terms of addressing key issues affecting the polity, and delivering on the targets the House set for itself at the beginning of the year.
For the electorate, especially those in states most affected by insecurity, 2018 will be remembered as the year the parliament raised their hopes and dashed it. It was a year they looked up to their lawmakers for succour but were left despondent.
At the beginning of the year, the House had enumerated major things it would tackle decisively in the course of the year. Top on the agenda is deploying legislative instruments to address the security situation in the country, enacting a new electoral law to enhance the credibility of the 2019 general elections among others.
Besides, there were expectations that the House will also conclude work on some salient issues, it carried over from 2017. One of the issues carried over of the issues is the promise to revisit the Power Devolution Bill, which was thrown out during the consideration of the report on the alteration of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
In the last quarter of 2017 , the House Leader, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila had described the rejection of the Power Devolution Bill as a mistake, which would be corrected. He was to later move a motion for the House to revisit the legislation, as a basis to addressing once and for all the endless agitations for a restructuring of the polity.
According to him, “there have been different agitations across the Nigeria which have led to divergent views on the suitability of redefining the structures upon which the unity of Nigeria rests on. These agitations have resulted into proscription of groups, loss of lives and judicial pronouncements….it is imperative that the members of the House of Representatives who hold brief for their teeming constituents must drop partisan politics, ethnic and religious interests and speak in one voice to save our country from disintegration,” Gbajabiamila had stated.
The House was to later set up an Ad hoc Committee chaired by the Deputy Speaker, Yussuff Lasun, Deputy Speaker to undertake a tour of the six geopolitical zones o interact with stakeholders on how best to restructure the country.
Other members of the committee include: Gbajabiamila, who doubles as deputy chairman; Alhassan Doguwa, Chief Whip; Pally Iriase, Deputy Chief Whip; Leo Ogor, Minority Leader; Chukwuma Onyema, Deputy Minority Leader; Yakubu Barde, Minority Chief Whip; Binta Bello, Deputy Minority Whip; Nnenna Ukeje, chairman, House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Bode Ayorinde, deputy chairman, House Committee on Rules and Business. It was expected that since the committee was
However, not only did the House fail to accomplish its two key agenda – addressing security, enacting a new electoral law for the country. It also failed to follow up on its resolution to revisit the Power Devolution Bill.
One had expected that since the Lasun Committee was set up towards the end of 2017, it would commence its assignment effectively in 2018. Unfortunately, nothing of such happened. As a matter of fact, there was no mention of the Committee now re-introduction of the Power Devolution Bill, all through the outgoing year.
No doubt, in the course of the year, the House came up with several bills and motions geared towards reforming the electoral process and enhancing security in the country. For instance, in the House came up with a bill to create a state police and countless bills on the amendment of the Electoral Act. It also adopted far reaching resolutions in its quest to bring an end to spate of killings and other forms of insecurity across the country. It is on record that the House at various times passed vote of no confidence on the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris and all the service chiefs, and charged President Muhammadu Buhari to replace them.
It also resolved to summon the President to address it on measures taken to address the security challenges in the country.
Similarly, it resolved to shut down the National Assembly for three legislative days in protest against the worsening security situation in the country, among other reasons. But despite these efforts, the House cannot boast of achieving the intended results.
While lawmakers may be quick to point accusing fingers at the Executive Arm of Government for not complying with House resolutions and signing bills, the truth is that the House is largely responsible for its inability to deliver on key issues.
It is true that in many instances, the executives stalled the progress of the House by refusing to implement resolution of assenting to bills. Regardless, the constitution gave the legislature powers to deal with such situations.
Methinks, two factors are responsible for the failure of the Green Chamber to actualise it’s agenda on security, electoral reforms and revisiting the Power Devolution Bill in the outgoing year – lack of political will and unnecessary politicisation of issues.
If the House has shown enough political will, it would have at least kick started the process of devolving more powers to the state; it would have completed work on the bill for state policing and possibly overriden President Buhari veto on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, long before now; it would have insisted that the President appears before Parliament to explain why the government has continuously failed to ensure the security of lives and property across the country; it would have at least shutdown for three days, in line with its own resolution, to show its displeasure over the security situation in the country. For a House that is always quick to approve all the requests by the Executive for funds for security and election expenses, often without scrutiny, one would have expected that the same Chamber would muster enough courage to push through its initative aimed at making things work better.
But for needless policitisation of issues, the House would have succeeded in giving the country a more improved Electoral Act, ahead of next year’s general elections. It is unfortunate that the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, which is intended to enhance the conduct of elections in the country, beginning from next year’s polls, may end as an exercise in futility, because lawmakers prefer to put the interest of their political parties, for above the interest of the country.