Hopes that the parliament would override the president’s veto were dashed as the House commenced its Christmas break on December 20…
Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The year, 2018, will go down in history as one in which the House of Representatives set out to do much, but ended up doing very little.
At the beginning of the year, the Chairman, House committee on Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrasak Namdas told Daily Sun that the House would be concentrating on issues relating security, amendment of the 2010 Electoral Act, and investigation into the utilisation of the Internally Generated Revenue( IGR) by Federal Medical Centres (FMCs) among others.
However, a review of the performance of the House in the outgoing year indicates that, despite taking several initiatives, they did not produce the desired results.
Analysts s are however attributing the lawmakers’ inability to meet its set targets to the failure of the executive arm to sign some of the relevant bills or comply with House’s resolutions. There is also the outright lack of political will on the part of the parliament to push through its resolutions and bills.
Amendment of Electoral Act
The House started off 2018 with attempts to further amend the 2010 Electoral Act, as part of efforts to provide a new legal framework for the conduct of 2019 general election.
Precisely, on January 24, the Green chamber adopted a new sequence for elections for next year’s poll and subsequent ones. The new election sequence indicated that the National Assembly election will come first, followed by the governorship and state Houses of Assembly poll, with the presidential election coming last.
However, this was not without controversy, as members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in House led by the Chief Whip, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, staged a walkout from the committee of the Whole, where the decision was taken, to protest the new amendment , describing it as a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) “amendment.”
That was to mark the beginning of the many controversies that trailed efforts to amend the Electoral Act all through the year.
President Muhammadu Buhari was to later decline assent to the bill citing the new sequence of elections as part of his reasons. In reaction, the House separated the sequence of elections into a new bill, and reworked the electoral act and sent it back to the president for his assent.
The new sequence of elections was later reintroduced in the House. Unfortunately, after the first reading of the bill on May 31, nothing has been heard about it again, an indication that it may have died a natural death.
Eventually, the House, alongside with the Senate, succeeded in amending the Electoral Act. The new electoral law legitimises the use of Card Readers in the conduct of elections, and outlaws the use of incidence forms, in the event that the card readers fail. It provides that in the event of the failure of the card reader in a polling unit, the election in the affected unit shall be rescheduled.
However, efforts to amend the electoral law came to nought as President Buhari earlier in December declined assent to the bill for the third consecutive time.
Hopes that the parliament would override the president’s veto were also dashed as the House commenced its Christmas break on December 20, without doing anything in that regard.
Beginning from January to December, issues relating to the spate of insecurity in the country, especially the herder-farmer’s clashes, banditry, insurgency, kidnapping etc, dominated debates in the Green Chamber; with the House adopting many motions and initiating bills to curb the menace.
On February 7, the House passed a vote of no confidence in the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris and called for his immediate sack. It also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to replace Idris with a more professional police officer, who can effectively check the rising wave of crime in the country. This followed the adoption of a motion by Danburamu Nuhu from Kano State, “on the need to curb the rising cases of political thuggery in Kano State and other parts of the country.”
On April 25, the House after reviewing the endless killings in Benue State, allegedly caused by killer herdsmen passed a vote of no confidence in all the service chiefs and charged President Buhari to sack them.
It equally summoned President Buhari to appear before it to explain efforts by government to check endless killings in Benue State, and contain security challenges in different parts of the country, as well as admonished the government to declare armed herdsmen as terrorists, and compel all cattle rearers in the country to be registered.
Same day, the House also resolved to shut down the National Assembly for three legislative days in solidarity with the people of Benue, Taraba and other states, who have suffered attacks at the time. The shutdown was to serve as a protest over apparent failure by the government to secure the lives of the citizens.
Like many resolutions of the parliament, the government spurned the resolution calling for the sack of the service chiefs among others. Ironically, even the House failed to comply with its own resolution to shutdown National Assembly for three days to draw attention to the deplorable security situation in the country and force the executive arm of government to take decisive actions to tackle it.
Also, in the outgoing year, the House made a futile effort to override President Buhari’s veto of the Nigerian Peace Corps Bill, which sought to establish a Peace Corps to complement the efforts of existing paramilitary organisations in enhancing security in the country.
In the aftermath of the eventual death of the Peace Corps Bill, the Green Chamber came up with a bill to set up the legal framework for the establishment of state police. The bill, which was sponsored by the House leader, Femi Gbajabiamila provides for the transfer of Police from the exclusive list to the concurrent list.
House leader said state Police will curb the killings across the country, noting that “it is not enough for us to talk and just condemn killings; it is time for us to change the security architecture. No matter how you look at it, the good of the state Police outweighs the bad.”
However, after the bill scaled through second reading on July 25, nothing has being heard of it.
Ajaokuta Steel Company
In the aftermath of a visit to the Ajaokuta Steel Company in February 12, the Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, came up with several initiatives on how to revive the company.
First, it held sectoral debate on the Steel Company, which was boycotted by the then minister of Solid Minerals Development minister, Kayode Fayemi and his minister of state, Bawa Bwari. Following the boycott, the House passed a vote of no confidence in the duo.
Apart from constituting a probe panel into the Ajaokuta Steel Company, the House equally passed a resolution halting the concessioning of the company.
To give impetus to the resolution, it quickly passed “A Bill for an Act to Provide for the Ajaokuta Steel Company Completion Fund for the speedy Completion of the Project” and “A Bill for an Act to Amend the Public Enterprises (Privatisation and Commercialisation).”
While the bill for the speedy completion of Ajaokuta Steel prescribes that $1 billion from the Federal Government share of the excess crude fund should be deployed towards the completion of the steel company, the bill to amend the Public Enterprises (Privatisation and Commercialisation) Act, delisted the Company from list of government enterprises that could be privatised or concessioned.
After adopting the report of its probe panel on Ajaokuta Steel Company, the House charged the government to use looted funds recovered from the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha to supplement the funding for the completion of the company.
The House also directed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to prosecute the Global Infrastructure Nigeria Limited (GINL) and others indicted in the mismanagement of Ajaokuta Steel Company, for economic sabotage, in line with the directive of late President Musa Yar’Adua in 2008, among other measures.
It equally urged the “Federal Government to revive relations with the original builders of the company (TPE of Russia) towards wooing them back to continue and complete” the work they started in Ajaokuta Steel. The government was yet to comply with any of the resolutions on Ajaokuta, as the time of this review.
One of the most prominent probes embarked upon by the House in the outgoing year was the investigation of alleged breach of public trust in the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). At the end of the probe, which generated so much concern in the polity, the House in November adopted the committee report, indicting the NEMA managing director, Mustapha Maihaja, for alleged violation of public trust in the management of the agency.
It accused Maihaja of allegedly mismanaging over N33 billion meant for the provision of offer relief materials to distressed Nigerians.
According to the House, the N33billion includes N5.8 billion emergency intervention fund approved for NEMA by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, in his capacity as acting President.
Specifically, the House, among others things, resolved that “all government officials involved in the approval, processing, release and diversion of the sum of N5.8 billion for emergency intervention of food security in the North East, which contravened the provisions of section 80 (2) of the constitution, infraction of due process for procurement and loss of government revenue, flouting of the terms of the Eurobond loan are hereby indicted and the relevant security agencies should take steps to recover the money from them.”
Chairman of the Committee on Disaster Preparedness and Emergency, Ali Isa told journalists that Osinbajo, who doubles as the Chairman of NEMA board has a case to answer in the alleged infractions in the agency , particularly as it concerns the approval for the expenditure of N5.8 billion from the consolidated revenue fund, by the interventionist agency without recourse to the National Assembly.
The APC caucus came close to losing its majority status in the House in July shortly before the National Assembly commenced its annual recess.
In one fell swoop, 37 members of the party defected to other political parties, with the opposition PDP harvesting 32 of the defectors. Many more members of the ruling party, including Dogara, have equally migrated to other political parties.
Expectedly, the defections have drastically altered the configuration of the 360-member House, as it drastically reduced the numerical strength of the APC. On the other hand, the development has strengthened the major opposition party, the PDP caucus in the House.
Also smaller political parties like the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Accord Party, the United Progressive Party (UPP), and the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) have equally gained a few members.
Regardless, although pundits had predicted that the reconfiguration of the House will change the power dynamics and possibly give rise to more radical and proactive House, nothing has actually changed in the Green chamber, as it is still business as usual.