By Chinelo Obogo
The Eight Lagos State House of Assembly which turned a year old in June, 2016 has set a precedence of having the highest turnover of private member bills. It is a huge leap from previous administrations which always had the bulk of the bills passed into law as executive bills. So far, the Eight Assembly has passed eight bills into law and made 88 resolutions.
In parliaments, bills are usually introduced through two sources; ‘private member bills’ and ‘executive bills.’ The process of turning bills into laws are in seven stages; the first reading; second reading; committee stage; public hearing; laying of report; presentation of committee report and third reading. It is after the bill scales through the third reading that it is passed into law.
Of the private member bills, the Speaker of the Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, sponsored the Local Government Administration Law (Amendment) 2015; Lagos State Cancer Research Institute Bill, 2016; Lagos State Neigbourhood Safety Corps Bill, 2016; Bill on Kidnapping and Abduction.
The deputy speaker, Wasiu Eshilokun, sponsored the Local Government Economic Planning and Development Board Bill, 2016; Lagos State Public Finance Management (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and Lagos State Local Government Service Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
The majority leader, Sanai Agunbiade, sponsored the Lagos State Properties Protection Bill, 2015, while the Shield for Rape Victims and Civil Liability Bill, 2016, was sponsored by Gbolahan Yishawu.
So far, the bills that have been passed are; The Lagos State University (Amendment) Bill, 2015, which was designed to introduce changes to put an end to incessant crises in the institution by proposing a five year single term for the Vice Chancellor; The Lagos Cancer Research Institute Bill, is meant to create awareness about cancer and to set up screening centers in all the local governments. Also, the Local Government Administration Amendment law; Lagos State Employment Trust Fund Bill, 2015, meant to help in raising funds to cater for the security needs of the state; The Appropriation Bill, 2016; The Lagos State Neigbourhood Safety Corps bill; Re-ordering of priorities in Y2015 budget bill.
Some of these bills have come with their own share of controversies, one of which threatened to pitch the executive against the legislature. The most controversial has been The Local Government Administration Amendment bill.
Besides extending the tenure of the Local Government chairmen from three to four years, the bill gives the House of Assembly power to override the governor in the event if a resolution is passed by the House to remove the Chairman or Vice Chairman.
At the initial public hearing of the bill, the state legal adviser of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Demola Sadiq said that the party was opposed to the insertion of the overriding clause. He said that the doctrine of separation of powers and the Rule of law frowns on the arbitrary use of the legislative power of veto. He said that a Chairman and Vice Chairman of a Local Government were at double disadvantage, as they could not only be impeached by councilors, but could also be removed by the House of Assembly.
Jokotade Pelumi, a former speaker also said that the introduction of the power to override the governor to exercise discretion on a resolution of the House of Assembly was strange to parliamentary democracy in Nigeria. Obasa said the proposed amendment was not meant to victimise any council official, rather it was meant to keep the officials on their toes all the time.
Lagos State Safety Agency and Neigbourhood watch bill
The clamour for state policing by the APC may have birthed the formation of this agency. The objectives of the agency are to establish a uniformed neigbourhood safety corps within the state to assist the police and other security agencies within the community to maintain law and order. The functions of the agency’s board shall be to take over existing responsibilities of the Neigbourhood watch and absorb all eligible watchers onto the corps. It would integrate the existing personnel of the Neigbourhood Watch, if they were competent and of good character.
They will establish uniformed neigbourhood safety corps in all Local government/Local Council Development Areas in the state and will formulate regulations for the day to day operations of the corps and other vigilante groups. The bill, which has 31 sections, states that the board shall ensure cordial relationship with the Nigeria Police and other security agencies.
While the issue of duplication of duties between the proposed agency and the already existing Neigbourhood Watch has been put to rest, the issue of funding for the agency is still debilitating. At the Public hearing of the bill, the executive Secretary, Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF), Dr. Abdulrasak Balogun, said the proposed agency would complement the efforts of other security agencies. But on the issue of funding, he said it has been very difficult to raise money from corporate bodies to finance security, adding that it would not be wise to depend on corporate bodies to raise the funds. He also raised objection to a section of the bill which suggests that one percent of the funds raised by the LSSTF should be given to the agency.
Bills at the Second Reading stage They include the Lagos State Environmental Management and Protection Bill, 2015; the Lagos State Public Works Corporation Bill, 2015; the Seal of Lagos State Government (Amendment) Bill, 2015; the Lagos State Tourism Promotion Agency Bill, 2015; the Lagos State Examinations Board Bill, 2015; the Lagos State Revenue Administration Bill, 2015; the Lagos State Public Procurement Agency (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill, 2015; and the Ibile Holdings Corporation Bill, 2015.
Others are: the Local Government Economic Planning and Development Board Bill, 2016; the Lagos State Public Finance Management (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the Lagos State Local Government Service Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the Lagos State Cancer Research Institute Bill, 2016; the Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Bill, 2016; the Lagos State Health Scheme (Amendment) Bill, 2016; and the Shield for Rape Victims and Civil Liability Bill, 2016.
Bills at the committee stage
A total number of about 88 resolutions have been passed by the 8th Assembly, from different motions moved by members on the floor of the House. The resolutions, which are to ensure peace, order, security, tranquility, development and social harmony in the state, include: the need for palliative work on Lagos-Badagry Expressway (Iyana Isashi – Ijanikin – Agbara end); improving security measures on Lagos waterways; need for regulation of noise pollution in Lagos State; need to check illegal dredging, mining and reclamation activities in Lagos State; call for construction of bridge (flyover) around Agege Pen Cinema; call for automation of the entire traffic monitoring system in Lagos State; call on the appropriate authorities for urgent investigation into the activities and funding of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency(FERMA) in respect of federal roads in Lagos State in the last eight years.
Others are: the urgent repair of the deplorable state of Lekki-Epe expressway; menace of traffic gridlock in the state; need to ensure quality control of manufactured and imported products in Nigeria; the need to protect the sanctity of gender morality in Lagos State; call to restore sanity to Lagos Island Central Business Districts’ roads; occupation and vandalisation of public school buildings and facilities by hoodlums and miscreants; call on Federal Government to refund the money expended on federal roads in Lagos State; assaults on officials of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) by military personnel; need to check the incursion of commercial motorcycle riders into BRT Corridor on Ikorodu-Mile 12 axis; call to check the harmful activities of faceless recruitment organisations and others.
The Assembly also screened members of the state executive council, who have since assumed office as commissioners and special advisers.
It also screened and approved members of boards of various commissions such as: the Civil Service Commission; the Judicial Service Commission; the Lagos State Security Trust Fund and others, the Employment Trust Fund and others.
Aside from treating the petitions forwarded to it on various issues by residents of Lagos, the House received several groups that protested over one injustice or denial of rights or the other. The protests range from demolition of structures, either houses or markets by government agencies, inhuman working conditions at work places, kidnap and rape cases, agitation for gender equality, imposition of arbitrary fees/levies and others.
A docile opposition
Though the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) occupies eight out of the 40 constituency seats in the Assembly, its impact as an opposition party is yet to be felt. The consensus among pundits is that the PDP lawmakers are not performing their duties as opposition effectively; they are only PDP in name, but APC in action. They have not raised any dissenting voice or opposition to any issue on the floor of the House. The minority leader, Victor Akande, curiously says that members of the party are not in the Assembly to be in “opposition’.
He denies any plans by PDP lawmakers in the Assembly to defect to the APC, and says they prefer to work in harmony, rather than work as an opposition party.
Many believe that the eight Assembly should wake up to its responsibility and address some critical issues that are affecting education, healthcare and other sectors of the state.
They are also of the view that the House should do more to checkmate the excesses of the executive arm of government so that they can be more responsible to the people and make life better for them.