If you are one of those expecting so much from the House of Representatives in 2019, please, be modest in your expectations. This is because, there is not much the House can do this year, especially between now and the end of the present administration on May 29. Already, the countdown to the end of the 8th assembly has begun, and from now till it winds up in May, it will be more of politics within and outside the chamber and less of legislative business.
For instance, the House which resumed from its Christmas and New Year holidays on Wednesday, will likely be adjourning plenary on Thursday next week to enable lawmakers, especially those seeking reelection, concentrate on the electioneering campaigns. It is expected that the House will resume plenary in March after the general elections.
The implication is that the Green chamber has only three months to conduct serious legislative business, before the life of the 8th Assembly elapses. So, what exactly can the House achieve within such a period of time? There is no doubt that there is still so much to be done, with so little time left. Therefore, methinks the House should try to maximize its time as much as possible.
One expects the House to complete work in all outstanding bills and ongoing investigative hearings, before it winds up. Although this may be a tall order, it will be great if the House in the next couple of weeks will be able to complete work on the various components of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), as well as give the country a new electoral law.
Suffice it to say that since its inauguration, the House has made serious efforts to give the country a new and more comprehensive electoral act. Unfortunately, all its efforts towardbequeathing to the country, an electoral law that will enhance the credibility of elections, were thwarted by the Executive arm of government. It is on record that President Muhammadu Buhari severally declined assent to the Electoral Act Amendment bill, citing one reason of the other. The latest excuse being that a new electoral act at this point will disrupt preparation for the 2019 general elections. Consequently, the President wants the National Assembly to reflect in the amendment that the new electoral act will take effect after the 2019 polls.
After President Buhari declined assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, for the third time, in December 2018, I had on this column canvassed for an override of the President’s veto.
However, it is now obvious that the House and by extention, the National Assembly cannot override the President on the electoral act.. Methinks the Green Chamber should take a second look at the reasons advanced by President Buhari for declining assent the last time.
It is clear that the intention of the lawmakers was to enact a new electoral law that will help the country avoid the pitfalls of the 2015 general elections, in next month’s polls. Since that objective can no longer be achieved, it will not be a bad idea, if the House looks beyond the 2019 polls and come up with a new electoral law that will take effect after next month’s polls. The new electoral law must include the sequence of elections bill, which has been kept on hold for several months. Regrettably, that will be over indulging the President. Regardless, that will ensure that all the efforts and resources expended in attempting to amend the Electoral Act do not go down the drain. Also, that would help the House actualise its objective of bequeathing to the country a better electoral law.
…The 2019 budget palaver
By the time you are reading this, the House of Representatives would have commenced the consideration of the 2019 budget proposals laid before the joint session of the National Assembly on December 19, 2018 by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The presentation of the budget had pitched the All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmakers and their Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counterparts, as some opposition lawmakers booed the President, while he read the budget speech at the Parliament.
The Deputy Minority Leader, Chukwuka Onyema had in a reaction to the budget speech, dismissed the 2019 Appropriation Bill as another “ hollow ritual that has consistently failed to achieve far less than 50 percent of expectations. The truth is that the APC has failed. …any government that cannot implement a national budget- the roadmap to progress and economic development – will bring more economic woes and likely ruins to all.”
According to him “the usual disagreement between the National Assembly and the Executive has always tended to be more about insisting that they should get things right with the implementation of the budget in the interest of our democracy, our economy and more importantly, our citizens.
“Truly, lawmakers across political parties have repeatedly accused the Executive arm of government of poor implementation of the Appropriation Act, since the inception of the present administration in 2015.” However, what the lawmakers have failed to acknowledge is that the House is as guilty as the Executive arm of government, when it comes to the implementation of the budget. Although the constitution gives the parliament so much power in the appropriation process, the lawmakers oftentimes, shirk their responsibility. It is an open secret that sometimes, House Committee chairmen, fail to subject the budget estimates of MDAs to proper scrutiny. There is no doubt that if the lawmakers discharge their duties as regards the budget effectively, starting from the defence by Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs), things will be better than they are now in the adherence to the Appropriation Act.
The budget is an act of the National Assembly and a breach of an act of parliament should attract serious sanction(s). But what do we see? Instead of the lawmakers insisting that the Executive implement the Appropriation Act or face the music, they turn round to complain. Ironically, even the PDP caucus, which ordinarily should take the lead in holding the executive accountable in the implementation of the Appropriation Act, has not lived up to expectations in that regard.