600 bills, 600 motions in one year, the Dogara score card
Today, June 9 2016, marks exactly one year since Bauchi born Barrister Yakubu Dogara emerged as Speaker of the House of Representatives.In his acceptance speech on that day, Dogara made a solem declaration asserting that the House under his leadership “shall wage an unrelenting legislative war on Nigeria’s problems.”
He told his colleagues that it was now their responsibility to fashion out the legislative instruments that will lead to Nigeria’s renaissance, adding, “Let the word go forth from here that it shall not be legislative business as usual again in Nigeria.”
Since then, the Speaker has kept to his words and moved on with the Consolidation Agenda by embarking on a series of innovations in the conduct of legislative activities of the Green chamber.
Today, the House of the Nigerian people is not only busy discharging its constitutional responsibilities to the people, but is doing so with the utmost zeal and patriotism.
By law, the parliament discharges its duties and responsibilities through bills and resolutions, which are the major yardsticks of assessing the performance of the legislature.
Since bills, motions and resolutions are the basis of grading how well a parliament has performed or not; then one can say, without sounding immodest, that the House under Dogara has scored 100 percent.
The 8th House set many firsts, with an unprecedented record of passage of legislations that have begun to change the pace of things in the country.
Instructively, Dogara unveiled his legislative agenda even before he was elected and tabled same to his colleagues immediately after their inauguration; subjected it to debate before adoption by the whole House.
Thereafter, the speaker, with a speed of light embarked on a review of obsolete and outdated laws by setting up a committee of experts, which is still working but nevertheless has turned in about 200 bills, while hundreds more are in the offing.
The panel which comprises of legal luminaries who are working for months and have recommended scores of bills for consideration with the aim of cleaning Nigeria’s statute books adopted from Britain under the Statutes of General Application in force in England as at 1st January, 1900.
In December, the House set record by passing for first reading, 130 bills and on May 26 2016, 19 bills were considered and passed under the watchful eyes of the Speaker who sat from 11am to 5pm on floor. The same thing happened on June 1, on June 2nd, 25 more legislations were passed and in all, the speaker sat while the bills were considered and passed.
It should be noted that in the 7th Assembly, which was rated high in terms of bills passage, 700 bills were presented in four years, while in just one session, about 600 bills of high quality were presented in this assembly for consideration, most of which were from the recommendation of the Statutes Reform committee constituted by the Speaker.
Now, almost 80 of those bills, representing about 18 percent of the 600, have been effectively passed by the House as at the time of penning this article thereby setting another record in itself.
On motions and resolutions, as at the last sitting in May, the House had considered almost 600 motions. Indeed, there can be no better way to perform than this. This is even so when the intent of the bills and motion are in tandem with the yearnings of the Nigerian people for a better life.
Dogara also became the first speaker, since return to democracy in 1999, to have stepped down from his exalted seat to sponsor a motion on the urgent need for rehabilitation, resettlement and recovery of the violence ravaged northeast region.
He didn’t stop at that, in December, the speaker again, stepped down to the floor to lead debate on a bill he personally sponsored, titled “The North East Development Commission Establishment Bill”, that will soon be passed into law.
Dogara didn’t restrict or limit his intervention on North East to the hallowed Green Chambers of House, but has been championing the cause of the region and its people by embarking on visits to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs’) camps across the country and has also been advocating for the convocation of international donor conference to rebuild the region.
In keeping with his agenda, in May, Dogara’s House embarked on sectoral debates on different aspects of the Nigerian economy with the aim of assessing how far Nigeria has gone with diversifying the economy and to know if the legislature needs to make any law or laws that will support and enhance the project for the overall benefit of Nigerians.
Every appearance made by the ministers in the epoch-making session was beamed live on national television with ministers taking questions from lawmakers and putting Nigerians in the know of what they have been doing to diversify the economy in the face of dwindling oil revenue.
In addition, a special session on the deregulaton of the down stream sector and other changes in the petroluem industry was also held by the House where the lawmakers sought to know the nitty gritty of the removal and how it will benefit the Nigerian people.
As a follow up to the sectoral debates, a date will be set for members to debate the submission of the ministers before passing their recommendations to the Executive.
In yet another unprecedented move and in compliance with the 8th Assembly Legislative Agenda, Dogara, introduced electronic voting system and e-parliament in the House. It is worthy of note that, since 1999, legislation and resolutions were passed using “voice vote” and efforts made by previous assemblies to change that couldn’t come to fruition.
With the new system in place, records of members’ punctuality and voting patterns can easily be accessed by constituents and members of the public, which is in tandem with Dogara’s commitment to openness.
Other initiatives that will be introduced include the establishment and equipping of a Parliamentary Information Centre where information and documents of the National Assembly will be made available in a deliberate effort to further increase citizens access to the legislature and solve the problem of public access to authentic documents of parliament.
As he rightly reminded his colleagues exactly one year ago that, members of the House are heirs to a long tradition where debates are robustly undertaken, where radicalism flows as an institutional prerogative; the House under Dogara has truly demonstrated that it is the bulwark for the defense of the rights and privileges of the common man, the champion of the rights of the weak and poor and anchor for the wellbeing of the Nigerian people.
The responsibility now lies with the Executive to compliment the giant stride by the 8th House by implementing resolutions and interventions but more especially the President to sign the bills into law so as not to repeat the mistakes of the last administration when former President Goodluck Jonathan refused to assent to scores of bills forwarded him while his ministers went public describing parliamentary resolutions as “mere expression of opinion”.
•Hassan is Special Adviser (Media & Public Affairs) to the Speaker
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