BEN AGANDE, Abuja
As the National Assembly election gets underway today the chain of events that preceded the sitting of before embarking on the recess for this election would be viewed with mixed feelings by some of the members when they reconvene in three weeks time.

The National Assembly

For some members, their activities would be viewed with nostalgia when they reminisce over their roles when the history of the national assembly would be written. For others however, the events preceding the recess would a sad reminder that these were the last activities carried out by them as members of Nigeria’s highest law making body because they may lose today’s election.

From experience, the tail end of every tenure of members of the legislature always engenders a flurry of activities so much so that sometimes the attention expected to be paid to all bills and motions are compromised on the alter of fulfilling all righteousness.

Eight weeks before the elections, the National Assembly passed a number of remarkable bills and motions as well as other legislative duties that were very critical to the nation and its people. For instance apart from the passage of the 2011 Appropriation bill, the National Assembly also undertook critical assignment like the passage of the Anti Terrorism Bill; the Freedom of Information Bill; Anti Tobacco Smoking Bill, Money Laundering Bill, Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill as well as the confirmation of Ambassadorial nominees sent in by the president.

Of all the bills that were passed by the National Assembly in the run up to the elections, the one that perhaps occupies a special place in the hearts of Nigerians is the Appropriation bill which the two chambers of the National Assembly harmonized at N4,971,881,652,689;  an increase of N432 billion from the N4.226 trillion initial figure and another addition of N31 billion submitted by the executive arm of government.

The budgeted figure, has a recurrent expenditure of N2,467,168,724,129 and capital expenditure of N1,562,999,158,775; which is predicated on crude oil benchmark of US$75 per barrel at a production level of 2.3 million per day as agreed upon by the Federal Ministry of Finance, other revenue agencies and the Joint Finance Committees of the National Assembly just as Joint Venture Production was pegged at US$5.4 billion, with a seven per cent rate of Gross Domestic Product (DGP) and an exchange rate of N150 to the US dollar.

Although some officials of the executive arm of government have since voiced their opposition to the president signing the Bill, the passage of the bill by the National was a no small feat considering that many members were at the thick of the electioneering campaign for their reelection.

Another critical bill passed by the National Assembly is the Freedom of Information Bill. Since 2006, the Bill which seeks to make governance more open, transparent and accessible to the citizens has suffered a lot of set back. Though it had been passed by the last Assembly, former President Olusegun Obasanjo bluntly refused to assent to it and the even when it was re-introduced in the present assembly, it was greeted with lot of skepticism and distrust largely because some members of the National Assembly erroneously believe that it is a Bill sponsored by the media to further invade the privacy of politicians.

Despite allegations that the Bill had been considerably watered down by the Information committee which worked on it, the passage of the Bill represents one giant leap by a national assembly that is usually seen by observers as being more interested in self than Nigerians.

Like the FOI Bill, the Anti-Terrorism and Money Laundering Bill that was passed by the National Assembly when its tenure was getting to the end of its tethers was a subject of several delays, prompting President Goodluck Jonathan to write several letters drawing the attention of the legislators to the danger Nigeria faces from the international community over the non-passage of the Bill.

President Goodluck Jonathan pleaded with lawmakers to pass into law to save Nigeria the embarrassment of being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

Three times, President Jonathan had pleaded with the National Assembly to fast-track the passage of the Bill following international pressure on Nigeria to step up fight against terrorism. The passage of the Bill is a landmark achievement especially bearing in mind that terrorism is gradually but steadily creeping into the country.

One of the most forward looking bills passed by the national assembly shortly before it went on recess is the ant tobacco Bill. With the ever increasing number of persons especially minors embracing the deadly habit of cigarette smoking as well as the attendant risk associated with second hand smokers, the passage of the Anti Tobacco bill will save a lot of our young men and women the devastating risks associated with cigarette smoking.

With the prediction that country’s natural resources especially oil would dry up in less than a century from now, the Passage of the Sovereign Wealth funds bill by the national assembly represents the surest way of saving for the future of our children and ensuring the development of the infrastructure in the country.

The bill seeks to invest a portion of the excess profit made from crude oil sales in the Sovereign Wealth Fund to be held and managed by the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority. The authority is expected to invest the funds in a diversified portfolio of medium and long term investments “for the benefit of future generations of Nigerian citizens.”

While leading debate on the Bill before its passage, the senate leader, Senator Teslim Folarin said funds for the portfolios will be pooled from the federal, state and local governments to in his words ‘prepare for the eventual depletion of Nigeria’s hydrocarbon resources’, arguing that the ‘creation of the fund will ensure that the present and future generations of Nigeria will still have a country to call their own’.

In exceptional circumstances set out in the bill, the authority will also be mandated to utilize certain liquid assets in the stabilization fund of the authority to supplement other available fiscal stabilization funds to temporarily sustain duly budgeted public expenditure in the interest of macroeconomic stability in Nigeria.

The confirmation of the career ambassadorial nominees by the senate a week before the national assembly went on recess was one of the low points of the out going session. Though for most diplomats, ones appointment as an ambassador is the peak of his career, the process that led to the confirmation of one of the twenty five nominees as Ambassador left a sour taste ion the mouth.

During her confirmation hearing, the nominee could neither sing the Nigerian National Anthem nor recite the pledge successfully. In spite of that she was recommended for confirmation and the senate in deed confirmed her despite the recommendation by Professor Jubril Aminu, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee that “She demonstrated fair knowledge of the job and what is required of her as an ambassador… but was not knowledgeable on specific and general issues concerning the diplomatic concerns of Nigeria”.

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.