By Emman Ovuakporie and Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA – THE Leader of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila has said that the delay in the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, pending in the House was as a result of conflicting interests of both local and foreign stakeholders in the oil and gas industry.
But he has assured that the bill will be given priority in the first quarter of 2017 bearing in mind that oil and gas are the main stay of the nation’s economy and that the House will come with a bill that will serve the interest of Nigerians.
This is as the House leader has described the amendment of the Code of Conduct Tribunal and Code of Conduct Bureau Act by both chambers of the National Assembly as an illegality which would not be allowed to see the light of the day.
Speaking to journalists, weekend on the performance of the House in 2016, Gbajabiamila also described the House as house of the people which will support salary increase for both private and government workers whenever such comes on the floor of the House.
He also explained that it was a mark of respect that President Muhammadu Buhari decided not to mention the 2017 budgetary allocation to the legislature when he present the budget estimate to the joint session of the National Assembly last week despised the fact that he (Buhri) announced the budgetary allocation of the judiciary.
Fielding questions why the House had not considered the passage of the PIB, he said, “On the PIB, it is being considered, it may have not come to the floor, but it is being considered.
“As you know we work in Committees, we work in little groups and that is how the legislature works all over the world. It is not until something comes to the floor before you know that they are working on it. PIB is being worked on.
“We are having retreats, we are having meetings, we have been meeting with stakeholders to bring the best possible bill to the floor of the House. The senate has already started as you all know. We will come back in January with a bill that will be satisfactory with all stakeholders.
“As you understand the oil industry is the main stay of our economy, there are many interested parties, there are many interests both local and foreign. What we will do is to bring forth a bill that will serve one interest and that is the interest of Nigeria.
“So let us be a little more patient, we have been very very patient, it is a very important bill that we need to do something about, it is something that I am sure by the first quarter of next year, we will begin to see traction on that bill.”
Why President Buhari did not announce National Assembly budget
On why President Buhari did not disclose the 2017 budgetary allocation to the legislature, he said, “It is a mark of respect for the legislature being a co-equal and independent arm of government.
“A co-equal that the President did not talk about any increment or any figure of the legislature, it signifies the independence, the autonomy of the legislature.”
Workers wages are too low
Gbajabiamila said that salaries paid to both private and government workers in the country were too low and that the House would support any call for increment.
According to him, “The House is the House of the people and the House will never shy away, we will never back away from any move to increase salaries of workers, that is the reason why we are here, whether private or government workers it is because of the people and I for one and a lot of our members if when the issue comes on the floor.
“I doubt if there will be a dissenting voice and we will begin to look at that vis-a-viz inflation, unemployment because the security and welfare of the citizenry is embedded in the constitution and that is why we are here. Personally I think our wages are too low as we stand. I think the House will be proactive in making that move.”
Amendment of CCB, CCT Act unconstitutional
The House leader said that the amendment of the CCB and CCT Acts were unconstitutional and will not see the light of the day.
He said, “sometimes somethings slip through the crack and that is exactly what happened on that particular bill as far as I am concerned. To say that we debate issues vigorously that is why I brought that motion for us to look at it again.
“I discovered there was an error and I still believe that the bill was erroneous, the amendment was illegal and it was unconstitutional and most members of the House believe that too and we are supposed to bring it up for debate, it was listed for debate but as legislation goes all over the world, sometimes your timing some people believe may not be ripe.
“But what is important to me and I know for a fact that the amendment will not see the light of the day. Either through the presidency or a court process. It is clearly and patently unconstitutional and it is not going to see the light of the day, it is not going to be enacted into law.
“So many of have no reason to worry about except that it would have been nice for the House to reverse itself upon discovery that certain errors were made.”
He further explained that in the last 12 months, a total of 551 Bills were introduced in the House for the first time with 64 cases of consolidation of several Bills addressing similar issues. Five of the Bills he said were negatived while only 179 passed for second reading and 47 Bills successfully passed by the House in the year 2016.
He said, “The legislative outcome of proceedings in the House between January to December, 2016 reflect the quality of legislation the House has bequeathed on the nation.
“Bills are presented in the House either through private sponsored by members, the executive or referrals from the Senate but one significant feature of the 8th House of Representatives is that no Bill was passed without passing through robust debates.”