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A Senate that works for Nigeria(2)

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Senate, Mobilization

The concluding part of Awoniyi’s article which was published yesterday

When we come back, we are going to face very serious legislations that are required in Nigeria, Lawan told his colleagues shortly before the Senate adjourned for the Christmas and New year break.

First, is the Petroleum Industry Bill(PIB).

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The PIB has defied solution since 2007 when the executive brought the bill and it couldn’t pass. In 2011, it brought it again, it couldn’t pass. In 2015, the legislature took it up in a broken version, it couldn’t pass.

“Now, we have to act differently. The executive and the legislature would work very closely on this and come up with a legislation on the PIB that would be in the interest of Nigeria but also protect the investments that are here, and even encourage more investments to come in.

“We are also going to look into the issue of constitutional amendment. There are so many issues that today require the attention of the legislature, of the National Assembly, particularly in the amendment of the constitution to make governance better.@

But we also have to do a lot on the electoral reform.  Every election gives us the opportunity to see the strength and weaknesses of our electoral laws,” Lawan said.

The Electoral Reforms Amendment Bill addresses an urgent need to improve the electoral process. The lawmakers want to pass the Bill well ahead of the next electoral cycle in 2023 to avoid a repeat of the situation whereby the president declined assent after the eight National Assembly passed the same bill close to the 2019 general elections.

Some of the bills currently being considered by the Senate have stoked concerns from the public. Two of the most controversial are the anti-hate speech bill and the bill seeking to regulate the use of social media in Nigeria. But as Lawan has pointed out, “lawmaking is a rigorous process that allows for all sides of an argument to be heard and the true will of the people established before a bill becomes law.”

The Senate President called on Nigerians with strong views on these bills, and indeed on any other one, to attend the public hearings on them so that they can represent their positions before the lawmakers, fellow Nigerians and the watching world. It is through involvement in processes like this that the legislature can produce robust laws that well consider various opinions.

The Senate also convened roundtable discussions on three critical sectors of our economy, starting with the power sector. The decision to begin with the power sector is easily understandable. The government in recent years has invested billions of dollars in this sector, but the problems of inadequate power supply have continued to plague Nigeria without let.

Even the subsequent privatization of the sector made no visible impact as power supply has remained epileptic across the country and desperately needs fixing.

The Senate Committee on Power assembled stakeholders in the sector at the roundtable discussions and has promised to be guided by their suggestions in presenting a report that is hoped would be decisive in addressing Nigeria’s power challenges.

Similar exercises have been held by the Senate on the Solid Minerals and Steel sector and the Agriculture sector.  The lawmakers believe that solid Minerals and Agriculture offer great potential to transform the Nigerian economy and the government’s revenue profile and wean the country from its overdependence on oil revenue.

The ninth Senate has enjoyed a harmonious working relationship with the House of Representatives and the Executive. These have been of tremendous benefits to the nation as it has removed the mutual suspicion and hostility between the two arms that obviously slowed progress in the previous dispensation.

Under the new atmosphere, the National Assembly passed the budget and finance bills timeously and the president reciprocated the gesture with prompt assent to the Deep Off-shore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts Act CAP D3 LFN 2004 (Amendment Bill, 2019 and the Appropriation Act, 2020.

In the past, it took an average of five months to pass the appropriation bill, which mostly did not come into operation until the third quarter of the year. The uncertainty and instability of the fiscal year have been a major element in the poor execution and performance of the annual budgets under the Fourth Republic. This problem has now, hopefully, been significantly addressed.

Speed of events at the Senate

Lawan said the speed of events at the Senate is deliberate. “We know the need for us to act fast. Time is of essence. In the next two years or so, the Nigerian political landscape will be dotted by people campaigning for presidency, for governorship and the rest of it. And that will in a way cause some disruption or slow down governance.

“So between now and the next two years we have told ourselves that we have to work hard to ensure that, as a legislature, we are able to perform our roles creditably to enable government function very well for Nigerians. And that is what we have been trying to do.”

Notwithstanding the cordial relationships with the other arms of government, the Senate under Lawan remains committed to the  firm exercise of its oversight role on the ministries, departments and agencies of government with a view to ensuring transparency and accountability in public expenditure as well as overall good governance.

The Senate President is always a loyal party man. He has maintained fidelity to his political platform throughout his career and has been rewarded by his constituents with serial elections; and by his party with important roles. But in all the positions he has held, Lawan has been guided by higher national interest. He pledges the same commitment in his current role.

The Senate under his leadership has pursued its responsibilities with diligence, candour and maturity.


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