…says matter beyond me now
…adds Gov. el-Rufai not behind bill
… organized labour union should lobby their representatives-Reps spokesman
By Levinus Nwabughiogu-Abuja
Even with the plethora of protests trailing the bill seeking the removal of minimum wage bill from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list, the sponsor in the House of Representatives, Hon. Garba Mohammed Datti has said it was late to withdraw the bill.
This was as the spokesman of the House, Hon. Benjamin Kalu said that the organized labour union should lobby the House through their various representatives to “kill” the bill.
Both lawmakers spoke exclusively to Sunday Vanguard amidst the protest against the bill.
It will be recalled that the labour union recently staged a protest at the national assembly over the bill.
Also last week, the leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC and the Trade Union Congress, TUC led by Comrade Ayuba Wabba met with the House Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila over the bill over the bill.
Wabba had at the meeting demanded the immediate withdrawal of the bill, describing it as anti masses.
He said that organized labour union would mobilize its members in the 36 States of the federation in protest against the bill, fingering some Governors as masterminds of the piece of legislation.
In a telephone chat with Vanguard in Abuja, Datti said that the bill is now an official document of the House.
He said that it was already too late to make the bill a personal issue as the House going by parliamentary procedures may soon call for a public hearing on the bill.
He advised labour to prepare to give convincing reasons on their opposition against the bill at the hearing rather than staging protests.
Datti who represents Kudan/Sabon Gari federal constituency of Kaduna State also dismissed the submission that his state governor, Nasir El-rufai was behind the bill.
He said: “I cannot withdraw I because I don’t have the power to withdraw it. There are parliamentary procedures. I have discharged my own responsibility as a lawmaker. There are long processes and procedures before a bill is passed into law. The first stage just notification in the name of first reading, the second reading is to debate it, debate the merits and demerits. And this was debated and voted for overwhelming after about 2 hours of robust debate. The majority of the people who spoke, more than 80 percent of them are for the bill. So, after the voting, it has gone beyond me. If there is anything I could do, it is at the stage of the voting, I may decide to tell the Speaker that I want to withdraw it for further consultation. But that was not done and there is not way, the House as an institution can change its own rule.
“So, what we are telling the labour since the House has its own procedures and there are people who are for it and people who are against it , the House will not call for public hearing. It is at that public hearing they will come with their facts and convincing reasons why they are opposing the bill. It is left for that ad-hoc Commitee on constitutional review to now vote either for the bill to go ahead or not. Even after that, it has to submit reports to the House. And the report will be considered on clause by clause in basis after which it will go for third reading. Then, it will not be transmitted to the Senate for concurrence. If the Senate concurs or decide to kill it there, that’s all. But if there are some variations, there will be need for conference. The both house will nominate people for the conference Commitee and come out with a clean copy.
“But since it is constitutional review, it has to go the 36 States of the federation of which 24 as two third of 36 must agree before taking it to the president either to assent to it or withhold his assent.
“So, these are the parliamentary procedures. It’s not more personal. It is now the property of the House. The House has its own rules, parliamentary procedures. So, it has to go through those procedures. So, o don’t have the power to withdraw any bill again. It has passed that stage.”
On the continued labour protest
“Nobody can prevent them. In democracy, everybody has a right to his own opinion. You cannot force yours on others. There is no one solution to everything. There are many ways. Ultimately, all of us are looking for ways to develop our country. So, I don’t thing labour should be averse to coming to public hearing to make presentation.”
Advise to labour
“Lobbying is part is party of parliamentary procedures although it has been misconstrued. Lobbying doesn’t entail giving money. Go and meet the members of that committe and tell them these are your convincing reasons but it has nothing to do with money. Labour should lobby because you cannot change the rule of the game midway. The House has rules. The national assembly is an institution.”
Gov El-rufai not behind the bill
“All I know is that the APC constituted a Commitee on True Federalism when the there was pressure that they should implement Jonathan’s 2014 confab report. So, the APC now said now, we cannot implement that. We will have our own committe and that committe was constituted, I think, with some Governors, members of the national assembly, chieftains and influential people with the party. They went round the country to seek opinion. They came out with this report which El-rufai happens to be the chairman and it was laid before the NEC of APC and adopted. I am a member of that NEC of APC and the same, member of House of Representatives. So, that has given me the opportunity to take it up, not at anybody’s prompting. It was based on my own convictions.”
Also speaking with the paper, the spokesman of the House, Hon. Benjamin Kalu advised labour union to lobby the House.
He had dropping the bill on the heels of an agitation will have its negative effects.
“That will have its own effect on how we consider bills like that. But we cannot say we are going to do just because we had an agitation. That’s not sufficient in our legislative process. It goes beyond agitation. Yes, it is good to register your dislike but steps should be taken to canvass the influence of the representatives through lobbying, the same way they went to all the states and activated their unions for protest, they same way they should activate their executives in various states to reach out to members of the house of representatives and the Senate to enable them see things through their own eyes. That’s a more proactive approach to influencing legislative process than protest. Protest is good, yes, but…
“Protest is allowed because of the section 40 and 41 of the constitution. They are allowed to belong to union to canvass their own interest. Section 39 allows them freedom of expression, 40 allows freedom of assembly, but it should not end there. We are advising them to go beyond that and begin to see other alternative approach to pushing their interest beyond protest. Protesting is good but it is not as strategic as being bringing an organized memorandum or memoranda for the public hearing. Equality memoranda are stronger than protest. Equality lobby is better than protest in the lawmaking process.
“Meeting with the Speaker was a right step. They met with the speaker. They have also sent me a letter an they are also sending some key members of the parliament letters. That’s the way to go. To be honest, this is the time they have started doing the right that beyond the protest, they are now reaching out because it is on the strength of their opinion that a particular bill will be advanced, withdrawn or amended. Not on the strength of protest. Protest doesn’t really suppress the legislative process. What does is strong opinion from constituents.
“That’s why we always engage in debate so that no matter how beautiful your bill is, it is the opinion of the constituents presented by their representatives that carries the day. We advise beyond protest, lobbying. Indifferent to public hearing might be detrimental to their interest. So, they should show interest in public hearing, look at for it and prepare a solid document that speaks to the issue, lend more stronger voice to their desire.
“Like the speaker said, the parliament will not hurt members of the labour union because we know they role they play in this country. So, we will always consider their opinion because they are major stakeholders in nation building”, Kalu said.