In the ever-evolving landscape of Nigerian politics, the transition from one House of Representatives to the next often carries with it a delicate balance of continuity and change. As the 9th House of Representatives concluded its tenure on June 7, 2023, it left behind a trove of critical outstanding bills that now lie in wait for the 10th House to revive.
These bills, carefully crafted to address pressing issues in the nation, have the potential to significantly impact Nigeria’s progress and stability as a thriving democratic state. Among the notable bills deserving a second chance are the National Electoral Offences Commission Establishment, Roads Fund Bill, Federal Roads Authority Bill, Vigilante Group of Nigeria (Establishment) Bill, Enforcement of Legislative Summons, Power to summon the president and governors, power to enforce compliance of remittance of accruals into the federation account, and the review of revenue allocation formula.
Additionally, the legislative agenda includes essential bills like the timeline for the presentation of appropriation bills, State of the Nation and State of the State Address, Food Security, and Core Functions of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps. The 9th House, during its term, managed to pass 510 bills out of a total of 2232 processed, leaving a significant backlog.
According to the former chairman of the Committee on Rules and Business, Hon. Abubakar Fulata, a staggering 1197 bills awaited a second reading, while 581 were referred to committees. Furthermore, 275 bills were reported by committees, 308 were pending in committees, 106 were within the committee of the whole, and 64 were laid on the table awaiting consideration. This backlog underscores the need for the 10th House to prioritize and address these pressing legislative matters.
Notably, the 10th House has already taken steps to reintroduce 44 bills passed by the 9th Assembly but left in limbo, neither assented to nor denied by the President before the previous Assembly’s expiration. These include bills such as the Armed Forces Act (Amendment) Bill 2023, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act (Amendment) Bill 2023, ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons (Ratification and Enforcement) Bill 2023, and the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences (Amendment) Bill 2023.
The recommitment of these bills came under Order 12, Rule 16 of the Standing Orders of the House, initiated by the House Leader Hon. Julius Ihonvbere. This rule allows bills passed by the preceding Assembly that did not receive concurrence or assent before the end of the Assembly’s tenure to be re-considered, saving valuable time and resources.
Why reintroduce the outstanding bills
The Bill for an Act to Establish National Electoral Offences Commission and for Related Matters, 2022 which passed the first and second readings and with public hearing conducted on it was believed to guarantee free and fair election in this year’s polls.
It proposes amongst others, a 15-year jail term for anyone convicted of vote buying in any election, 20 years or a fine of N40 million for persons convicted of ballot box snatching while anyone convicted of hate speech or action which incites violence shall be liable to a minimum of 10 years imprisonment or at least N40 million.
Also, the bill stipulates at least a six-month jail term or a minimum of N100,000 for anyone convicted of disturbing public peace at the venue of an election while security personnel and staff of INEC convicted of trying to influence an election in favour of a candidate in an election shall be liable to at least six-month imprisonment or a minimum of N500,000.
Other proposals include at least a 15-year jail term without the option of a fine for any judicial officer convicted of perverting electoral justice and at least a 10-year jail term or a fine of N5 million or both for anyone convicted of impersonating a candidate in an election.
Clause 33 (1) of the bill proposed that the Federal High Court, High Court of a State, or the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory Abuja shall have the jurisdiction to try alleged offenders under the planned legislation.
Critical stakeholders in the electoral process backed the establishment of the commission, in that a separate body to handle electoral offences becomes expedient as INEC is encumbered and can not prosecute or sanction those who contravene the laws governing elections in Nigeria.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman, Mahmood Yakubu said at the public hearing on the bill that the reform of the country’s electoral process cannot be complete without effective sanctions on violators of the laws.
Yakubu said INEC is presently
saddled with the responsibility of prosecuting electoral offenders under the electoral act but the task is very challenging for the Commission.
“The commission would like to see more successful prosecution of offenders, not just ballot box snatchers, falsifiers of election results, and vote buyers at polling units but most importantly, their sponsors.
“We look forward to the day when highly placed sponsors of thuggery, including high-profile figures that seek to benefit from these violations, are arrested and prosecuted. We believe the work of the proposed Commission will help in this regard.
“However, much as the Commission would like to see more successful prosecution of offenders, our effort is hampered by obvious constraints. INEC is basically an electoral commission with extensive responsibilities,” he said.
Also, Yakubu in a presentation at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House in London on the eve of the general election said: “INEC supports the establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal imbued with the responsibility of prosecuting electoral offences as recommended in the reports of various committees set up the Federal Government, notably the Uwais Committee (2009), the Lemu Committee (2011) and the Nnamani Committee (2017).
“This will enable the Commission to focus on its core mandate of organising, supervising, and conducting elections and electoral activities. While appreciating the considerable work already done, the Commission once again appeals to the National Assembly to expedite action on the conclusion of the legislative work on the Bill. It will be another enduring legacy of the 9th Assembly that will strengthen Nigeria’s democracy just like the passage of the Electoral Act 2022.”
But the bill was not passed and the general election was characterised by a lot of electoral offences which prompted the then Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila to assure Nigerians that work would be concluded on the “Electoral Offences Act… before the culmination of the 9th House.”
However, that was not done hence the current 10th House can take it up to further strengthen the nation’s electoral progress and democracy generally.
Roads Fund Bill was passed by the House, concurred by the Senate, and transmitted to the president for assent where it was stuck till the end of the last dispensation of both the executive and legislature.
Like its twin legislation, the Federal Road Bill which suffered the same legislation was aimed at creating an independent fund that addresses inadequate, unpredictable, and irregular funding of roads.
The lead sponsor of the bill and the then deputy minority leader, Toby Okechukwu had said: “The proposed National Roads Fund involves the utilisation of a “User-Pay” model that stipulates the aggregation of a token fuel levy and other revenues, including tolls, derivable from road users directly to a fund managed by a Board representing users’ interests.
“The Fund will be disbursed to the federal and state governments for routine preventive maintenance through their road agencies, which must be established by law with a dedicated account for that purpose as required by the Bill. This Fund is the practice in about 26 African countries plus India, Pakistan, USA, Japan, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Poland, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Moldova.”
The Federal Road Bill on the other hand, aimed at creating an appropriate and structured framework for the ownership, management, and development of federal roads as obtainable in other economies with better quality and well-maintained road infrastructure.
A major highlight of the Bill is the creation of the Federal Roads Authority (FRA) from the current FERMA, but with an enhanced mandate that transcends road maintenance to include road construction, rehabilitation, road network planning as well as technical regulation of road asset design and specification.
“This Bill is consistent with global practice and will strengthen the role of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing in the roads sector. Nigeria will gain from the benefits accruing from such agencies around the world like the Highways of England, National Highway Authority of India, South Africa National Roads Agency SOC Limited, and Federal Highway Administration in the USA.
“The proposed FRA will manage the federal roads network to keep it safe and efficient, meeting our socio-economic demands, promoting the sustainable development and operation of the road sector, and facilitating private sector participation in the development, financing, maintenance, management, and improvement of roads in Nigeria that may require road concession contracts and other forms of Public Private Partnerships (PPP),” Okechukwu had argued.
Enforcement of Legislative Summons is a bill for an Act to Alter the Provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Sections 89 & 129) to compel persons to obey or comply with the legislative summons.
It is a common knowledge and too often that when one turns the pages of Nigerian newspapers, the two chambers of the National Assembly will be issuing summons to government officials, private organisations, associations, and individuals to appear before them for explanations on issues being investigated but most instances, those summoned do not turn up, making the representatives of Nigerians, toothless bulldogs barking without biting.
Power to Summon the President and Governors is a bill for an Act to Alter the Second Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Sections 67 & 108) to Empower the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly to summon the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Governors of States to answer Questions on issues on which the National and State Houses of Assembly have the powers to make law.
This became an issue of serious controversy when the House had through a motion sponsored by lawmakers from Borno State to invite the former President Muhammadu Buhari to brief it on the true state of the security of the nation after 43 farmers were killed in the state.
There was disagreement even amongst lawmakers over the invitation and the then president declined the invitation as his Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami disputed the powers of the National Assembly to Summon the President.
Power to Enforce Compliance of Remittance of Accruals into the Federation Account and Review of Revenue Allocation Formula is a Constitution Alteration) Bill (Section 162 & Part I, Third Schedule).
The bill seeks to empower the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission to Enforce Compliance with Remittance of Accruals into and Disbursement of Revenue from the Federation Account and Streamline the Procedure for Reviewing the Revenue Allocation Formula. There have been reports of non-compliance with this constitutional provision that the rejected bill intends to address.
Timeline for the Presentation of Appropriation Bills is a Constitution Alteration) legislation (Sections 81 & 121) aimed at specifying the period within which the President or the Governor of State shall present the Appropriation Bill (Budget) before the National Assembly or State House of Assembly.
Clause 2(2) of the bill defines the financial cycle as twelve months, from January to December. The 9th National Assembly had put in place a January to December budget cycle with which the President presented the Appropriation Bill (budget) in the last quarter of the preceding financial year but it is not clear if the 10th Assembly and the present President, Bola Tinubu is going that way.
State of the Nation and State of the State Address is a bill for an Act to Alter the Provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to provide for a State of the Nation and State of the State Address by the President and Governor. In extreme times, the president and governor of a state are expected to address the citizens to douse tension but this is not always the case until they are prompted. For instance, it took promptings for former President Buhari to address the nation in the wake of the #EndSARS protest in 2020.
Food Security is legislation to alter the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to require the government to direct its policy towards ensuring Rights to Food and Food Security in Nigeria.
The United Nations (UN) estimated that more than 25 million people in Nigeria could face food insecurity this year-a 47 per cent increase from the 17 million people who were already at risk of going hungry, mainly due to the ongoing insecurity, protracted conflicts, and the projected rise in food prices.
Also, the Nigerian authorities have declared a national emergency on food security as record inflation has made basic foods unaffordable for many and has pushed up malnutrition rates.
Core Functions of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps is for an Act to Alter the Provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to reflect the establishment and core functions of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps. For now, the security agency’s functions overlap with other sister establishments, hence creating confusion and sometimes rivalry.