House Passes Bill to Stop Concession of Ajaokuta Steel Complex

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  • Moves to halt multiple trials of same criminal offence

James Emejo in Abuja

In one fell swoop, the House of Representatives wednesday at the committee of the whole, chaired by the Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, considered and passed a bill for an Act to provide for the Ajaokuta Steel Company Completion Fund for the speedy completion of the project and for related matters, effectively stopping the government’s planned concession of the steel plant

It further considered and passed a bill for an Act to amend the Public Enterprises (Privatisation and Commercialisation) Act, Cap. 2004 to review the list of enterprises to be privatised, and for related matters-and deleted the steel company from the schedule of the Privatisation Act.

Both bills were sponsored by Hon. Uzoma Nkem-Abonta (PDP, Abia) and 300 others members.
The passage effectively put on hold any ongoing plan by the federal government to concession the plant-at least until its completion.

The proposed legislations, being given accelerated consideration, are expected to be transmitted to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent as the legislature prepare to embark on a two-week Easter break.

Equally, a bill for an Act to amend the Industrial Develop (Income Tax Relief) Act, 2004, to increase the capital expenditure for companies applying for pioneer status under the provisions of the bill and for related matters, which was sponsored by Hon. Henry Nwawuba, was also considered and passed. The bill would improve the ease of doing business in the country and attract foreign direct investments (FDIs).

The bills and several others considered yesterday are expected to be listed for third reading on the House floor but only as a formality to satisfy all legislative procedures for a bill’s passage.

The bill on the steel complex funding stipulates that $1 billion of federal government share from the Excess Crude Revenue Account be committed to the completion fund of the plant.

The House, which spent ample time on the bill’s consideration to avoid loopholes, tried to run away from a temptation to draw funding from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) which it had labelled as illegal, as it is aware that any recourse to the ECA would signal an approval of its operation by the lower House.

However, the bill leaves the contribution of states to the funding optional even though Ajaokuta steel is considered a national asset.

The lawmakers further tweaked the bill to provide that government may nonetheless choose to concession the plant in future, if it so desires after the plant must have been completed and operating at 70 per cent of installed production capacity.

The House further adopted the recommendations of the conference committees on a bill for an Act to provide for the Governance and Institutional Framework for the Petroleum Industry and for Related Matters and also approve the recommendations therein as well as on the Public Procurement Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018.

It also adopted the recommendations of the Conference Committee on a Bill for an Act to Establish Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit as the Central Body in Nigeria Responsible for Receiving, Requesting, Analysing and Disseminating Financial Intelligence Reports and other Information to Law Enforcement, Security And Intelligence Agencies and other Relevant Authorities, and for Related Matters.

Meanwhile, the lower chamber has commenced moves to put a stop to multiple trials for the same criminal offence by a court of competent jurisdiction or tribunal by amending the Extradition Act to make it in tandem with international law.

Dogara, said while speaking on the bill, stated that the amendment is in line with Section 36 (9) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) which states that “no person who shows that he has been tried by any court of competent jurisdiction or tribunal for a criminal offence and either convicted or acquitted shall again be tried for that offence, or for a criminal offence having the same ingredients as that offence save upon the order of a superior court.

Speaking at a public hearing organised by the House on Bill to ‘Give Effect To The Rule Against Double Jeopardy As Recognition Under The Constitution, Provide Procedural Safeguards To Avoid Extradition Of Nigerian Citizens With Irrefutable And Uninvestigated Cases Of Mistaken Identity And To Effect Appropriate Modifications On The Act To Conform With The Provisions Of The 1999 Constitution,” the speaker explained that the law would also protect the rights of the affected persons.

He said the decision of the House to amend the law is in tandem with its primary functions which include making laws for the peace and good government of Nigeria.

Dogara said: “These amendments will bring our extradition laws up to date and in tandem with norms of international law. It will also reinforce the commitment of Nigeria to protecting the rights of all its citizens.

“Extradition Act to give effect to the rule against double jeopardy as recognised under the constitution, provide procedural safeguards to avoid extradition of Nigerian citizens with irrefutable cases of mistaken identity and to effect appropriate modification on the Act to conform to the provision of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”