National Assembly’s Unfinished Business

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Saraki and Dogara at the National Assembly complex

The National Assembly is billed to resume plenary on Tuesday, November 6, after a two-week adjournment to enable its committees carry out oversight functions on Ministries, Departments and Agencies. Deji Elumoye and Shola Oyeyipo chronicle some of the issues before the federal legislators as they get back to work

When the National Assembly adjourned plenary on Wednesday, October 24, it directed its relevant committees to carry out oversight, which ordinarily may appear difficult to accomplish, when the two Chambers are in full session.

At the Senate, its Committees on Tertiary Education, Petroleum (Downstream) swung into action and met with critical stakeholders in both the Education and Petroleum sectors of the economy.

The Senate Committee on Tertiary Education, on its part, held a public hearing on the bills proposing the establishment of five tertiary institutions across the country, including a Federal Polytechnic in Daura, Katsina State, the hometown of President Muhammadu Buhari. When approved the proposed Federal Polytechnic, Daura, would be the first federal institution in Katsina North Senatorial District, according to promoters of the bill.

The bill, being sponsored by Senator Ahmed Baba-Keita, was initiated by his immediate predecessor, Sen. Mustapha Bukar, who died early this year. Also featured at the public hearing were bills seeking the establishment of the Federal University of Education, Aguleri, Anambra, and the National Institute of Construction Technology and Management, Uromi, Edo State. These bills were co-sponsored by Senators Victor Umeh (Anambra Central) and Clifford Ordia (Edo Central) respectively.

Others were the Federal Polytechnic, Ikom, Cross Rivers (Establishment) Bill, 2018, sponsored by Senator John Eno (Cross Rivers Central), and the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) Act (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill, 2018. The public hearing was organised by the Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND chaired by Senator Barau Jibrin (Kano-North). 

President of the Senate, Dr  Bukola Saraki, said the proposed laws were designed to ensure the provision of quality education in all parts of the country. Saraki, who was represented by Senate Minority Whip, Senator Philip Aduda, decried the fallen standards of education in Nigeria over the last two decades. He, however, said the Senate remained committed to reversing the situation through quality legislation and oversight. 

Speaking earlier, Vice Chairman of the committee, Senator Tijani Kaura congratulated and lauded promoters of the bills for their efforts in pushing them this far, saying it was a demonstration of their commitment to their constituents. He also commended the senate president for his “concern for the nation’s educational system, and for ensuring the bills were subjected to public hearing in an atmosphere conducive.”

All the bills, except that of the NBTE Act, were endorsed by relevant stakeholders present. The NBTE bill was skipped, because none of its invited stakeholders made appearances at the hearing.

The Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), on its part, expressed concern over the inability of the federal government to pay oil marketers the backlog of fuel subsidy

At a meeting held with critical stakeholders including the oil marketers and top officials from finance ministry, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and Debt Management Office (DMO), the Committee headed by Senator Kabir Marafa, gave the Finance Minister and CBN Governor one week to resolve the issue of subsidy payment with the oil marketers and they are to revert to the Committee as the Senate resumes plenary this week.

However, as the National Assembly resumes plenary on Tuesday, one issue that would be of national interest in the days to come is  whether or not the federal government would present the 2019 budget to the National Assembly this November.

The Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed had hinted that it would be laid before the lawmakers in September so as to restore the January to December budget cycle, but that never happened. The lawmakers got the 2017 budget in the second week of December 2016 and the 2018 budget was presented in the first week of November, 2017.

So, going by this trend, the National Assembly would be expected to receive the document any time soon. By the content of the fiscal strategy paper of the federal government, the leadership is proposing a total sum of N8.9tn in the 2019 fiscal period. Though government is said to have consulted widely with the lawmakers on the budget, expectedly, passing it would not be without the usual fuss.

Another issue is that while the sum of N242.205bn virement was approved for the 2019 general election by the lawmakers, the fact that the sum is to be deducted from the constituency projects under the Service Wide Vote allocation in the 2018 Appropriation Act did not go down well with the executive and it appears unclear whether or not there could still be a backlash due to that.

The disagreement emanated from the refusal of the lawmakers to comply with the request of President Buhari that the National Assembly should provide the virement from the N557 billion inserted into the budget by the federal lawmakers for their constituency projects. While it is unclear what the presidency intends to do about the situation, sources in the House of Representatives have said the lower chamber would not revisit that matter.

Concerned members of the House of Representatives may also wish to revisit the issue of Speaker Yakubu Dogara vacating his seat after defecting to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), although sources close to  Dogara already hinted  that the number three citizen would not officially announce his defection to opposition PDP, when the House resumes plenary.

Dogara had over a fortnight ago, while officially announcing the defection of some House members, been asked by some members of the House of Representatives to officially declare his defection too but jocularly, the Speaker replied: “I will after due consultation”.

Are we to believe that the last two weeks had been used by Dogara to consult and now come public about his political leaning? Let’s see how events will unfold as the lawmakers get down to real legislative business on Tuesday.

Bills Before Senate For Consideration

• Suppression Of Piracy And Other Maritime Offences Bill, 2018.

• Nigeria Police Academy (Establishment) Bill, 2018.

• Bill For An Act To Amend The Immigration Act And For Other Matters Connected Therewith, 2018.

• A Bill For An Act To Repeal The National Planning Commission And Re-enact National Planning Commission Bill, 2018 And Other Matters, 2018.

• A Bill For An Act To Establish The Federal University of Sports To Make Comprehensive Provi• A Bill For An Act To Repeal The Advertising Practitioner’s ( Registration, etc) Act And Enact The Advertising Practitioners (Registration, Licensing, etc) 2018 To Provide For The Establishment Of A Council For Advertising Practitioners And For Other Matters Connected Therewith, 2018.

Bills For Concurrence

• Federal Mortgage Bank Of Nigeria Act Cap F 16 LFN 2004 (Repeal & Re-enactment) Bill, 2018.

• National Housing Fund Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018.

• Federal Capital Territory Emergency Management Agency (Est, etc) Bill, 2018.

• School Of Mines And Geological Studies (Establishment, etc) Bill, 2018.