Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, has called for an accelerated passage of the 2019 Appropriation Bill so that the business of the federal government, which lifespan ends on May 29, 2019, is not negatively affected.
He also lamented the deteriorating security situation in the country, especially in the North-east, North-west and some parts of the North-central, calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to overhaul the Nigerian security architecture.
Dogara, who made the calls during Thursday plenary in his welcome back from holiday message to members, said the 2019 Appropriation Bill is the major assignment they must discharge as quickly as possible so that government’s business will not be impeded as the life of the federal government draws to a close.
According to him, “It is imperative in this regard that we accelerate our pace of work in all the legislative processes involved in the bill so that it can be passed in good time.
The Speaker also implored members seeking elective offices to commit time to completing their legislative duties, stressing that “we all know that the process for the 2019 general election is at its peak; the demands of the current political campaigns on our time is obvious to all.”
“While this is not new to many of us, I wish to remind us to strike a good balance between our commitment to our legislative duties and our participation in the campaigns. In particular, those of us who are contesting elections should streamline our political timetable and schedules to make room for our attendance to our legislative duties as much as it’s expected of us.”
Although listed yesterday on Order Paper to be considered for second reading as promised last Wednesday, Dogara told the House that the second reading had to be postponed because members were yet to get copies of the budget.
“We will not take the debate on the second reading of the budget until members have copies of the budget. So, we will fix a new date,” Dogara stated.
He also noted that there are some other bills under consideration, which are critical to the development of Nigeria that should receive the concerted attention in the days ahead, adding: “We must resolve to conclude work on as many of these bills as possible for the advancement of the country and the wellbeing of our people.”
Expressing worry over the poor state of security in the country, Dogara said: “Only three days ago, scores of people were killed in Sokoto State and elsewhere; hardly any week passes without reports of mass killings and bloodletting either by terrorists or other bandits.
“This calls for drastic, urgent and concerted action and efforts to bring to a quick end of these atrocities. Our citizens are looking up to us and we can’t afford to fail them because security of lives and property is the primary purpose of government. The fight against unbridled violence is one we cannot afford to lose as we can’t do so and still keep our civilisation.
“The symptoms of the malady afflicting our national security architecture are in plain sight. It is therefore imperative for the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to take a hard look at our national security architecture with a view to fixing the malady in order to secure lives, national pride and prestige.”
He regretted that President Buhari declined assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2018, despite painstaking efforts by the National Assembly, which he said was aimed at giving the country a more acceptable electoral system.
According to him, “It should remain a thing of pride for us that the National Assembly has done its best by taking steps to guarantee the successful and rancour-free conduct of the 2019 general election by passing the Electoral Act Amendment Bill for the third time after the president had declined assent to it twice.
‘’Lack of passage into law of the amended bill means that the impending general election will not benefit from the innovative mechanisms crafted in its collaboration with international and development partners.
“Consequently, the palpable fears of well-meaning Nigerians and the international community of the possibility of some forces working to manipulate the coming elections by exploiting the identified loopholes in the current Electoral Act may become a reality if proactive steps are not taken by critical stakeholders.
“We had intended, through this bill, to minimise the risk to the survival of our hard-won democracy through responsive and timely legislation aimed at ensuring free, fair and transparent elections. Nonetheless, as a parliament, we have done our best to guarantee the stability and growth of our fragile democracy, and I have no doubt that history will be very kind to us.
“Under the present circumstance, we have no other choice than to take Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the police by their words and give them the benefit of doubt in their recent assurances to be impartial, efficient and truthful in the conduct of the coming elections.’’
The Speaker further explained that this is the minimum that the country deserves from them at this auspicious time, saying nothing short of complete openness, a level playing ground and strict adherence to extant laws will be acceptable to Nigerians.