By Adedayo Akinwale ín Abuja
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has assured Nigerians that the ninth House is committed to the amendment of the constitution and the Electoral Act.
The Speaker gave the assurance when a team from the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), led by its Executive Director, Clement Nwankwo, paid him a courtesy call in his office on Thursday in Abuja.
Gbajabiamila also said that the House would give attention to the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), the Police Reform Bill, and the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) amendment bill, among others.
He stated: “You did talk about pending legislation such as electoral laws. We’re on the same page on this. We can’t move forward if we don’t understand the history and circumstances that led to the inability to do some things.
“The issue of reordering of elections, for instance, we felt it was targeted at the sitting president. You can’t do laws to target somebody. There was also the issue of who has the right to reorder elections. There were arguments that the constitution says INEC should do that.”
The Speaker noted that unlike what happened during the last Assembly where both the constitutional and Electoral Act amendments bills were rejected by the president, he said this time around, the National Assembly would ensure a thorough work which would help to ensure the president assents to the bills.
Reacting to the concerns raised by the PLAC Executive Director about regulations targeting non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the Speaker said whatever the House would be is to strengthen their activities, noting that regulations are normal in every society.
Gbajabiamila stressed that NGOs are very important when it comes to nation building, noting that any government that means well would not strangulate NGOs, but added that the freedom to operate mustn’t be to the detriment of the state.
According to him, “We had a meeting with the service chiefs where they made allegations about some NGOs. You and I know that there are some NGOs that are giving others a bad name. We want to strengthen NGOs, we’re not going to kill them. No. We want to make your work more efficient.”
The Speaker stressed the need for a public hearing where everybody would sit down and discuss these issues.
He said while he agreed that regulations hamper businesses, as NGOs are not businesses, there is nothing wrong regulating them, adding that once a lacuna is found somewhere, then there is need to amend it.
Earlier, Nwankwo, who commended the leadership of the House for a smooth take-off with the way the standing committees were constituted, stressing that some of the people-oriented motions considered so far by the House were laudable.
He specifically lauded the House resolution, which directed the Nigerian Army authorities to suspend the plan to begin identifying Nigerians using identity cards.
Nwankwo therefore called on the House to give adequate attention to pending legislation such as the amendments to the Electoral Act, the constitution, Police Reform bill, CAMA bill, the PIGB, the National Assembly Budget and Research Office (NABRO) bill, among others.