Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has assured the people of the legislature’s commitment to amend the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
The House will also give attention to the passage of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB); the Police Reform Bill; the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) Amendment bill, among others.
Gbajabiamila spoke yesterday in Abuja when a team from the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), led by its Executive Director, Mr. Clement Nwankwo, paid him a courtesy call in his office
He said: “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 President Muhammadu Buhari, he said this time around, the National Assembly would ensure a thorough work, which would help ensure the president assents to the bills.
Reacting to the concerns raised by Nwankwo about regulations targeting non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the speaker said whatever the House would do would be to strengthen their activities, noting that regulations are normal in every society.
Gbajabiamila stressed that NGOs are very important to nation-building, noting that any government that meant well would not strangulate NGOs. But he added that the freedom to operate must not be to the detriment of the state.
“We had a meeting with the service chiefs where they made allegations against 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,” he added.
He also spoke on the need for a public hearing where everybody would sit down and discuss these issues.
He said why he agreed that regulations hamper businesses, NGOs are not businesses and there is nothing wrong regulating them
Earlier, Nwankwo, who commended the leadership of the House for a smooth take-off with the way the standing committees were constituted, had described as laudable some of the people-oriented motions considered so far by the House.
He specifically noted 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.