The recently launched Legislative Agenda of the 10th House of Representatives gives an insight into what it plans to achieve in the next four years including the amendment of the 2022 Electoral Act. Adedayo Akinwale writes.
Without doubt, these are not the best of times for Nigeria and Nigerians, especially with all the negative economic indices staring the country in the face. Without mincing words, the last time the country was at this precarious situation was when former President Olusegun Obasanjo assumed the leadership of the country in 1999 and he had to reset the economy of the country which had since nosedived.
Though, the current administration of President Bola Tinubu has put together his cabinet to help stare the ship of the country from the economic storm, but his policies and economic interventions have done little to assuage the situation.
Flowing from this, the House of Representatives recently launched its Legislative Agenda aimed at addressing the yearnings of Nigerians and the numerous challenges facing the country across various sectors.
The Green Chamber under the leadership of the Speaker, Hon. Tajudeen Abbas was of the firm believe that legislative interventions are crucial for addressing these issues and driving positive change.
Beyond that, the Agenda is also intended to streamline the activities of the House and guide the efficient allocation of resources.
The Speaker was also of the opinion that a well defined legislative agenda with legislative priorities is of utmost importance for the efficient and effective functioning of the legislature. It is a roadmap that guides lawmakers and legislative bodies in decision-making as well as lawmaking processes.
Abbas noted that the 10th House of Representatives has been called to serve at one of the most challenging times for their constituents and nation.
He said: “Critically, as the people’s representatives, we recognise that Nigerians and our constituents have a right to know what issues are being addressed and what priorities their elected representatives focus on. This transparency enhances public trust and accountability.
“Accordingly, we have dubbed the 10th House the “People’s House”. We expect this Agenda to foster meaningful public engagement and encourage citizens and stakeholders to participate in debates, hearings, and consultations related to the identified priorities, making the legislative process more inclusive and democratic.”
The Green chamber has identified eight key legislative priorities, namely: strengthening good governance; improving national security; law reform; economic growth and development; social sector reform
and development; inclusion and open parliament; influencing foreign policy, and climate change and environmental sustainability.
The House explained that these agenda areas have been carefully crafted to align with the eight-point agenda of the Executive. This ensures policy consistency and coherence and avoids conflicting and contradictory legislation.
The Agenda also allows members and Committees to plan their work well in advance, including drafting bills, conducting research, engaging with stakeholders, and promptly addressing key priorities.
The House believed that reforming and strengthening the judiciary in Nigeria is crucial for upholding the rule of law, ensuring accountability, promoting justice, and fostering economic development.
Accordingly, the 10th House said it was committed to pass a law to regulate the process of selection and appointment of judges outlining detailed processes and requirements as well as greater transparency and public involvement at all stages.
It added that it was also committed to amend the Constitution and relevant statutes to expand membership of the appointing institutions; ensure compliance to constitutional provisions and guidelines
through oversight; consult on the merit of establishing specialised courts to handle specific types of cases, which could expedite case resolution and reduce backlogs; provide adequate resources for speedy dispensation of justice, among others.
Corruption and Legislative oversight
The House has assured of its commitment to adopt legislative initiatives to strengthen its oversight functions to combat corruption in Nigeria. To this end, the House said it would adopt legislative measures towards achieving the following: strengthen the existing legal frameworks regulating anti-corruption agencies; ensure independence of anti-corruption agencies; strengthen existing anti-corruption agencies to consolidate their functions and operations and promote synergy and information sharing for effectiveness; provide funding to anti-corruption and law enforcement agencies
to enhance their capacity to effectively investigate and prosecute corruption cases, among other interventions.
In the area of security, the 10th House said it would take legislative measures to support the government’s drive to end insecurity.
It assured that it would put adequate and proactive legislation and policy options in place.
The Green Chamber said its interventions would include promoting accountability in security sector explaining that funding and budgeting is essential to ensure the efficient utilisation of resources, prevent corruption, and enhance public trust in security institutions.
The House further assured that it would enact legislation that mandates a more detailed and itemised budgetary disclosure for security agencies. It said while certain specifics might be kept confidential for national security reasons, a general breakdown should be accessible to the public.
It stressed that it would mandate regular independent audits of security sector expenditures; create or empower an independent body with the necessary clearances to perform these audits; strengthen parliamentary oversight over security sector spending; committees responsible for defence, internal security, and intelligence should have powers to scrutinise and review the full details of budgetary allocations and expenditures.
The Green Chamber added that it would pass the whistleblower protection law to encourage individuals within security agencies or related bodies to report financial malpractices without fear of retaliation; legislate for the establishment of a Security Sector Reform Commission to oversee reforms within the security sector, including financial transparency and accountability.
It said it would introduce stricter penalties for misappropriation, misallocation, or any form of financial malpractice within the security sector and empower anti-corruption agencies with more autonomy and resources to investigate and prosecute financial misconduct within the security sector, among others.
The House also promised to review the current system of policing in Nigeria, while also strengthening the framework for ‘community policing’ to decentralise the police structure and allow zonal commands to take prompt action on police issues.
It vowed to open up national discussion on the merits of State Police, aggregate citizen’s views and perspectives. It further assured that it would adopt legislative measures to reform the Nigerian Police Force and position them as the primary agency responsible for internal security.
Following the completion of the 2023 general election, as well as the just concluded off-cycle elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states, the House has resolved to amend the 2022 Electoral Act.
The Green Chamber is, however, silent on whether it would also amend the law to mandate the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to transmit or upload results from the polling units on INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV).
At the moment, Section 60 of the Electoral Act states that, “the presiding officer shall, after counting the votes at the polling unit, enter the votes scored by each candidate in a form to be prescribed by the commission as the case may be”.
More so, Section 60(5) of the Act states that “the presiding officer shall transfer the results including total number of accredited voters and the results of the ballot in a manner as prescribed by the commission”.
The House noted that the 2023 general election excited the most interest in recent times. However, it suffered setbacks regarding the implementation of recent constitutional amendments and the new Electoral Act.
It said that it would carefully examine complaints and observations made by stakeholders arising from the conduct of the 2023 general election.
It noted that specific actions to be taken by the House are: “Amend the Electoral Act 2022 to remedy some of the gaps observed, including vague and contradicting provisions. Pass an independent legislation (the Political Parties Bill) to regulate the registration, financing and functioning of political parties in Nigeria and, by so doing, allow INEC to focus on the conduct of elections.
“Set up a mechanism for periodic reviews of electoral laws to ensure they remain relevant and in tune with global best practices. Amend the Electoral Act 2022 to allow diaspora voting by government officials around the world.”
The House added that it would also ensure the passage of the National Electoral Offences Commission Bill to confer powers of the Commission to prosecute electoral offences.
It is also proposing amendments to the Constitution on issues related to elections in Nigeria to address some shortcomings including; “Appointment of Chairman and National Commissioners of the Independent National electoral Commission (INEC); Creation of an Electoral Offences Commission as an independent body; and Relevance or otherwise of Resident Electoral Commissioners of INEC in the States.”
The House noted that policy changes and reforms are key to promoting sustainable and inclusive economic growth. The diminishing revenue, increasing expenditure and debt profile have raised the need to review Nigeria’s revenue sources.
It pointed out that heavy reliance on the oil sector is unsustainable, hence, the need to create a more resilient and diversified economy that can provide opportunities for all Nigerians.
Against this background, the House said it would support economic diversification with a focus on reducing dependence on oil and increasing development in other sectors across Nigeria, such as mineral resource mining, manufacturing, agro processing, textile, tourism and technology and general services.
It added that it would provide incentives on tax breaks to encourage innovations and for industries that have the potential for job creation and export growth. It promised to examine existing legislation and, where there are gaps, introduce reforms to encourage public-private partnerships for infrastructure
development, investment projects and service delivery.
The House also assured that it would use legislative measures to support the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to open up markets and promote economic cooperation and growth.
In all, if the legislative agenda of the 10th House is anything to go by, the Green Chamber appears to be in a hurry to make a mark, especially with the agenda carefully crafted in line with the economic policies of the current administration. Be that as it may, Nigerians would also be waiting in the wings to hold the 10th House to account at the end of the 10th Assembly in 2027.