Security, Constitution Amendment, Electoral Reforms Top Agenda as Lawmakers Resume Today

Security, Constitution Amendment, Electoral Reforms Top Agenda as Lawmakers Resume Today

•Lament state of the nation, abduction, murder of innocent citizens

Juliet Akoje in Abuja

Security will be at the top of the agenda as the House of Representatives resumes plenary today amid growing insecurity in many parts of the country.

Other issues of national importance marked for consideration include constitution amendment, electoral reform, legislative oversight, public petitions, bill progression, state of the economy, constituency outreach, and foreign policy.

A statement by the spokesperson of the House, Hon. Akin Rotimi, said the above subjects would shape legislative proceedings and deliberations, and define the second half of the first legislative year (June 2023 – June 2024), as the lawmakers resumed from their four-week recess.

Rotimi said the country was currently experiencing rising security challenges in the form of kidnapping, banditry, and other criminal activities, hence, the need to rise to the occasion.

He stated, “Even Abuja, the federal capital territory, has not been left out, and has witnessed the abduction and murder of innocent citizens.

“The Plateau crisis, which elicited a statement from Mr. Speaker, among other security issues in the country, continues to put these issues on the front burner.

“Expectations are rife that the People’s House will take bold steps in addressing insecurity from a legislative standpoint.”

On constitution amendment, the House spokesperson said there had been increased calls from stakeholders on the need for the National Assembly to cure the 1999 Constitution of certain critical defects.

Rotimi said, “The efforts of previous assemblies, which have resulted in five alterations to the document between 2003 and 2023, is widely considered inadequate.

“Agitations for amendments to key areas have intensified, including calls for the establishment of state and community-led police structures; justice sector reforms; fiscal federalism; strengthening local government administration; and increased devolution of power, etc.

“As the House resumes, Nigerians would be looking to the Rt. Hon. Benjamin Kalu-led House Committee on Constitution Review to make progress in the efforts for further amendments to the 1999 Constitution (as amended).”

The statement also addressed the question of electoral reform. It said, “As preparations intensify for the off-cycle elections in some states of the federation in the second half of 2024, the calls for electoral reforms will continue to dominate conversations in the country.

“Nigerians will be looking to the National Assembly for key reforms of the electoral process, as we promised in our legislative agenda, to, amongst other things, improve the transparency and credibility of democratic ritual of elections.

“Provide for stiff sanctions for electoral offences, and stem the judiciary’s influence on the electoral process, and ‘over-judicialisation’ of electoral outcomes in a way that undermines public confidence, and could erode the legitimacy of political leadership.”

On legislative oversight, Rotimi stated, “In line with the commitment to anti-corruption and improved legislative oversight under its Agenda One: Strengthening Good Governance, the House streamlined the mandates of committees to avoid overlap and conflicts.

“It also rationalised the membership of committees to enable more informed decision-making, better management of workload, and improved legislative quality.

“On resumption, the House is expected to undertake more public hearings (including investigative panels) to probe a number of issues before the various standing committees.

“Between June and December 2023, the House constituted 30 ad-hoc committees to conduct investigative hearings and make recommendations on pressing national issues for necessary legislative action.

“With the reports of 25 already submitted and four considered, the reports of the other committees will occupy the front burner on resumption.”

Rotimi further explained that on public petitions, “The House since inauguration has received a hundred and fifty-three (153) petitions from various citizens across the country, which are receiving necessary legislative actions.

“The Rep. Mike Etaba-led House Committee on Public Petitions has quietly achieved commendable success in helping Nigerians get succour from the People’s House.

“The outcome of hearings on one of these petitions resulted in the payment of a compensation package amounting to Thirty Million Naira (N30, 000,000) for Citizen Tairu Quadri Adewale; an amputee electricity worker neglected for 15 years.

“Notably, the House of Representatives on Tuesday, December 5, 2023, facilitated the presentation of the sum as a Final Settlement of Liability Claims Cheque to him by the Nigerian Electricity Liability Management Company (NELMCO) management.

“Quadri, a 400-Level Electrical Engineering intern from the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, had suffered electrocution in May 2008, while on duty for the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) in Lagos.

“The House, through its Committee on Public Petitions, will be engaged in facilitating more of such settlements as well as the resolution of more issues arising from petitions already submitted for its consideration. Similarly, more petitions from distressed citizens will be laid before parliament.”

The statement said bills progression will also be given attention. It said, “In its first six months, the House received 962 bills, out of which 120 have passed Second Reading and are currently undergoing in-depth analysis at the Committee stage.

“These bills are intended to provide immediate relief and long-term solutions to the challenges that have plagued our society.

“With the resumption of the House, reports on a majority of these bills will be laid before parliament for consideration and adoption ahead of Third Reading and passage.

“More bills are expected to move through the various parliamentary stages and be presented for the president’s assent. Through these bills, citizens will be better empowered, while peace, security and social justice will be enhanced.”

Speaking to the “State of the Economy”, Rotimi explained, “In spite of major efforts by the federal government to boost economic growth, a lot still needs to be done to ameliorate the pains felt by constituents across the country.

“The House will continue to support the executive arm of government in the implementation of the ‘Renewed Hope Agenda’, and hold entities of the executive arm of government accountable.  “Efforts in these regards will include ensuring efficient and effective deployment of public resources, especially through the use of hearings and oversight visits.

“The House will also enhance the sectoral debates started in November 2023, to promote transparency and accountability in government operations in line with our Legislative Agenda.”

On “Constituency Outreach”, Rotimi stated, “With the 2024 budget now in place, supervision of the implementation of the budget will occupy a prominent place in the activities of Honourable Members.

“As part of the representative function of lawmakers, honourable members are primarily involved in influencing and facilitating projects and programmes in their respective constituencies.

“Honourable members are, thus, expected to also be occupied with more robust constituency outreaches, and supervising effective delivery of these initiatives for the benefit of our constituents.”

The House spokesman said, “In line with the legislative agenda, the House is expected to take key legislative actions on key foreign policy imperatives, including the need to address the current impasse in the ECOWAS region. This is because peace and stability in the region has implications on our domestic affairs.

“Year 2024 holds a lot of promises for the country’s future and it is imperative for all hands to move our country forward.

“Nation building is a joint task, and the 10th assembly is set with renewed vigour, to continue to play our own part in rebuilding our great country, Nigeria.”

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