Kalu’s One Year of Legislative Activism

Udora Orizu chronicles the legislative interventions of Deputy Speaker of the 10th House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Kalu, since  he was elected into office about a year ago.

On June 13, 2023, the 10th House of Representatives was inaugurated and Abia-born lawmaker, Rt. Hon. Benjamin OkezieKalu emerged as the Deputy Speaker unopposed.

In the acceptance speech of the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Abbas Tajudeen, he promised that under his leadership they, “shall operate a House that you all will be proud of, guided by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We strongly believe nation-building is a Joint Task and we shall introduce reforms and innovations for the benefit of Nigerians.”

True to his words, in the following weeks, the duo unveiled their legislative agenda tagged ‘the People’s House’ outlining key reforms, aimed at addressing socioeconomic, political and other challenges in Nigeria.

The Deputy Speaker, has since then resumed his second term in office as a lawmaker, hitting the ground running with the implementation of the agenda, consolidating and thriving impressively as if to surpass his previous enviable legislative outings.

Both Abass and Kalu as a ‘dynamic duo’ embarked on series of innovations, such as introduction of sectoral debates into the workings of the legislature. Through this initiative, Heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government, are summoned by the parliament to update Nigerians on how they are carrying out their duties, challenges, achievements, expectations and way forward.

In the last few months, they have interfaced with stakeholders in security, finance and agriculture. Speaking during the engagement with finance stakeholders, the Deputy Speaker underscored the urgency of tackling economic, fiscal, and revenue challenges facing Nigeria.

He emphasized the necessity of fiscal integrity for building trust between the government and its people, ensuring transparency, accountability, and prudent resource management.

In line with parliamentary tradition, the House committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) is headed by the Deputy Speaker. Kalu who chairs the committee, at its pre-inaugural meeting, assured that the work on the alteration will be completed in December 2025.

He listed areas of the constitutional alteration process to include state police, power devolution, fiscal federation, electoral reforms, judicial reforms, among others.

The Deputy Speaker noted that in line with the legislative agenda, the parliament recognises that improving women’s participation in politics and addressing issues like violence against women are crucial steps toward achieving sustainable development.

He said, “The committee is fully aware of the concerns of Nigerians on the need to finalise and conclude discussions around Nigeria’s constitution. I will like to state, however, that the nature of Nigeria’s constitution and the history around how it was made and handed over to a new civilian government in 1999, makes it imperative for us to continually revisit the several provisions of the constitution and work towards accomplishing consensus on outstanding constitutional debates.

“Let me mention that our target, the first draft of the constitution will be out in August 2024. Second draft will be out in October 2024. We will commence zonal inputs from October 2024 and we’ll keep collecting inputs from citizens from October 14, 2024 as we prepare for the last version or that last draft copy of the constitution. We are hoping that there will be a harmonisation of the issues on February 27 and 28, 2025. We are hoping that during a technical working retreat that will take place in February 2025, the Senate and the House of Representatives documents will be harmonised. It is our desire that on March 17, 2025, we will have harmonised documents considered in the House. It is our belief that by April 2025, we will have the final copies of draft amendments produced.”

On bill sponsorship, Kalu stands tall and in the last one year as Deputy Speaker, has sponsored about 100 bills, including South East Development Commission Bill, State police Bill, Bill To Provide the Time Frame for the Performance of Functions of the Clerk of the National Assembly; Bill for an Act to Amend the Armed Forces Act, Cap. A20, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 To Provide for the Appointment of the Chief of Defence Staff; And for Other Related Matters, Bill for an Act to Provide a Policy Framework for the Development of Bio-Fuels Energy Industry in Nigeria; Establish the Bio-Fuels Energy Regulatory Commission; Establish the Bio-Fuels Research Agency and many others.

On state police bill which has passed second reading, the Deputy Speaker assured that the national assembly will provide the right frameworks, legislations and oversight that will make state policing work better for Nigerians.

“I want to assure you that the National Assembly, and particularly the House of Representatives, is fully committed to providing the right frameworks, legislation, and oversight to make state policing work for the betterment of Nigerians. We understand the importance of getting this right. Throughout this dialogue, we will delve into critical issues, gather valuable insights and explore data-driven approaches. The information and recommendations gathered here will be crucial in shaping the future of policing in Nigeria. We are optimistic that through collaborative efforts and a commitment to evidence-based solutions, we can establish a policing system that is not only effective in combating crime but also earns the trust of Nigerians and cooperation between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Together we can pave the pathways to a more peaceful and secure Nigeria”.

On SEDC bill which will soon be transmitted to the President for assent, Kalu at different fora noted that when the commission is established, it will address the socio- economic and infrastructural deficit in the South-East caused by the civil war.

His interventions to ensure peace and security in the South East was not only limited to the chamber of the House, in December last year, the Deputy Speaker initiated the Peace In South East Project (PISE-P).

The project which was unveiled in December 2023, by President Bola Tinubu represented  by Vice President KashimShettima, at Bende Local Government of Abia State ultimately seeks the adoption of a non-kinetic approach to resolving the problem of insecurity bedeviling the South East.

According to him, the project was also aimed at promoting reconciliation among communities and individuals affected by past conflicts.

His words: “When I embarked on the South East Project, my vision was clear to foster peace, unity, and development in our region through a non-kinetic approach. The South East has long been known for its rich cultural heritage, vibrant communities, and enterprising people. Yet, we have faced our fair share of challenges, including socioeconomic disparities, insecurities, political tensions, and occasional conflicts.

“Our goals in the South East Project are clear. We aim to promote reconciliation among communities and individuals affected by past conflicts. We recognize the need to address the root causes of conflict, including socioeconomic disparities and political tensions. Empowering communities is another crucial goal of the project, providing them with the necessary resources, skills, and opportunities for sustainable development.”

Through this peace initiative, the Deputy Speaker last week, inaugurated a seven-man  Peace Fund Committee to help raise financial assistance for the victims of insecurity in the South East region.

He announced the setting up of the committee during his condolence visit to 144  Battalion Headquarters in Asa, Ukwa West Local Government Area of Abia State and subsequently made a donation of N10 million to kick start the process. Over N30 million has been contributed by well-meaning members of society from around the country and abroad.

There is a saying in Igbo, “Eto Dike nankeomere, omekweOzo.” meaning “When you praise a mighty being for what he has done, he will do more”.

One year after, Benjamin OkezieKalu (EnyiAbia) has proven that he’s committed to the discharge of his constitutional responsibilities to the people, and he’s doing that with utmost zeal and patriotism.

-Orizu is Special Assistant on Press Affairs to House Deputy Speaker

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