10th House: Doing things Differently in 12 months

Musa Krishi reports about the legislative interventions of the 10th House of Representatives led by Speaker Tajudeen Abass since its inauguration on June 13, 2023.

Since its inauguration on June 13, 2023, the 10th House of Representatives, under the adept leadership of Speaker Abbas Tajudeen, has taken the bull by the horn in tackling the daunting task before it. Comprising members knowledgeable in diverse endeavors, the Green Chamber has lived up to the bill of making laws for the good governance of Nigeria.

In taking stock of the activities of the House in one year, Speaker Abass, working in sync with his colleagues, presented to Nigerians, a historic scorecard titled ‘One Year in the Peoples’ House: Performance Report of the First Session of the Tenth House of Representatives of the Fourth Republic, Federal Republic of Nigeria.’ 

It was made public on Wednesday, July 3, 2024, during the Open Week of the Green Chamber.

At the event, Speaker Abass underscored how his leadership ensured an inclusive and participatory legislature in the past one year. He noted that the 10th House has been committed to running an open parliament that actively incorporates citizens’ input in lawmaking and oversight processes.

A perusal of the report indicated that one of the critical decisions taken by the Speaker Abbas-led House at inception was constituting the Standing Committees, announced on Thursday, July 27, 2023. 

The Speaker’s innovative thoughts led to the establishment of the Committee on Legislative Agenda and the Committee on Monitoring and Evaluation of the Standing Committees. While the former’s role is to ensure the full implementation of the House Legislative Agenda, the latter was to pay adequate attention to the other Standing Committees, ensuring that they meet their terms of reference.

To demonstrate its staidness, the House came up with an eight-point Legislative Agenda, complementing the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Tinubu. 

The thematic areas of the Legislative Agenda are: strengthening good governance; improving national security; law reform; economic growth and development; social sector reform and development; inclusion and open parliament; influencing/directing Nigeria’s foreign policy, and climate change and environmental sustainability. 

The Speaker unveiled the Legislative Agenda on November 14, 2023. 

On law-making, as of June 13, 2024, 1,351 bills were introduced on the floor of the House, the highest ever introduced in the first session of the House since 1999. Out of these, 1,339 bills (99%) were sponsored by members of the House, while 12 bills (1%) were brought by the Executive arm.

The statistics further shows that 112 Bills were referred to the various Standing Committees for legislative action, out of which 89 were passed. Eighty of the bills passed were sponsored by members of the House, while nine were Executive Bills. Currently, there are 1,068 bills awaiting Second Reading and 81 bills awaiting consideration by the House. Only one bill was negatived — rejected — in one year.

To kickstart the constitution amendment process in good time, the Committee chaired by the Deputy Speaker, Rt. Hon. Benjamin  Kalu, took off in earnest. It organized citizens’ engagement sessions in February 2024, less than nine months into the life of the 10th House. The committee collated inputs from Nigerians into the constitution amendment process and has since established a timeline of activities, setting a deadline of December 2025 for concrete outcomes.

On motions and resolutions, which fall under representation, the House also made significant strides. The House received a total of 679 motions in one year, out of which 629 (93%) were referred to different Standing Committees, while 43 were referred to Ad Hoc Committees. Seven motions were negatived.

An analysis of the motions based on the eight thematic areas of the House Legislative Agenda indicates that 83 pertained to strengthening good governance; 129 on improving national security; 27 were on law reform: streamlining and improving the constitutional reform process; 98 on economic growth and development; 242 were on social sector reform and development; 22 on inclusion and open parliament; 8 on influencing/directing Nigeria’s foreign policy and 70 on climate change and environmental sustainability.

The House also serves as an ombudsman to Nigerians through its Public Petitions Committee, which handles such matters after receiving referrals from the House. From June 13, 2023, to June 13, 2024, the House received 306 petitions and considered 30 of them. Reports on 15 petitions were laid on the floor of the House, while 5 were resolved.

More than ever before, the 10th House has upped citizens’ engagements, ensuring that Nigerians are provided the opportunity to partake in the decision-making process of the Green Chamber. Some examples will suffice. In developing its Legislative Agenda, the House held a townhall meeting where it engaged the citizens and ensured it incorporated their inputs into the document. Second, the House organized another townhall meeting in response to the concerns raised by the citizens on the credibility of the country’s electoral processes. Inputs from the citizens are expected to form part of the ongoing amendment to the Electoral Act 2022.

Other citizens’ engagements organized by the House during its First Session were the National Dialogue on State Policing; National Discourse on Nigeria’s Security Challenges and Good Governance at the Local Government Level; a two-day retreat for members of the House on the effective implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021 and tax reform modernization, and, of course, the House Open Week, where the one-year score card was unveiled.

Arguably, the most important bill in the life of any Assembly is the Appropriation Bill, without which government activities will come to a halt. Thus, to strengthen the budget process, the House, through the Committee on Appropriations chaired by Hon. Abubakar Kabir Bichi, held a budget townhall meeting in November 2023 where the chairman noted that, “this Town Hall is important in promoting the integrity of the budgeting process.”

The committee held several engagements with the relevant MDAs on the 2024 Appropriation Bill before its passage in December 2023. The Committee’s innovations in handling the 2024 budget and the 2023 supplementary budget referred to it in late October 2023, among others, were instrumental to the successes the House recorded so far in the budget process.

The 10th House also instituted strong oversight mechanisms by receiving briefs from MDAs through the relevant Standing Committees, oversight visits and inspections to MDAs and projects, public and investigative hearings, public petitions, and interactive meetings, etcetera.

Members of the House have equally individually provided interventions under constituency outreach and empowerment to ameliorate the hardship being faced by their constituents.

Again, the House held sectoral debates where it received briefings, at plenary, from security chiefs, Ministers of finance, agriculture, among others, as well as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

For the first time in the history of the Nigerian Legislature, the House introduced the use of sign language in the chamber, where experts are engaged to interpret the plenary proceedings to those with hard of hearing. The Speaker also established the Programmes Coordinating Unit under his office, which increased interface with civil societies.

The Speaker, for the first time in history, held a World Press Conference on February 8, 2024, to address national issues.

Furthermore, in the past year, the House has established and fostered a harmonious working relationship with the two other arms of government, especially the Executive, engendering mutual respect and collaboration that works for all. Eventually, it brings political stability  that benefits the citizens.

Suffice it to say that the above data clearly prove how committed the 10th House, aptly christened the ‘Peoples’ House,’ is to excel and make Nigeria better.

Despite the successes recorded in its First Session, the House also encountered some challenges,  including high turnover rate that created capacity gaps; House chambers repairs, which disrupted legislative activities; economic downturn and funding, leading to inadequate funding of House activities; elevated public expectations, etcetera.

It is safe, therefore, to say that the 10th House of Representatives has indeed done things differently in the past one year.

• Krishi is Media Adviser to the Speaker, House of Representatives.

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