OrderPaperToday – On the 10th of June, the House of Representatives led by Femi Gbajabiamila celebrated its one year anniversary, the first leg of four sessions that make up the 9th assembly.
Aside from promises of reforms made by Gbajabiamila during his bid for speakership, the 9th House released a legislative agenda, which it hopes to accomplish before the end of the tenure.
Hampered by COVID-19…
The legislative agenda contains promises like digitalization of parliamentary procedures, enabling community policing, transparency in the finances of the House, and security reforms among many more. While the ambitious document covers the entire 4 sessions, a measure of performance of the 9th House can be made with respect to bills so far processed.
There were expectations from Nigerians on passage of important bills like the petroleum industry bill, electoral act amendment, and key constitution alterations on devolution of power. The current cordial relationship with the executive arm of government is expected to yield some fruits with respect to quick passage and smooth assent to these and other bills. For example, the 2020 appropriations act which was passed in December last year is touted as a historic achievement that returned Nigeria’s budget to the January to December fiscal calendar.
However, the outbreak of COVID-19 threw some spanner into the works, slowing down legislative activities. The global pandemic caused the National Assembly to adjourn plenary for over one month – from the 24th of March to 28th of April, 2020. Also, the National Assembly had to adjust plenary sitting days from 3 days per week to a day per week, until very recently when the House reverted to the old order.
The 9th House versus its predecessor…
By the time the 8th House of Representatives reached one year in office on June 8th, 2016, it had already introduced 634 bills. Whereas, the 9th House under Gbajabiamila introduced 853 bills under same one year span.
While the 8th House was able to pass 233 bills through second reading, the 9th House on the other hand, was only able to achieve same feat with 214 bills. In terms of percentage, this translates to 25.08% of the bills gone through second reading under the first year of the current House compared to 36.7% in the 8th assembly.
103 bills did not go through public hearing…
One bleep in the data for the 9th House is that out of the 214 bills passed through second reading, 103 of them were referred to committee of the whole without conduct of public hearing. In other words, 48.1% of bills that passed for second reading did not go through public hearing.
This is actually not an abnormality as was going to be the case with the controversial Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, 2020, until mounting public pressure forced the House to hold a public hearing. These 103 bills did not undergo public hearing because they emanated from the 8th House as provided for by Order 12 Rule 18 of the Standing Orders of the House which reads: “The legislative business of the house which completed and laid in the house by a committee remain undetermined at the end of the assembly shall be resumed and proceeded with in the next assembly in the same manner as if the tenure of the assembly had not come to an end, if the house resolves in the affirmative that such bill, upon being re-gazetted, be reconsidered in the committee of the whole without being commenced de-novo.”
More bills to establish schools…
Despite federal-owned universities being on strike since March 10, 2020, members of the House of Representatives are keen to establish one or two federal institutions in their constituencies. At the end of the first year, 46 bills in consideration are for the establishment of federal universities; 53 bills for establishment of different certificate-awarding colleges (Colleges of Education, Colleges of Aviation, others); and 16 bills for establishment of polytechnics.
It is worthy of note that tertiary education establishment bills have become a tradition in every successive assembly. In the 8th House, Mr. Bashir Babale once warned his colleagues from proliferating tertiary education but it appears his warning has gone unheeded.
The rubber stamp tag…
The 9th House continues to struggle with the tag of being a rubber stamp of the executive. However, in terms of bills, the data tells a different story. Currently there are 10 executive bills in the House – 2 appropriation bills, 2 finance bills, the Federal Capital Territory budget bill and 5 others. Interestingly, other than the budget-related bills, the House is yet to pass the others.
In conclusion, it is fair to say that the 9th House of Representatives has performed above average in terms of bills when compared to the previous assembly. But like some would argue the quality and not the quantity of the bills should be the issue in question.