OrderPaperToday-The National Assembly will resume from its Christmas and New Year break on the 28th of January.
During the break, several issues of national importance occurred and the legislature is expected to react to them as a matter of priority when plenary commences.
In this article, OrderPaper highlights some of these issues.
Electricity Tariff Hike
The proposed increment of electricity tariff has been an issue of concern to many Nigerians. The House of Representatives has made its opposition to the planned hike clear with Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila promising to ensure that it does not happen until certain measures are put in place.
In fact, the Committee on Power suspended its holiday to conduct a public hearing where it sent a strong message to the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to suspend the tariff hike until further consultation.
One of the pre-conditions the speaker stated is the signing of the estimated billing prohibition bill he sponsored.
The issue is expected to be raised on the floor when the House resumes.
AMOTEKUN AND STATE POLICE
The formation of the Amotekun Security outfit by governors of south western states is perhaps the hottest issue on the political space at the moment. This issue is not as clear cut as the electricity issue.
The 6 states on the 9th of January announced the formation of the security outfit which Kayode Fayemi, the governor of Ekiti State and chairman of the Governors Forum, described as a community police to complement the existing security apparatus.
However, it has met stiff opposition from the federal government. The minister of Police Affairs, Muhammadu Dingyadi, described it as an illegality, while the Nigeria Police Force is presently at daggers drawn over the outfit. The position of the Minister of Police Affairs is similar to that of the attorney general of the federation, Abubakar Malami, who argued that the outfit is unconstitutional.
This impasse over the legality of the outfit last week culminated in the Police banning the group from protesting in Lagos State. Furthermore, it has led to a legal debate between Malami on one side and legal luminaries, Afe Babalola, Femi Falana and 6 governors of the south west states on the other end.
The national leader of the ruling APC, Bola Tinubu, alleged to be the godfather of the House of Representatives speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, has also weighed in on the Amotekun debate. The former governor of Lagos State, in a statement issued on Wednesday, maintained a middle ground and blamed both the governors and the AGF for the manner the issue was handled.
One thing that can be deduced from the argument is that since policing is a constitutional matter under the exclusive legislative list, the power to establish, amend and repeal is the prerogative of the National Assembly.
Police and other security outfit is number 45 under the exclusive list of the 1999 constitution as amended. Section 214 states that no other police can be established except the National Assembly passes amendment to the constitution.
“214. (1) There shall be a police force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force, and subject to the provisions of this section no other police force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof.
(2) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution –
(a) the Nigeria Police Force shall be organised and administered in accordance with such provisions as may be prescribed by an act of the National Assembly;
(b) the members of the Nigeria Police shall have such powers and duties as maybe conferred upon them by law;
(c) the National Assembly may make provisions for branches of the Nigeria Police Force forming part of the armed forces of the Federation or for the protection of harbours, waterways, railways and air fields.”
What this means is that the National Assembly has a major role to play in providing the legal backing for Amotekun through a constitution amendment process. A bill to that effect is expected to be sponsored by southwest lawmakers.
The quest for state police is also expected to be raised in the Constitution Amendment exercise.
N37 billion NASS renovation
The National Assembly will resume to address the controversy surrounding the appropriation of N37 billion for the renovation of the National Assembly complex.
The controversial appropriation generated reactions from Nigerians and the members of the National Assembly during the holiday, with many of them going on social media to flay the parliament over the “outrageous” amount.
Several members of the House of Representatives have so far faulted the appropriation. Bamidele Salam (PDP, Osun), Legor Idagbo (PDP, Cross River) and Akin Alabi (APC, Oyo) all expressed reservations over the huge figure earmarked for the project, with Alabi noting that the item was not discussed on the floor of the House.
In a tweet posted on his Twitter account, Alabi said, “Yes, we need upgrade on some aspects like the electronic systems (sound system, voting system etc) as they are outdated but N37b? No. Let’s spend that on our schools and hospitals.”
“It was not discussed on the floor of the house. Renovation of National Assembly is not debated on the floor of the house.”
This statement questions the integrity of the budget, particularly in the shadow of budget padding allegations.
On his part, Idagbo stated, “We need more upgraded classrooms and hospitals to cater for the Nigerian people.”
Salam also agreed with Legor, saying, “Apart from the chambers of the NASS which need some upgrade in the audio and recording system, the entire structure needs no renovation more than our classrooms, hospitals and roads which are mostly in a decrepit condition.”
This is a direct contradiction to the stance of the president of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, who stated that the complex has not been renovated in the past 20 years.
Electoral Act amendment
Recent Supreme Court verdicts that displaced sitting governors, especially in the case of Imo State governorship election, escalated the need for amendment of the Electoral Act. This is one matter that the National Assembly will have to dispense with as they resume.
The Supreme Court, on the 16th of January this year, removed Emeka Ihedioha, a former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, from office as governor of Imo State and pronounced Sen Hope Uzodinma, a former senator, as the rightful governor of the state.
The judgement is generating huge controversy, with finger pointing at the loophole in the Electoral Act.
This development is expected to come up in both chambers and possibly speed-up the consideration of the Electoral Act which is currently before them.
Boko Haram massacres
The rise in killings by Boko Haram is sure to get the attention of the lawmakers immediately they reconvene from their recess.
On 7th of January, 2020, the insurgents reportedly killed 20 soldiers in Monguno, Borno State.
Besides the onslaught on soldiers, there has been a spike in killing of hostages by the group, the latest being the beheading of Rev. Lawan Andimi, the branch chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Michika local government, Adamawa State.
This renewed surge in activities of the insurgents is coming at a time when the military announced a gradual withdrawal of troops to allow police to take over securing of those areas.
Prior to embarking on the holiday, the speaker of the House of Representatives and other principal officers met with the services chiefs and heads of other security outfits to get a briefing on the war against terrorism.
Ahmed Jaha, the lawmaker representing Damboa/Gwazo/Chibok of Borno State, back in September 2019 raised alarm that 13 local governments are under the control of Boko Haram and by 1st of January, 2020, the gruesome murder of hostages by the group validated the alarm raised by Jaha.
NDDC board controversy
The issue of which board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is legitimate is one that was begging for resolution up till the time the legislature adjourned for Christmas recess.
In November 2019, the Senate approved 15 nominees forwarded by President Muhamadu Buhari for the composition of the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)
However, the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen Godswill Akpabio set up 3-man interim board by that was mandated to undertake a forensic audit on the commission, a move that was rejected by the Senate which insisted it would only work with board members it approved. The president would later back Akpabio on the interim board.
The parliament will have to take a definite stand when it returns to work next week.
Also, in the Green Chamber, the investigation into abandoned projects by NDDC revealed cankerworms. The committee, based on its findings, directed the NDDC to recover N67 billion disbursed for execution of abandoned projects.
US travel ban against Nigeria
United States president, Donald Trump, according to media reports, will on Monday extend America’s list of countries on travel ban to include Nigeria and other 6 other countries.
This will most likely be discussed by the parliamentarians in plenary.