OrderPaperToday – There are four bills that will define the National Assembly this year when lawmakers resume from their yuletide break on the 26th of January 2021.
All of these bills are of keen interest to the populace as they relate to the development of Nigeria.
They have all passed through second reading in 2020 and are in relevant standing committees of the Senate and House of Representatives for further legislative work. Upon resumption, the committees will present their reports on the bills to plenary. These four bills will be further debated and either passed or rejected by the lawmakers.
The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB)
The over 20-year-old Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) will be at the front burner for consideration by both chambers. The stakes are very high. The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, as recent as on the 12th of January 2021, raised the alarm that some internal and external forces were out to frustrate passage of the bill. He asserted however, that the legislature was resolute to see through this all-important reform draft law this year.
The previous plan as announced by Lawn himself was to pass the bill before the end of 2020.
Many analysts believe the bill will address the inadequacies of Nigeria’s oil and gas sector, largely promoting transparency in its operations and generate more revenue for the country.
In November 2020, the bill was passed for second reading and now awaits a public hearing or slated for accelerated passage as once stated by Lawan on bills introduced from previous assemblies. The House of Representatives already has slated a date for public hearing having scaled second reading.
A dateline on the PIB in the 9th assembly can be found here.
Electoral act amendment bill
Like the PIB, the electoral act amendment bill is an important legislative draft that will be deliberated upon by the federal lawmakers after passed versions were rejected four times by President Muhammadu Buhari during the 8th Senate.
Reintroduced in the 9th Senate by the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, it passed for second reading on the 20th of November 2019 and now in its committee stage.
The principal aim of the proposed amendments in the bill will allow a seamless electoral process: highlights of the bill can be found here.
However, while in the committee stage, a contentious aspect was reportedly introduced seeking to allow underage married girls to vote in elections.
This will be discussed on the floor of the chamber as several Nigerians have expressed displeasure about the proposal.
Constitution alteration bills
Amending the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has been a daunting exercise in previous assemblies with limited positive results. In the 9th Senate, several amendments in form of bills have been proposed and referred to the constitution review committee headed by Senator Ovie Omo-Agege.
Although submission of memoranda by several interest groups were concluded in 2020, the continuation of the exercise was reportedly impeded due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Omo-Agege has however assured that his committee will earnestly begin work on the review process and make its submissions this year.
Fiscal Responsibility Act (Amendment) bill
With the passage of 2021 budget in December 2020 and extension of the capital aspects of 2020 budget, the senate will likely consider the passage of a bill seeking an amendment to the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) to guide the implementation of the appropriation act.
A bill sponsored by Senator Aisha Dahiru (APC, Adamawa) which passed second reading in February 2020, seeks to provide for the prudent management of national resources, ensure economic stability, promote transparency and accountability in Nigeria’s fiscal operations and strengthen the Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC).
The repeated calls of the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, for revenue-generating agencies to improve their operations will likely ensure that relevant bills that will ensure the generation of more funds will be prioritized upon resumption. The FRA bill is one of such.
Get the highlights of the bill here.