8th House Of Representatives: @SpeakerDogara Gives Account Of Stewardship
ADDRESS BY HON. SPEAKER, RT. HON. DOGARA YAKUBU ON ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THE 8TH HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ON 9TH JUNE, 2016
1. Honourable Colleagues, today, 9th June, 2016 marks one year anniversary of the inauguration of the 8th House of Representatives.
2. Permit me to request that we cast our minds back to that historic day when we were sworn in as members of the House of Representatives in this hallowed chambers. That event was greeted with a lot of hope and expectations from Nigerians after a common sense revolution swept aside the ruling party and ushered in the opposition into office for the first time in Nigeria’s modern political history. There was not just a change of guards at the executive level, but also at the legislature as well. The change involved both political parties and personnel.
3. Honourable Colleagues, as we look back to that day, it remains for me a great honour and exceptional privilege to serve as your Speaker. I still tremble when I recall or reflect on the trust and confidence you reposed in us to lead this great Chamber. We shall not let you down.
4. The House of Representatives is a platform where different and diverse ideologies, interests, languages, religions, cultures, political persuasions, philosophies, diversity of opinions contend for attention and relevance. It is a great tribute to the men and women who belong to this Chamber that it has always maintained a tradition of common purpose, patriotism and non-partisanship in taking crucial decisions on matters of state. I salute you all.
5. You will recall that we took off on a very democratic note with the transparent election of the Presiding Officers. This was followed by the controversy surrounding appointment of some principal officers for both majority and minority parties.
6. I am highly pleased that Honourable members have worked as a family since then and legislative activities were pursued in this legislative session with so much vigour, dynamism and commitment. It can be argued correctly that one legislative year out of a four-year Assembly is rather short for successes or failures to be appraised. Rather, as the foundation year, an appropriate legislative framework is expected to be put in place. Nevertheless, in our own case, in the course of one legislative session, we have put in place appropriate legislative frameworks, reform operations and processes and have recorded notable accomplishments especially in relation to our agreed Legislative Agenda. The 8th House of Representatives has adequately prepared the grounds for effective contribution to the Change Agenda of the present government through legislation.
7. The question today is how far have we fared? Have we met the expectation of Nigerians? These questions are themselves imprecise and can only be imprecisely addressed.
8. The leadership drafted a Legislative Agenda (2015-2019) to guide our legislative activities for 4 years. The proposed Agenda was thoroughly debated by Honourable Members and approved. Since we unfolded our Agenda, a lot of effort has been made towards its implementation. There is no gainsaying the fact that we have made some quantum leap in that direction. Therefore, permit me to present the highlights of our scorecard in the past legislative year.
i. In the first place, we set up a Committee of Experts to undertake Legislative Needs Assessment of the National Assembly on August 14, 2015. The final report is awaited.
ii. With respect to Committees, we successfully carried out the selection and placement of members into various committees, which were inaugurated on 9th November 2015. Many Committees have worked very hard, but we have had to take measures to enforce timeliness for delivery of Committee Reports by divesting some Committees of jurisdiction where there has been undue or unwarranted delay in reporting. Many Ad-Hoc Committees were set up in this session to deal with various subjects. Some have submitted their reports, while some reports are awaited.
iii. The House made good its commitment to “implementing the use of templates, manuals, and standardised formats for committee activities”, by appointing an Ad-Hoc Committee, headed by the Chair, Committee on Federal Judiciary to carry out this all important assignment. Its report is awaited.
iv. The House has also reviewed its Standing Orders twice on 17th October, 2015 and on 23rd March, 2016 in fulfillment of our Agenda.
v. An Ad-Hoc Committee on Code of Conduct for Honourable Members was set up. The Committee produced a comprehensive Code of Conduct for Hon. Members, which has since been adopted.
vi. Consistent with our Agenda, the House set up a Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation with a mandate to ensure that the process of Rulemaking, Regulations and other subsidiary legislations by MDAs are properly followed
vii. The House Agenda committed to making e-voting a regular feature of House proceedings. The introduction of electronic voting by the House is still in process, and the use of emails to send copies of the Notice Paper and Order Paper to Hon. Members has been achieved.
viii. The House is working hard to establish the National Assembly/House of Representatives Radio and Television Station for better access to the legislature, as we committed.
ix. On budgetary matters, we are happy to report that the commencement clause of the 2016 Budget reflects suggestions we made in furtherance of our Agenda to aid budget implementation by the Executive. It says:
“In line with the provisions of Section 318 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, this bill will run for a course of 12 months starting from the date it is assented into law”.
x. On our commitment to plug revenue leakages, the House set up an Ad-Hoc Committee to investigate the alleged misuse, under-remittance/non remittance and expenditure of Internally Generated Revenue by Ministries, Departments and Agencies. The report of the Ad-Hoc Committee is awaited with great impatience.
xi. On Legislative initiative on the North-East, the House constituted a standing Committee on Refugees, Migrants, Internally Displaced Persons and Initiatives on the North East Zone. Furthermore, the House passed a Resolution on Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Recovery and Development of the North East of Nigeria,
To request Mr. President to set up the machinery for the establishment of a NORTH EAST DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION, and also to facilitate the convening of an International Donor Conference or Summit as soon as possible for the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Recovery and Development of the North East Zone of Nigeria.
In addition, Public Hearing on establishment of a North East Development Commission has been concluded. The outcome/Report is awaited.
xii. We have made giant strides in law making: Law making has continued to be dominant among our three primary functions of law making, representation and oversight. We believe that for the Change Agenda of the Government to be achieved, the legislature must complement government policies and programmes with legislation such as introduction of new laws, review and amendment of existing archaic and obsolete laws.
- The past legislative session of the House can be considered as one of very high legislative activism compared to earlier periods. During the legislative session, June 9, 2015 – June 9, 2016, a total of 685 bills was received in the House. The bulk of these bills, indeed, about 98 percent, 675 were members’ bills, 10 executive bills. Out of the bills, 416 are awaiting 2nd Reading; 130 Bills have been referred to Committees; 3 bills are awaiting consideration. It is instructive to observe that 85 of these bills have been passed by the House so far.
- The number of Bills introduced in the last one year represents the highest annual consideration of bills by the House since the return to democratic governance in 1999. All the bills presented to the House have passed through first reading. Thanks to the dedication of all of you who realize the urgency of change and are more than prepared to sit in the Chambers from 11am to 5pm most legislative days. By this achievement we have demonstrated that change can only be achieved by positive actions and not by talk.
- A major factor in the heightened bills introduction in the House relates to the implementation of one of the elements of the Legislative Agenda, namely, Review of the Laws of the Federation. Early in the session, I inaugurated a Committee comprising renowned experts, jurists, lawyers, civil society advocates and other stakeholders with the DG National Institute of Legislative Studies as Chairperson. This Committee was charged with the responsibility of reviewing the current laws of the country with a view to updating them, recommending repeal of obnoxious and outdated laws, etc. After exhaustive review of the country’s laws and statutes, the Committee submitted two interim reports with over two hundred and fifty (250) laws reviewed. This has resulted in the unprecedented introduction of 130 bills which scaled first reading on a single day in 2015. And only yesterday, 8th June, 2016, 100 Bills were introduced for 1st Reading also.
- Let me seize this opportunity to thank all members of the Committee For their uncommon commitment and patriotism.
- On the issue of House Resolutions, the House has also done very well in the initiation and consideration of motions. More motions were proposed in the 2015/2016 legislative year than the motions proposed in any other legislative year since 1999. By June 8, 2016, 530 motions were introduced out of which 15 were withdrawn. Significantly also, the bulk of the motions moved were considered and resolutions passed accordingly. Public Petitions has remained a major tool for citizen access to the legislature. 306 Petitions were introduced in this legislative session and many have been processed.
xiii. On Sectoral Debates: In the context of the House Agenda, Sectoral Debates were introduced on various aspects of the Nigerian economy as part of legislative initiatives to address national problems. The First Phase dealt with the Diversification of the Economy and has been largely concluded. The House has already begun the novel debates beginning with diversification of the economy. I had explained during the commencement of the debates that the broad objective of the Sectoral Debates is to deepen engagement of Honourable members and the executive on national development policy issues and to promote the enactment of appropriate laws to enhance Nigeria’s economic growth and development. At the inaugural debate, six Ministers made presentations on the sectors they are overseeing.
The following Ministers made presentations:
Hon. Minister of Information and Culture (Tourism), Hon. Minister of Agriculture; Hon. Minister Of Solid Minerals Development; Hon. Minister of Communications; Hon. Minister of Industry, Trade & Commerce and finally, Hon. Minister of Finance. Not only has the prospects of crafting new laws improved, the debates will lead to better oversight performance. And very importantly, they have helped to improve executive-legislature relations. Subsequently, other themes will be examined in the course of the debates. The Sectoral Debates, being the first of its kind in Nigeria where specific time is being allocated to debates on various sectors of the economy, will be sustained.
xiv E-Parliament: E-Voting, Digitisation and Archiving:
The House Agenda committed to making e-voting a regular feature of House proceedings. This is a very important feature of the Legislative Agenda aimed at modernising the work of the House and creating a paperless and more efficient parliament. Some progress has been made on the E-parliament initiative which will operate on the platform of modern, up to date digital technology. An advisory Committee on e-parliament has been set up and it is expected to make recommendations on the implementation of all aspects of e-parliament in the Second Session of the House. And on May 26th, 2016, the House commenced the process of introducing electronic voting. Forms have been distributed to individual members to collate their data ahead of production of e-voting cards to all the 360 Members of the House.
The implication of the new system is that records of each member’s punctuality and voting patterns can easily be accessed by his/her constituents and members of the public. Greater responsibility and accountability is therefore called for on the part of all Honourable Members in the discharge of their constitutional responsibilities. Besides, we have also introduced the use of e-mails to send copies of the Notice Paper and Order Paper to Hon. Members. Our expectation is that in the Second legislative Session, electronic methods will be used to send Votes and Proceedings, Reports, Hansard and other parliamentary documents, to members.
No doubt, significant progress has been made on the implementation of the agenda of improving internal operations and processes. Notwithstanding, some areas remain to be effectively addressed in the Second Session and perhaps beyond.
xv. The House’s commitment is being robustly implemented by the Special Ad-Hoc Committee on Constitution Review of the House, headed by the Deputy Speaker. They are currently processing many Bills on alteration of the Constitution, which were referred to it by the House.
xvi. The 2016 Budget was controversial from the onset but the House handled the controversy with maturity, employing the democratic tools of dialogue, compromise and consensus by which an implementable 2016 Budget was passed and assented to.
xvii. House’s Interventions to Stabilise the polity:
i. The House summoned an emergency meeting on Monday, 16th May 2016 which is a non-plenary sitting day to discuss deregulation of Petroleum Downstream Sector, with the Hon. Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, who briefed the House on the rationale for the decision. The House proceedings served to enlighten both the Hon. Members and the entire nation on the contentious issues involved.
ii. Furthermore, the House invited the leadership of the NLC to a meeting, two days into the strike action embarked upon by the NLC and pleaded for the strike to be called off, which was heeded.
iii. Only yesterday, June 8, 2016 we met with the leadership of the National Association of Resident Doctors(NARD)in an attempt to force a resolution with relevant executive organs in order to obviate the need for the Association to embark on indefinite national strike capable of causing untold pains and hardship to our constituents.
iv. Other interventions, include our visits to the Internally-Displaced Persons (IDPs) Camps in many parts of Nigeria including Abuja, Adamawa and Edo States.
v. The House actively participated in several Inter-Parliamentary activities.
vi. The House is also organising a National Stakeholders Workshop on Legislative Framework for Petroleum Industry Reform in Nigeria to bring all the players in the industry together in order to resolve, once and for all the legislative quagmire and undo the chains that have tied the PIB to legislative darkness.
vii. Constituency Matters: Apart from budgetary support, Members of the House have been very active in constituency relations, which is a critical aspect of our representative function. Because of the importance attached to Constituency outreach matters, the House is organizing a National Conference on Political Representation and Constituency Relations to aid effective representation. It is hoped that this conference will proffer legislative and policy solutions on cooperative federalism model and practices. Constituency and zonal intervention programmes and projects require synergy between the Federal, State and Local Government Councils in the Federation to ensure sustainability in Nigeria.
It is clear, that the House has performed creditably in the implementation of its legislative Agenda in the 1st Session. We must collectively ensure that in the remaining Sessions of our tenure, greater attention is paid to implementing those aspects of the Agenda that are not fully or yet to be implemented. A strong foundation has been laid in the first Session and we have three more sessions to make a positive impact on the lives of Nigerians through relevant and effective legislation.
The fact that we have started very strong is not enough. We have to finish as strong if not stronger than we have started. As it is said: ‘the end of a matter is better than the beginning thereof’. That is what is right and that is what we must do. Doing anything less or else would amount to abdication of our sacred mandate as representatives of our people and that of the House as the bastion of democracy.
On this note, I wholeheartedly thank all of you for your support, solidarity and sacrifices made to achieve effective representation for our people.