8th Senate And Its Parting Legislative Gifts

                                  

The current Senate session in the 8th National Assembly will become history in a matter of weeks. It will go down in history for many reasons – the good, the bad and the ungly. Under the leadership of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, the current Upper Legislative Chamber had on many occasions disagreed with the Executive arm of government. In fact, one can safely conclude that the Senate as presently constituted is the most confrotational with the Executive arm of government in recent times. It is noteworthy that, the Senate’s insistence on the respect for the rule of law and the principle of separation of powers as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (as amended) has always been the bone of contention with the Executive arm of government. Although, at various times, the Executive had also blamed the Senators or the National Assembly as a whole as being the cog in the wheel of progress in the implementation of the Change Agenda by President Muhammadu Buhari since inception in 2015. The frequent hostility is also not unconnected with the fact that the incumbent Senate President, Saraki, emerged as the number one Senator against the wish and directive of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). However, a lot of water had passed under the bridge since 2015 when the current Senate was inaugurated but the attendant consequences of the constant Executive-Legislative feud are manifest up till now. On one hand is the refusal of the Senate to confirm Ibrahim Magu as the substantive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) based on security report authored by the Department of State Service (DSS), while on the other hand is the non-assent to Bills in some instances, which are pro-people and dear to the lawmkers, by Mr. President. Meanwhile, despite the grandstanding, the Senate had recently gone on overdrive in the area of law making necessary for good governance, security and welfare of Nigerians. Of recent, the Senate passed into law, the Police Reforms Bill, Police Trust Fund Bill, the redrafted Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), Electoral Act (Amemdment) Bill otherwise called INEC Bill, NHIS Bill, and others that were redrafted and to be resent to the president for his assent so that the laws will become operational. Last week Wednesday, April 17, the outgoing Senate gave Nigerians a parting gift, among others, as it repealed the archaic 76-year-old colonial Nigeria Police Act and replaced it with the Police Reform Act 2019. When the Bill is assented to by President Buhari, the Nigeria Police Act, which came into force in 1943 under the colonial administration, will cease to be operational in the country. The Senate took the bull by the horn by repealing the colonial law and re-enacting a new one which will reposition the Nigeria Police and make it more people-friendly contrary to how it is presently perceived by the public. Also same day, the Senate passed the redrafted PIGB and the amended Electoral Act, 2010 after the rejection of earlier amendments by President Buhari. Buhari had rejected the amendments to the PIGB and the Electoral Act, 2010 as well as other Bills, citing constitutional constraints. However, senators last week resolved to rework some of the rejected bills in line with the president’s observations and retransmit same to him for his assent. The other Bills the Senate redrafted and passed last Wednesday were the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism Bill, 2019 and the National Research and Innovation Council Bill, 2019. Others were the Stamp Duties Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019; the National Agricultural Seed Council Bill, 2019; and the Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Senate’s decision to redraft the Bills was based on the recommendations of its Technical Committee on the rejected Bills chaired by Senator David Umaru. The committee recommended that the Senate should re-consider and pass 11 of the Bills, including five on the constitutional amendments; override the president’s veto on a constitutional amendment Bill, and the Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) Amendment Bill, 2018; and that the Senate should withdraw four other Bills. In a nutshell, the Senate has done a great work in its core legislative duties. In the four years of the Buhari administration, the Executive had only forwarded 11 Bills to the Senate, apart form the routine annual appropriations and supplementary budget proposals. Two of these Bills, the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill and the National Minimum Wage Bill, have been passed. One of the bills, the Money Laundering Prevention and Prohibition Act (amendment) Bill was withdrawn by the executive following the disagreement between the Attorney General and the chairman of the EFCC). “As a leader of the Eighth National Assembly, Dr. Saraki is proud that under his watch, the Senate has surpassed the records of all previous Senate in the number of bills passed, the significance of these Bills to the revival of the economy, the fight against insecurity and corruption, improvement in the provision of health service and the education sector, as well as better social service delivery to the generality of the people,” a statement from the office of the Senate President said on Monday in a reply to an attack on the leadership of the National Assembly by APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. It added that the Bills passed, motions moved, intervention made and frequent engagement with the people were all directed towards addressing the day to day issues that affect the lives of the ordinary Nigerians. “This Senate has passed 282 Bills (the highest any Senate had passed is 129 Bills recorded by the 5th Senate), among which is the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, Public Procurement Act (amendment) Bill, Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, Electoral Act (amendment) Bill. “Police Reform Bill, Police Trust Fund Bill, Nigeria Railways Authority Bill, Company and Allied Matters Act (amendment) Bill, Secured Credit Transactions Act, Whistleblowers Protection Bill, constitution amendment bills, Discrimination Against Persons With Disability Bill, Electronic Transaction Bill, Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. “North East Development Commission (NEDC) Act, Witness Protection Programme Bill, Credit Bureau Reporting Bill, Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educational Institution Bill and Compulsory Treatment and Care of Victims of Gunshots Bill, National Financial Intelligence Agency Act, Federal Audit Services Commission Bill, among others,” it noted.

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