Two years after the 9th Senate: how far?

Deji Elumoye and Udora Orizu X-ray the Ninth Senate, two years after its inauguration in June 2019

Shortly after the April 2019 general election, the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) party routed Ahmad Lawan, a senior senator, who has been a member of the National Assembly since the start of the Fourth Republic. in 1999 and the Honorable Femi Gbajabiamila, senior member of the Green Chamber since 2003 as Speaker of the Senate and Speaker of the House respectively. This ultimately happened when the duo emerged on Tuesday, June 11, 2019, from the presidents of the Ninth National Assembly.

Shortly after its inauguration, the Ninth Senate rolled out its legislative program, which they said would be the framework that would guide their operations over the next four years. On the agenda, the upper house decided to bring Nigeria back to the January-December budget cycle, approve legislative frameworks to curb rising youth unemployment, speed up passage of the Bill on the oil industry, the electoral law, to block the leakage of revenue, the security of life and property, fight against corruption, etc.

Summary of the first year in function

The Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Ahmad Lawan’s first year in office, introduced dozens of bills, a few of which passed second reading and several motions passed in plenary, resulting in elicited praise or criticism from lawmakers.

On the motions, several senators had sponsored and adopted several motions, including those condemning extrajudicial killings, the prohibition on importing textiles, the motion on 20 trillion undelivered stamp duties, the prevention of blindness, the motion calling for the resignation of department heads due to growing insecurity, the rape sentence motion to name a few.

The Lawan-led Ninth Senate has also made efforts and interventions in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic by donating half of their March 2020 salary to fight the pandemic and blaming the executive for putting implementation of the social investment program (SIP).

The senators also ensured the rapid adoption of the 2020 budget, the budget bill, the law on public procurement, the bill on sexual harassment, the bill on the fight against discrimination based on sex in the police, zonal commission bills, national health emergencies bill, appropriation (amendment) bill 2020, etc. at.

However, the Ninth Senate in its first year was known to have introduced a social media bill and a hate speech bill. The bills were condemned by Nigerians, claiming that their provisions would violate the basic human rights of citizens. Interestingly, the bills appear to have been confined to the trash, as more than a year after public hearings were held condemning the provisions of the two “notorious” bills, they have not been introduced. again in front of the Red Chamber.

In second year

With the start of the second legislative year in June 2020, senators, as usual, introduced and passed several bills at second reading, passed motions in plenary, and continued their oversight function.

Federal lawmakers also maintained the January-December budget cycle, making it the second budget to adopt the January-December cycle since the Buhari administration reverted to the old practice in 2020.

The security challenges facing the country have also become central to discussions in the Senate on several occasions over the past year. From insurgency to banditry, including killings of shepherds, arson in several markets and public institutions, etc., several security related bills and motions have been passed by senators.

The Red Chamber had, during various sessions, called for a state of emergency on insecurity. Little did come of it, with the president ignoring various upper house resolutions.

This did not deter lawmakers, however, as they continued to talk about the worsening insecurity and propose resolutions to the government executive.

In April, as part of efforts to address the country’s security challenges, the Senate decided to strengthen laws against illegal weapons.

Speaking at the public hearing on the Firearms Bill 2021 (Amendment) and the Exclusive Economic Zones (Repeal and Re-enactment) Act 2021, Senator Uba Sani said the current security situation of concern in the country must be urgently addressed.

Sani, who is the sponsor of the Firearms Bill (Amendment), expressed concern that the proliferation of illegal weapons and ammunition in the country with little or no control by the relevant authorities has profound implications for the collective survival of Nigerians and Nigeria.

Lawan, for his part, called for increased funding for security agencies. Lawan, who made the call in various forums, said security personnel needed more resources to enable them to carry out their duties effectively.

Although the Ninth Senate has made some progress in passing bills, motions and interventions aimed at improving the lives of Nigerians, with the emergence of Lawan and Gbajabiamila as senior officials of the National Assembly, it is appeared that the principle of checks and balances may have disappeared. Since the duo took office, almost all of the applications solicited by President Muhammadu Buhari have received express approval.

For example, despite the country’s debt profile, the 9th National Assembly continues to approve several loan requests from President Buhari. Last year, lawmakers approved a $ 5.5 billion loan request from the president to fund the 2020 budget deficits. The request came weeks after lawmakers approved an 850 billion naira loan for the federal government and another loan of $ 22.79 billion.

Recently, Buhari wrote to the Senate seeking approval for an external loan of 2.3 trillion naira ($ 6.18 billion) to finance the 2021 budget deficit of 5.6 trillion naira.

The president also asked lawmakers for simultaneous approval of a total of $ 3,837,281,256 plus € 910,000,000 and a grant component of $ 10,000,000 for donor fund projects under the plan. 2018-2020 Federal Government External Loan Slippage. The new demands come a month after the Senate and House of Representatives approved $ 1.5 billion and € 995 million in external borrowing for the federal government to fund various federal government priority projects and to support state governments facing fiscal challenges. Although Nigerians have expressed concerns about the current decision, it still would not prevent lawmakers from approving loan applications.

Regarding key pending bills, Lawan assured Nigerians in various forums that they would ensure passage of the long-awaited Oil Industry Bill, Election Law Amendment Bill, etc. .

The Senate Speaker said the National Assembly will pass the Petroleum Industry (GDP) Bill and Electoral Amendment Bill by the first quarter of 2021.

However, lawmakers failed to deliver on their promise, prompting a reaction from civil society organizations (CSOs), who lamented their inability to conclude and forward the electoral law amendment bill to President Muhammadu Buhari. for approval, claiming it had to be done by June 12, 2021.

On the revision of the 1999 Constitution, the Senate, as part of its legislative program promises, is on the verge of giving the Nigerian people what they have described as the people-centered constitution.

The Senate ended with a zonal and national public hearing on the constitutional review with zonal public hearings held in 12 centers across the six geopolitical zones as well as a national public hearing in Abuja, which ended last week. .

While lawmakers are optimistic about the success of the exercise this time around, many Nigerians have expressed doubts about the ability of the 9th National Assembly to pass the necessary constitutional reforms, due to Lawan’s latest positions on the question of restructuring.

Responding to a call from the governors of the South at their meeting in Asaba, capital of Delta state, last month, Lawan called on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately convene a national dialogue with a view to restructuring the country, said that restructuring must start from individual states.

Regarding the investigations, the senators also failed to inform Nigerians of the results of several investigations launched by certain committees of the Red Chambers.

With the third legislative year of the Ninth Senate starting on June 11 of this year, it is hoped that the upper legislative chamber will pass key bills like GDP, election law, etc. and will also keep its promise to amend the 1999 constitution before proceeding further. his annual vacation in July, this year.

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