- PIB, electoral reform to get lawmakers’ attention
Nigerians will have the opportunity to decide whether the controversial Hate-Speech Bill will be passed, Senate President Ahmad Lawan promised on Monday.
The Hate-Speech Bill has attracted barrage of attacks from prominent Nigerians since it was presented by its sponsor, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi.
According to Lawan, there is an opportunity for every interested person to say if they wanted the bill passed or not.
He said: “Hate speech (bill) is one issue that has elicited so much reaction from Nigerians.
“Personally, I’m happy that everybody is talking. It is not for members of the National Assembly alone to deal with the Hate-Speech Bill.
“Like I said at the beginning, it is for every interested person. If you say the Hate-Speech Bill should not pass, when they conduct the public hearing, get as many people against the bill as possible to attend the public hearing and make their case.
“I am sure it is better for me to stop to talk about hate speech so that I don’t also engage in hate speech.”
Lawan spoke on Monday while unveiling the activities of the Senate under his leadership in the last six months.
On the labeling of the National Assembly as a rubber stamp, Lawan said it would only be proper to say so if it was doing “rubber stamp” biddings of the Executive.
He said: “Let me take this opportunity to appeal, judge us by what we do. Judge us by our actions. We have undertaken so many actions so far, and the press has been in this journey with us. Please judge us by what we do and what we don’t.
- “There is no way we can for example pass into law something that will be inimical to the people of Nigeria. No, we can’t.
“But we will do everything possible to ensure that we legislate on what will make life better for Nigerians and we have shown the sign so far.
“We have tried in the Senate to remain united, focused and deliver on what is good for Nigeria. So far, I think we have not done anything to show that even if a request is against Nigerians, it will be passed.
“But I don’t want to even imagine a situation where the National Assembly will be mean to Nigerians because we are a microcosm of Nigeria.
“That settles the issue of rubber stamp. Because when we do rubber stamp, you can say this is rubber stamp. But if we do what is right, please encourage us because it helps.”
Lawan promised that the 9th National Assembly would do things differently to break the jinx with the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) next year.
He added that the Senate as a matter of urgency, had prioritised the consideration of the PIB alongside reforms of the Electoral Act on return from the Christmas break in January.
He said: “The Petroleum Industry Bill was first introduced in the National Assembly in 2007 but it is yet to be passed in its entirety.
“The National Assembly will this time around adopt a different approach to make the passage of the PIB a reality.
“We want to see a situation where the Legislature and the Executive work very closely to have a PIB that will attract investment into the oil and gas sector.
“We want to create an investment climate that will be competitive. We know some other countries have this product; therefore we have to be competitive. We have to create an environment where the businesses make profit.
“This is a journey that involves everyone. We want both government – and that includes the legislature and executive – on the one hand and other relevant stakeholders in the sector, particularly the IOCs (International Oil Companies) to work together to ensure that this environment we are trying to create is an environment that will work for all of us.”
Lawan said the Electoral Reforms Bill is also of great priority to the National Assembly.
“The Electoral Reforms Amendment Bill is a priority because of the urgent need to improve our electoral processes and secure the democratic gains that we have made in the Fourth Republic.
“We want to pass the bill well ahead of the next electoral cycle in 2023 and avoid the political heat and pitfalls that imperiled the efforts of the Eight National Assembly which passed the same bill close to the last general elections.
“We are not oblivious of the interest and concerns some of these bills have generated from the public. But, we must not forget that lawmaking is a rigorous process that allows for all sides of the argument to be heard and the true will of the people established before a bill becomes law.”
“This Senate and indeed the ninth National Assembly will not pass any bill that is not in the national interest. Ours is and will remain a Senate that will always work for Nigerians. “
The Senate President said in the last six months, the Senate recorded a feat with the passage of six critical bills needed to accelerate the economy.
He added that the bills would complement the successful implementation of the 2020 budget which was recently passed by the National Assembly.
Among the critical bills passed are the Deep Off-shore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract Act and the Finance bills.
“The three other bills that we have passed are the Public Procurement Act 2007 (Amendment) Bills, 2019, which we did to sanitise the public procurement process and curtail the incidence and influence of corruption.
Lawan added: “Aside from the six bills that were passed, 185 bills have also gone through first reading in the ninth Senate, while 32 other Bills have passed second reading and are now undergoing the necessary further legislative processes at the relevant Senate committees.
”As part of its statutory roles, the ninth Senate has also confirmed 12 key appointments, including those of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, ministers, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, President of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria; and chairmen and members of eight commissions, services and corporations.
Lawan added that the Senate had, within the past six months, received 78 public petitions which were referred to its committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions.
Most of these petitions, according to him, were presented by private citizens with grievances against agencies or agents of government.
He assured that severance allowances of legislative aides who served in the Eighth National Assembly would be paid by the end of this week.