By Christiana Ekpa
The House of Representatives yesterday disclosed that it passed 352 out of 1643 bills presented in the life span of the 8th Assembly, resolved 1413 out of the 1588 motions sponsored and considered 205 out of the 1192 petitions received.
Edward Pwajok, Chairman Rules and Business Committee of House who gave this breakdown Thursday at the valedictory session of the 8th Assembly stated that, “in the first session, 685 bills were introduced and 68 were passed”.
Pwajok said, “in the second session, 379 bills were introduced and 41 were passed. In the third session, 446 bills were introduced and 94 were passed. In the fourth session, 143 bills were introduced and 63 were passed. The total I repeat, 1643 bills that we presented and 352 were passed.
“For motions, 1413 were resolved, 1137 were referred to various committees, 17 were withdrawn and 1 was deferred leaving a total of 1588. The House received and lay on the table, 1192 petitions, lay and yet to be consider 22, considered on the floor of the House 205, and rejected 2. 108 of the bills came from the Senate, 1465 of the bills were private members bills”.
On other areas of achievement of House during the period under review, he said, “this 8th Assembly made history by altering our constitution.
This Assembly successfully alter many sections of the constitution, including giving the State Legislature and Judiciary financial autonomy.
“We also lower the age limit for those contesting in the not too young to run bill, which opened up the space for our younger citizens to offer themselves to be voted for offices.
“We also amended the constitution so that if there is any vacancy or something happen to Mr. President, the Vice President will not only step in but retain power and the same thing too for governors.
“It is through this Assembly that private members bill changed democracy day from May 29 to June 12. It is this Assembly that increased the minimum wage to N30, 000 as against the 27, 000 proposed by the executive.
“There are many progressive bills passed which are awaiting assent. There is one to remove age discrimination because we have earlier declared state of emergency on unemployment so that our employed youths and graduates will receive favourable attention by the public service.
“Abolition of first degrees and HND dichotomy, granting married women in the public service options of citizenship, either citizenship of their father or husbands, repel and enactment of new company and allied company act which has not been amended since 1990 to ease doing business in Nigeria.
“Prohibition of estimated billing by electricity distribution companies, establishment of the North East Development Commission and also we have passed the South East Development Commission bill,
“Apart from bills which is the core function of the Legislature which is to make law, the 8th Assembly pursued its representational role as elected representative of the people to speak for the people of Nigeria, passed many resolutions covering all areas of our national life that concerned the people from insecurity to terrorist attacks, murder, kidnapping, killings, education, health, Nigeria in diaspora, unemployment, youth, women, etc.
“In terms of oversight responsibility of the House, we investigated many of the Ministries to expose corruption in line with section 58 of the constitution. It is the deliberations of the House on members motion that get the police and other government agencies to embark on using local governments as a basis for recruitment using Federal Character principles”.
Declaring the 8th Assembly closed, Yakubu Doagra, Speaker of the House lamented that outgoing National Assembly was the most persecuted and harassed in Nigeria’s history.
Dogara stressed that, “the parliament was not designed to be an alter of praise for the Executive but a co-equal branch to serve as a check on Executive power”.
He also added while speaking, that the 8th Assembly has been a huge success with unprecedented records set in legislative business.
While expressing appreciation to all the Leaders and Members of the House for the confidence reposed in him by electing him Speaker of the 8th Assembly, he also thanked them for the cooperation the Leadership enjoyed throughout the four unbroken years he was in charge.
On the state of insecurity in the country, he stressed that it is only when a leadership throws out politics and partisanship out of the window and reins in all best human and material resources to confront these menacing challenges and unites to confront this very danger that the needed progress will be seen.
“It appears we are losing the fight against violence and as if that is not bad enough, the situation is so dire that known statesmen are becoming petrified and speaking up in ways that may further rend our national fault lines. It is like we refused to hear the whispers and now the screams are threatening our ear drums.
“This is a national problem that we can only solve if we pull ourselves together and not apart; regardless of political persuasions or creed. The challenge is to get the leadership that throws out politics and partisanship out of the window. Leadership that reins in all our best human and material resources to confront these menacing challenges. Yet, instead of uniting to confront this very danger, all one hears are sermons of divisiveness and permutations for 2023 elections. I wonder daily if this is not how the bottom looks like,” he stated.
Speaking on the achievements make by the 8thHouse due to the unity and cooperation of members, the speaker said, “This wonderful cooperation, no doubt, enabled us to have a very stable and peaceful 8th House of Representatives and to set records that have no parallels in our history of law making as a nation.
“Honourable Colleagues, on your behalf, I make bold to say that the 8th House of Representatives, and the National Assembly as an institution, has been a huge success. This is without apology to whoever may hold a contrary opinion. The stubborn facts are out there for every commentator to see. We took off amidst head winds and turbulence but on stabilising, we have witnessed book throwers and table climbers transform into solid leaders. We have seen mace grabbers wrestled until they surrendered to the dictates of the Rule of Law, true friendship and brotherhood. We have witnessed the transformation of those who struggled to move mere motions to eloquent debaters and to crown it all, those who, at inception did not understand themselves, working together, in spite of whatever differences, for the national good. This is the spirit that defines us as legislators, the institution of the legislature; and I am happy we embraced it fully.”
He added, “The 8th House holds the record as the most persecuted and harassed Parliament, ever in Nigeria’s history. Some of our members bear the scars of reckless deployment of Institutional prerogatives.
We witnessed sieges and invasion by State operatives. Some members suffered witch-hunts, house arrests and false accusations. We are also witnesses to barrage of uncharitable criticisms and assessments bandied on daily basis in the media by hired mercenaries who masquerade as analysts. Most of these analysts are ignorant of the fact that the parliament was not designed to be an alter of praise for the Executive but a co-equal branch to serve as a check on Executive power.”
Hon Dogara added that he feels fulfilled as a leader because of the fact that, bolstered by the spirit of patriotism and nationalism, the 8th Assembly of the House of Representatives was able to sustain the legacies of previous parliaments by ensuring that the House was not compromised or exploited.
He stated, “The job of parliaments all over the world is to escalate constructive conflict. It is our job to search for the truth and without the clash and compromise of ideas, the truth can never be found. Everything loses its meaning in the absence of the truth.
Anyone who sees disagreement or conflict as inherently bad has no business leading a democracy because we are not likely to ever see any healthy democracy that is not productively noisy.
“This House and indeed the legislature, must always engage in debates about both pleasant and unpleasant issues, if it must continue to do the work of democracy.
“Progress ceases the very day we cease to disagree. Every invention, every innovation has always come from someone who disagreed with the status quo. That is why the Athenian law maker, Solon, undoubtedly one of those who cradled Democracy, once decreed it a crime for citizens to shrink from controversy. No Parliament anywhere can win a popularity contest and Parliaments are not meant to receive praise.
Any Parliament that receives praises, especially from the Executive, must be an assemblage of enablers who have abandoned fidelity to their oath of office.
“To the chagrin of some, I am happy that this Assembly, just like others before it, did not allow partisanship to erode our system of checks and balances.”