By Musa Baba Adamu
The Senate has outlined the priority legislations it will focus on in 2021, just as it listed the various milestones it recorded in the outgoing 2020, despite the Coronavirus pandemic.
In a new year message to Nigerians which he personally signed, the Senate President, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, said the Coronavirus pandemic could not get the best of Nigeria like it did in other countries because the 9th National Assembly had well ahead prepared for it through its various legislative activities.
According to the new year message, “The year 2020 was full of challenges on the economic, security, health and other fronts for most nations of the world. Thankfully, however, the challenges could not dampen our hope for a better future for us as individuals and as a nation.
“As a Legislature, we had prepared ahead for the vagaries that will for long be associated with 2020 by making the necessary legislation for facilitation of good governance and economic growth. Ahead of the year, we had restructured our fiscal year to a more predictable January to December cycle and ensured that our budget for 2020 was ready for the new structure. We made the change to enhance economic activities and growth.
“The outbreak of the novel Coronavirus pandemic and the shutdown of the economy that it enforced adversely affected every country in the world as it did our own economic projections and preparations. One of the worst results for Nigeria was the slide again into recession, just a few years after we had recovered from one.
“Despite this situation, we can thank God that the impact of the global health emergency and economic recession on Nigeria is not as catastrophic as was predicted by experts. I believe that this was not out of luck but because we did not delay in appropriately fine tuning and adjusting our plans in the light of the developments.”
He said the resurgence of the pandemic will not also inflict on Nigerians the disaster being witnessed in other parts of the world if, as a government and as a people, they do not let down their guard and take useful lessons from what is happening elsewhere.
“We, therefore, need to prepare better than before for the New Year 2021 and the years ahead. We have to ensure for our people better governance processes and dividends of democracy despite the prevailing circumstances.
“The ninth National Assembly has remained firm on its policy of passing the national budget in December preceding the fiscal year and we have done so for 2021. We have also passed a series of enactments proposed by the Executive as Finance Bills to support smooth implementation of the 2021 budget. We are determined to see Nigeria exit, as quickly as possible in the new year, from the current recession.
“In our pursuit of this objective, we have granted the request by the Executive for permission to utilise the unspent capital votes of 2020 up to March, 2021. We believe that allowing the implementation of this outstanding capital component of the 2020 budget to run concurrently with the 2021 budget will inject more funds to the economy.
“More importantly, some critical legislations that we could not enact in 2020 as a result of the unusual development which I have mentioned are now on the priority list of the Legislative Agenda of the National Assembly for 2021.
“Topmost on the priority list are the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which we need, to boost activities in our oil and gas sector. The PIB has defied passage for about two decades but we are determined this time around to break that jinx and pass the Bill by the end of the first quarter of the new year.
“It is our utmost desire to make the passage of the PIB one of the legacies of the ninth National Assembly. Equally important is the passage of the Electoral Reform Amendment Bill. This is necessary in order to enhance the democratic process of free, fair, transparent and credible elections in our dear country.
“We are determined to pass the Electoral Reforms Bill before the second quarter of 2021. Also on our priority list in 2021 is the amendment to the 1999 Constitution, which is the grundnorm of our being together as a nation. We have it on our agenda to pull through the process of constitutional amendment in 2021. The process which started in 2020 requires extensive consultations and the buy in of everybody.
“We will give accelerated consideration to any measures proposed towards the containment of the COVID-19. In this regard, the National Assembly is waiting for the Executive to propose supplementary appropriation for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccine. In the meantime, we should continue to adhere strictly to the non-pharmaceutical protocols as prescribed by relevant health authorities.
“The issue of security in the country has always been top on our agenda and it will continue to be of utmost priority in 2021. We hope to sustain our collaboration with the Executive for a lasting solution that will make our country a safer place to live in.”