Principal Positions, Juicy Committees & Exotic Cars: The Senate and House of Reps were rocked with controversy as regard filling leadership positions – Senate Presidency, House Speakership, their deputies and principal officers. Consequently, when it came to chairmanship of committees, some discontented committee chairmen actually resigned from their appointment to ‘non-juicy’ committees. Next in line was the purchase of cars. The Senate reportedly splashed ₦4.7B on the procurement of Toyota Land Cruisers Sport Utility Vehicles for 109 members. While the House of Representatives budgeted ₦3.6B, but went for ‘Naija-made’, actually Naija-assembled Peugeot 508 Salon cars for 360 members.
OpenNASS: The National Assembly’s budget for 2016 was released to the public as ₦115B. However, there was no element of detail as to what the money was intended for. Numerous times, SP Saraki promised and failed to make the details public. Once again, in the process of marking this anniversary, he said: ‘We have directed that the breakdown of the national assembly budget be posted on our website. It will not be business as usual.” We wait to see!
Frivolous Petitions Bill (Anti-Social Media Bill): This is arguably the most controversially vexing of all occurrences at the 8th NASS so far. It was a bid to regulate citizen’s free use of social media. Following lashings, newspaper articles, media rants and law suits, the proposed bill was withdrawn by its sponsor, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah.
Ministerial Screening & Appropriation Bill: More than ever before, young Nigerian citizens paid attention to the screening process of ministerial nominees. But it was rather disappointing as the lawmakers’ performance was far from being thorough. Consequently, the budget proposal was presented to NASS in December 2015. The original budget size was ₦6.08T. It went down to ₦6.07T and eventually came out as ₦6.06T. Following 4 months of drama and accusations the budget was passed in April, and signed by the president in May.
Grazing Bill: Following series of violent attacks by herdsmen on farmers in the middle belt, there were reports that NASS was considering passing a bill to mandate allocation of land in all states for Fulani herdsmen. The resulting outcry led to lawmakers denying the existence of any such bill. However, 13 northern states have now voluntarily contributed land portions for grazing purposes.
SP Saraki's trial at CCB: Mixed with many politicizing, controversies and delays, the Senate president’s trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal continues. Watch out for the next season.
Attempt to amend CCB/CCT Act: Seeming like a bid to favour SP Saraki in the trial at CCT, the Nigerian Senate being presided by VSP Ekweremadu sought to amend the CCB/CCT Act. Citizens were quick to blast them; hence, the move was stopped by the Senate. However, the same bill was amended by the federal Reps a week later with the introduction of 10 new provisions.
Kogi Assembly Take Over: In line with the provisions of Section 11 (4) of the 1999 Constitution, the House of Reps took over the Kogi State House of Assembly following unresolved conflicts among the elected state lawmakers. Nevertheless, both the state governor and the federal minister of justice questioned the legality of the take-over. Federal reps have accused the governor of encouraging five out of the 25-member legislature to continue to sit in spite of the said take-over. The governor has been summoned to appear before a panel chaired by majority leader, Femi Gbajabiamila. The House said it derived its powers to summon the governor under sections 88/89 of the constitution. This has been somewhat questioned as well. Question is – will Governor Bello appear before the panel? If he doesn’t, what will the reps do?
E-Parliament & Constitution Review: The House of Representatives has emerged the first of the 2 chambers to respond to citizens’ call for an e-parliament. We still wait on the Senate. Nevertheless, the latter has done well to livetweet plenary proceedings and last week made a commitment to live streaming. On another major note, after much lingering, the constitution amendment process is back on track. The ad-hoc committees in the two chambers are chaired by DSP Ekweremadu and DS Lasun.
We must conclude the amendment by the end of the year... Let us amend the areas we all agreed on because we may not agree on all the issues…
– SP Saraki