The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has assured Nigerians that the passage of bills and other legislative duties in the National Assembly will not be deterred by the commencement of the 2019 electioneering campaigns.
Campaigns for the 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections commenced on Sunday – according to the timetable of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
During this period, candidates are expected to travel across the country to lobby for votes in the forthcoming general election.
However, in a statement by his Special Assistant on Print Media, Chuks Okocha, in Abuja, Mr Saraki said the lawmakers are concerned and will follow through on the key bills because they are priorities to the 8th National Assembly and most of them were initiated by the legislative arm of government.
He said this while responding to comments by the Acting British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Harriet Thompson, who visited him at the National Assembly.
For the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), he said both chambers of the National Assembly worked very hard to come up with a unified position and sent it to the Executive.
“Unfortunately, it came back with some minor issues that we feel should not have affected the progress of the bill. These were issues that could have been easily addressed.
“The two arms of government must see that the most important thing is for us to get the PIGB going because it has a lot of impact on the industry in terms of transparency, accountability and ensuring that the revenues of the petroleum sector are well managed.
“As you know, we have also gone far with the fiscal and host community components of the bill, because it came about as a result of constant engagement with stakeholders in the industry. However, with this setback by the Executive, this has slowed down the process a little,” he said.
Speaking on the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) and the Police Reform Bill, he lawmaker said that the CAMA Bill was only waiting for the Concurrence Committee of both Houses of the National Assembly to finish its work, while the Police Reform Bill would soon be subjected to Public Hearing.
“I am hopeful that the CAMA will soon pass in the House of Representatives too. On the Police Reform Bill, we are hoping to have a public hearing very soon. As you know, this reform Bill came about as an immediate response by parliament to the increased reports of insecurity across the country.
“We took the decision to evaluate the security situation in the country, particularly the police, to see how best we could make the institution more effective and efficient. Unfortunately, as we work towards these reforms of the police, I must be honest, many of the actions of the police are seen to be quite partisan.
“We are hoping that the new Chairman of the Senate Committee on Police Affairs will set the ball rolling on this immediately. It is important that the Executive too must see the importance of this Bill so that we can work together and improve the efficiency and the level of Police performance,” Saraki said.
On the Discrimination Against persons with Disabilities Bill, Mr Saraki stated that the bill would soon be sent to the president for assent; while emphasising that he was still hopeful that the Gender Bill would be passed before the end of the 8th Assembly.
“On the Electoral Bill, we have passed that and sent it to the Executive. We have addressed all the concerns raised by Mr. President because we believe that that bill is important to improve the quality of our elections and our electoral process. We want an electoral process that will make our elections more credible. Therefore, I hope that the interest of the country should be the determining factor in the decision to assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
“Despite the fact that campaigns have started, all these important bills will still receive the desired attention from us to ensure that governance does not suffer and we can still make the lives of all Nigerians better,” the President of the Senate stated.
Earlier, the Acting British High Commissioner advised against relegating legislative duties to the background with the onset of campaigns for the 2019 general elections in the country.
“There are quite a number of bills in which we have key interests because we firmly believe that these bills are in the interest of the Nigerian people both in terms of their rights and in terms of their opportunities for economic development,” she said.