No fewer than 40 out of the 48 bills so far passed by the Ahmad Lawan-led 9th Senate, are awaiting either the presidential assent, or the House of Representatives’ concurrence, Saturday PUNCH investigation has revealed.
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Also, no fewer than 160 out of 287 bills passed by the Bukola Saraki-led 8th Senate were not given assent by the President, according to findings by Sunday PUNCH.
A summary of bills in the 9th Senate as of Wednesday May 5, 2021, obtained exclusively by our correspondent on Friday, revealed that the red chamber had so far introduced 717 bills, since its inauguration in June 2019.
Out of the figure, 130 bills are at various committee stages, 43 are awaiting second reading, 370 had been read for the first time, 126 are awaiting first reading, while 48 had been passed.
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While the House of Representatives had concurred to some of the proposed legislation and sent them for the assent of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), others are still awaiting the green chambers’ concurrence.
The breakdown further showed that the 9th Senate, in its first session, passed 13 bills between June 2019 and June 2020 while it passed 35 bills in its second session between June 2020 till date.
Some of the bills passed and already got presidential assents so far include, the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract Act 2004 (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
They also included the Finance Bill 2020, the Nigeria Police Bill 2020, the Amended Banking Bill 2020, the amendments to the Company and Allied Matters Act Bill 2020.
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Major bills receiving legislative attention at the various committees of the red chamber included the Electoral Act amendment Bill, and the Petroleum Industry Bill.
A bill sponsored by the Senator representing Oyo South, Kola Balogun, seeking to ban open grazing in the country, has not been listed for first reading.
The Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract Act 2004 (Amendment) Bill, 2019 amended the provisions of the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract Act 2004
The DOIBPSCA is aimed at shoring up Nigeria’s revenue earnings from oil and gas.
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Also, on December 31, 2020, the President signed the Finance Bill, 2020 (now Finance Act) into law.
The Finance Act, 2020, which has a commencement date of January 1, 2021, was signed into law alongside the 2021 Appropriation Bill (now Appropriation Act).
Buhari had earlier signed the Nigeria Police Bill 2020 into law.
The President, in a memo dated September 16, 2020, communicated his assent to the Bill to the National Assembly, through the Clerk to the federal parliament, Olatunde Ojo.
The Act repealed the Police Act Cap. P19. Laws of the Federation, 2004, and provides for a more effective and well organised Police Force, driven by the principles of transparency and accountability in its operations and management of its resources.
Among others, the Act establishes an appropriate funding framework for the police in line with what is obtainable in other Federal Government key institutions.
It enhances professionalism in the Force through increased training opportunities, and creates an enduring cooperation and partnership between the Police Force and communities in maintaining peace and combating crimes nationwide.
The President, on November 13, 2020 signed into law an amended Banks and Other Financial Institutions Bill that seeks to improve loan recovery and the overall resilience of the country’s financial system.
A key feature of the law is the introduction of “a credit tribunal to improve loan recovery and address the incidence of high non-performing loans within the financial system.’’
Buhari had also on August 8, 2020, signed the new Companies and Allied Matters Bill 2020 into law
The bill repealed the Companies and Allied Matters Act 1990, which had been in operation for 30 years..
The Act changes Nigeria’s corporate landscape by facilitating the ease of doing business, reducing regulatory hurdles and aligning corporate operations in Nigeria with global practices and procedures.
Meanwhile, the 8th National Assembly passed a total of 287 bills between June 2015 and May 2019 with Buhari, ignoring not fewer than 160 of them.
According to findings from Senate, the President ignored a substantial number of the bills passed by the 8th Senate for reasons best known to the executive.
However, some senators said the development might not be unconnected to the frosty relationship between the federal legislature at that time and the Presidency.
As of the end of the 8th Assembly an insignificant number of bills were assented to while a total of 48 picked for the President’s consideration were vetoed.
The remaining bills are still gathering dust in the President’s office while some federal lawmakers in the 9th Assembly, knowing full well that the proposed laws had died with the previous Assembly, had reintroduced many of them and they are currently at various stages of consideration.
Some of the bills presented again in the 9th Assembly had been passed and forwarded to the President and they are currently suffering similar fate on his table, unattended to.
Buhari had in 2019 cited duplication of functions between proposed agencies the bills seek to establish and the existing ones, to infractions on extant laws as some of the reasons for shunning the bills.
Our correspondent gathered that Buhari, in 2017, rejected 11 bills, including the National Broadcasting Commission (Amendment) Bill.
He also rejected 20 bills in 2018, including the popular Peace Corps Bill, the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, and the fourth amendment bill to the 1999 constitution.
Other bills that were vetoed in 2018 were the Stamp Duty (Amendment) Bill, the Advance Fee Fraud (Amendment) Bill, and of course, the 2010 Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018, which was rejected four times, the first being on the reordering of general elections and the last being because, according to the President, the elections were already too close and changing the rules would be confusing.
As of the time the 8th Assembly ended its legislative activities, Buhari had rejected 17 other bills between January and May 2019.
There are, however, indications that the proposed laws by the 9th Senate might suffer the same fate as those passed in the 8th National Assembly.
For instance, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, recently expressed dissatisfaction over the withheld assent to the bills so far passed during his tenure.
Lawan heaped the blame on some Buhari’s advisers and a few top government functionaries who, according to him, were the brains behind Buhari’s bills rejection.
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The Presidency on Friday offered explanations on why many bills duly passed by the National Assembly were being denied assent by the President.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Babajide Omoworare, told our correspondent that some of the new bills made provisions for agencies whose functions were already being taken care of by existing agencies of government.
He said, “The President always give reasons for withholding assent to bills. Some functions being given to agencies which the bills are meant to create are already being performed by an agency of government and there would be no point duplicating efforts.
“Also, the President considers the funds available to government before approving the establishment of new agencies or institutions, proposed in some bills which may be an additional burden on the government.’’