Issues that would dominate the Senate in 2020

Consequently, as the apex chamber of the National Assembly resumes plenary on January 28, 2020, after its Christmas and New year recess, it is expected to give priority attention to the passage of the bills on the Petroleum Industry Bill(PIB), Electoral Reforms Amendment Bills and Amendment of the 1999 Constitution.

“When we come back, we are going to face very serious legislations that are required in Nigeria, Lawan told his colleagues shortly before the Senate adjourned for the Christmas and New year break.

“First, is the Petroleum Industry Bill(PIB). The PIB has defied solution since 2007 when the executive brought the bill and it couldn’t pass. In 2011, it brought it again, it couldn’t pass. In 2015, the legislature took it up in a broken version, it couldn’t pass.

“Now, we have to act differently. The executive and the legislature would work very closely on this and come up with a legislation on the PIB that would be in the interest of Nigeria but also protect the investments that are here, and even encourage more investments to come in.

“We are also going to look into the issue of constitutional amendment. There are so many issues that today require the attention of the legislature, of the National Assembly, particularly in the amendment of the constitution to make governance better.

“But we also have to do a lot on the electoral reform. Every election gives us the opportunity to see the strength and weaknesses of our electoral laws,” Lawan said.

The Electoral Reforms Amendment Bill addresses an urgent need to improve the electoral process. The lawmakers want to pass the Bill well ahead of the next electoral cycle in 2023 to avoid a repeat of the situation whereby the president declined assent after the eight National Assembly passed the same bill close to the 2019 general elections.

Some of the bills currently being considered by the Senate have stoked concerns from the public. Two of the most controversial are the anti-hate speech bill and the bill seeking to regulate the use of social media in Nigeria. But as Lawan has pointed out, “lawmaking is a rigorous process that allows for all sides of an argument to be heard and the true will of the people established before a bill becomes law.”

Meanwhile, at a media lunch in Abuja on December 16, the President of the Senate, called on Nigerians with strong views on these bills, and indeed on any other one, to attend the public hearings, adding that they can represent their positions before the lawmakers, fellow Nigerians and the watching world.

“It is through involvement in processes like this that the legislature can produce robust laws that will consider various opinions.

“On behalf of my distinguished colleagues, I pledge that we, as elected representatives of the people, will always ensure that the will of our people is pivotal in our legislative business. This Senate and indeed the ninth National Assembly will not pass any bill that is not in the national interest. Ours is and will remain a Senate that will always work for Nigerians,” Lawan assured..

The decision to begin with the power sector is easily understandable. The government in recent years has invested billions of dollars in this sector, but the problems of inadequate power supply have continued to plague Nigeria without let.

Even the subsequent privatization of the sector made no visible impact as power supply has remained epileptic across the country and desperately needs fixing.

The lawmakers believe that solid Minerals and Agriculture offer great potential to transform the Nigerian economy and the government’s revenue profile and wean the country from its overdependence on oil revenue.

“We are still expecting the reports of the relevant Committees on these three sectors but I can assure Nigerians that this Senate is ready and willing to confront all these problems head-on through appropriate legislative interventions,” the Senate President assured.

It is instructive to note that despite his earlier commitment not to succumb to some analysts prediction that as a loyal party man, Lawan would be used as rubber stamp by the Executive to drive its agenda, his body language in presiding over the affairs of the upper chamber appears to have betrayed him. Be that at it may, Nigerians still believe that he has a date with history in his administration of the affairs of the Senate in particular and National Assembly in general.

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