How COVID-19 buried 9th Senate legislative agenda
Before the outbreak of the dreaded coronavirus known as COVID-19, the 9th Senate was making remarkable progress in achieving the legislative agenda it had rolled out to enhance stability of its activities.
The legislative agenda was framed in such a way to guide the parliamentary operations of the Senate, within four years.
But since the outbreak of COVID-19, the ambitious legislative agenda has not seen the light of day and the leadership of the Red Chamber is yet to rework the agenda to meet the current realities.
Of course, if the agenda is reworked, it will definitely enable the Senate find a better direction, and to formulate workable strategies in tackling the dangerous health challenge, and the general hardship faced by the nation.
Apart from the fact that the Senate explained that the legislative agenda was basically to enhance national development and stability, it also said critical sectors of the economy were seriously underdeveloped and there was urgent need to revamp them.
Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, had explained that the National Assembly is concerned that growth of critical sectors are forfeited, hence the legislative agenda.
In the agenda, the Senate had rolled out revitalisation of agriculture, industrialisation, power generation, return to January-December budget cycle, curb increasing youth unemployment, alleviate poverty and the menace of out-of-school children in the country.
Also, the Senate resolved to ensure the creation of special health centres in the six geopolitical zones, fast-track the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), electoral reform, block revenue leakages, Open National Assembly Policy and cut down Federal Government’s agencies, among others.
Other areas in the agenda included; security of lives and property, national unity and progress, fight against corruption, eradication of ethnicity, as well as, general development of infrastructure.
However, investigations have shown that as critical as the agenda, the 9th Senate has only so far achieved the revert of the budget cycle from January to December, and passed the PIB.
Senate had also constituted a committee to review the security architecture of the country, headed by the Senate Leader, Senator Yahayah Abdullahi. Also, it formed a 57-man committee to review the constitution, chaired by Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege . These committees are yet to even conclude their assignments. Their mandates seem to have been overtaken by COVID-19 pandemic.
The Senate committee on power, chaired by Senator Gabriel Suswam recently began work on power recovery plan. It has held an interactive hearing session on the motion.
As it is, several critical parts of the legislative agenda, such as unemployment, health, revitalisation of agriculture, power generation, the fight against corruption among others, are not yet achieved. No legislation has been enacted to tackle COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the Senate has been approving monetary requests from both domestic and foreign borrowings, sent to it by the executive. A law has not been enacted to address the current health challenge the people are faced with.
It is expected that the Senate, like the House of Representatives, should by now kick start rework of the agenda to meet the COVID-19 realities.
To meet up with the contemporary challenges, occasioned by the dreaded Covid-19 pandemic, the House of Representatives at it’s one year anniversary, few weeks ago, launched a revised legislative agenda identifying 10 key policy areas: Healthcare Delivery; Education; Economy; Security; Agriculture & Food Security; Sustainable Power; Environment and Climate Change; Human Capital Development and Social Investment; Governance; and The Parliament.
Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila explained that the evolvement became imperative due to the pandemic, and to make sure a people-oriented legislation is achieved.
He said that the National Assembly would make legislations that can reflect the realities of COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.
“The National Assembly is all geared up already to make legislations and pass laws that will align with the situation we have found ourselves.
“So, it is incumbent and proper on us to rework that legislative agenda in line with our current realities and that’s what we are going to do,” Gbajabiamila stated.
Meanwhile, his counterpart in the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, is yet to explain whether or not the Red Chamber will also be reworking its legislative agenda, like the House of Representatives did.
The Senate leadership is yet to officially state any position on the matter. It has not mentioned or deliberated the legislative agenda in plenary recently.
Ola Awoniyi, Special Adviser on Media to Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, when contacted via telephone said he did not have information on the issue and referred the matter to the Senate Spokesperson, Senator Ajibola Basiru.
Awoniyi said: “It is Senate Spokesperson, Senator Basiru that can respond on that matter. It is a Senate issue. Please I am sorry about that.”
Meanwhile, another Senator, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said there are no plans by the Senate to rework the legislative agenda to fit current realities. He said, he cannot also categorically tell when a committee to that effect would be announced.
“Yes, the Senate will rework the legislative agenda. It is something it must do but no one knows when. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of issues. We were working seriously and you know that some of areas in the agenda were being achieved before the coronavirus pandemic surfaced. I can’t tell when the reworking will be done but certainly, may be very soon,” the Senator stated.
All efforts to get Senator Ajibola Basiru, Senate Spokesperson, failed as he could not respond to calls or text messages sent to his GSM number.