The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has assured that the 9th House is committed to the amendment of the constitution and the Electoral Act.
The Speaker also added that the House would give attention to the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), the Police Reform Bill, the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) amendment bill, among others.
The Speaker disclosed this when he hosted a team from the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), led by its Executive Director, Clement Nwankwo, during a courtesy call in his office on Thursday.
Gbajabiamila stated that the National Assembly would ensure a thorough work, which will help ensure the President assents to the bills, unlike what happened during the last Assembly, where both the constitutional and Electoral Act amendments bills were rejected by the President.
He said: “The roles of the CSOs, no doubt, we all know what your roles are anywhere in the world. You’ve enumerated quite a number of bills. As you know, the 9th House is a House of reforms. We’re going to be doing all that.
“You did talk about pending legislation such as electoral laws. We’re on the same page on this. We can’t move forward if we don’t understand the history and circumstances that led to the inability to do some things.
“The issue of reordering of elections, for instance, we felt it was targeted at the sitting president. You can’t do laws to target somebody. There was also the issue of who has the right to reorder elections. There were arguments that the constitution says INEC should do that.
“On the issue of police reform bill, we’ll look at it once again. On NABRO bill, we will also look at it. The PIGB, the CAMA Bill and the rest, we’ll work on them and get them to the president for his assent.”
Responding to the concerns raised by the PLAC Executive Director about regulations targeting non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the Speaker said whatever the House would do would be to strengthen their activities, noting that regulations are normal in every society.
“I want us to be very objective when we talk about nation building. The NGOs are so important. If you mean well, you cannot strangulate NGOs. But the freedom to operate mustn’t be to the detriment of the state.
“We had a meeting with the service chiefs where they made allegations about some NGOs. You and I know that there are some NGOs that are giving others a bad name. We want to strengthen NGOs, we’re not going to kill them. No. We want to make your work more efficient.
“We should have a public hearing where all of us will sit down and discuss these issues. I agree that regulations hamper businesses, but NGOs are not businesses. There’s nothing wrong with regulations. Once we find a lacuna somewhere, we have to amend. Even the constitution is amended. You just talked about the Electoral Act. So, we have to come in when we see things go wrong,” he noted.
In his remarks, Nwankwo, who commended the leadership of the House for a smooth take-off with the way the standing committees were constituted, said some of the people-oriented motions considered so far by the House were laudable.
He specifically noted the House resolution, which directed the Nigerian Army authorities to suspend the plan to begin identifying Nigerians using identity cards.
Nwankwo further called on the House to give adequate attention to pending legislation such as the amendments to the Electoral Act, the Constitution, Police Reform bill, CAMA bill, the PIGB, the National Assembly Budget and Research Office (NABRO) bill, among others.