Reps pass Petroleum Industry Bill
• TMG urges Buhari to decline assent to its 46 bills
• Senate declines to override presidential veto on Constitution
THE House of Representatives, yesterday, passed the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) in a valedictory session to end the Seventh Assembly
And as the Seventh Senate came to an end also yesterday, out-going Senate President, David Mark, has taken responsibility for any shortcoming by the upper chamber even as a political watchdog, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), rejected the 46 bills passed Wednesday by the Senate National Assembly.
Mark also said his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was not interested in any of the leadership positions in the eighth Senate.
According to TMG, the legislators acted neither with recourse to due legislative process nor a sense of reflection about the implications of their action on the image of the country.
And yet again, attempts by the seventh Senate to redeem the Fourth Alteration Amendment Bill met a dead end yesterday as it failed to override the President’s veto.
The House had on Tuesday suspended the consideration of clause 209 of the PIB, due to issues. But on resumption of the consideration of the adhoc committee’s report, the outgoing members chorused ‘ayes vote’ when the Acting Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, put the questions on each of the clauses.
Ihedioha explained that the House took painstaking steps in constituting the adhoc committee on PIB in order to reflect the diverse interests of the country noting:
“I want to believe that the House has done its best and represented our constituencies very well. Barring last minute unforeseen circumstances, today may be our last sitting day.”
Ihedioha had on Tuesday expressed displeasure over the political wrangling that ensued when the Bill was considered on clause by clause basis.
The House had earlier passed 14 bills out of the 46 bills transmitted by the Senate on Wednesday for concurrence without following the regular legislative procedures. Majority of the members who attended the sitting through voice vote, supported the passage of the 14 bills including Nigerian Army Institute of Technology and Environmental Studies (Establishment) bill, National Social Welfare Commission (Establishment) bill, Labour Safety and Health bill, Acts Authentication Act, 1962 (Amendment) bill and Nigerian Football Association Act, Cap. N110, LFN, 2004 (Repeal and Re-enactment) bill.
Others are: Corporate Manslaughter bill, 2015; Animal Health and Husbandry Technologists (Registration) bill, 2015; Criminal justice (Release from custody) (Special provisions) amendment bill, 2015; Border Communities Development Agency (Amendment) bill, 2015; Hydro-Electric Power Producing Areas Development Commission (Amendment) bill, 2015; Nigerian Automotive Industry Development Plan (Fiscal Incentives, Assurances and Guarantees) bill, 2015; Engineers (Registration, etc) amendment bill, 2015 and Proceeds of crime bill, 2015 among others.
Mark said: “I and I alone take full responsibility for all omissions and commissions in the last four years during my tenure as President of the Senate but we all share in the glory and successes.
“Distinguished colleagues, whatever our achievements are, we are all well aware that we are yet to attain our goal. However, the seventh Assembly has laid a solid foundation which the eighth Assembly can build upon.”
TMG has also urged President Muhammadu Buhari not to assent to the bill.
Mark, who spoke at the valedictory session to mark the end of the Senate, noted that irrespective of their achievements, they did not attain their goal.
Mark also accepted that the last four years have been defining for Nigeria in many respects, including the rise in insurgency and the ruthless mayhem unleashed on Nigerians by the Boko Haram sect.
“There is no doubt that the Boko Haram crisis exposed serious cracks in our security system, challenged our unity, threatened our future and seriously dented our international image.
“We considered and approved emergency rule when we thought it was needed and declined request for extension when we thought that such an extension could not stem the tide of terrorism and insurgency in the affected states.
“Happily, the Nigerian Armed Forces have made significant gains in the fight against insurgency.
“The security challenges we faced in the last four years were not restricted to terrorism but included political violence, extremism, communal conflicts, militancy in the Niger Delta, maritime insecurity and transnational crimes,” Mark added.
Listing some of the key achievements of the immediate past Senate, Mark named Bill for an Act to amend the Terrorism (prevention) Act, 2012, approving of $1 billion loan for the executive for procuring arms and equipment needed to tackle security challenges in the country as well as assistance to the Ministry of Health in the fight against Ebola Virus Disease
He also informed that the Seventh Assembly has contributed in improving the country’s electoral process.
His words: “We have had a chequered history in our democratic journey. In the course of this, the legislature sought to improve our electoral system in several Acts of the National Assembly. Gladly, our efforts have helped to make our elections free, fair and credible. The year 2015 general elections is a testimony to this.
“Let me in all modesty say that the seventh Senate achieved some measure of success in the areas of the number of bills that were passed, motions moved, in our oversight functions and in our legislative duties.”
He listed some of the landmark bills passed by this Senate include but not limited to; Pension Reform Act 2014, National Health Act, Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act and the Terrorism (Prevention) Act. The seventh Senate confirmed a total number of 429 persons between 2011 and 2015.
“In spite of the difficult political and economic climate within which we worked and despite our own internal challenges, we can end this Senate convinced that we represented our constituents and Nigerians with the most noble of intentions and to the best of our abilities.
“ I must confess that within the last four years, we matured politically. That was why when some senators defected from one political party to the other, we still maintained one united Senate.”
On the report of the National Conference, which was recently transmitted to the National Assembly, Mark regretted that the report came rather too late.
“We gave a nod to the clarion call for a national conference but the report unfortunately came very late. However, as much as we tried, we did not meet all the targets we set for ourselves.
For instance, we were not able to pass the PIB and our constitutional amendment is stalled,” he said.
While wishing his colleagues who will not be returning a successful career outside the legislature, he desired that the returning Senate will complete some of the projects he began such as the National Assembly that would have its own Radio, Television station and a Specialist Hospital.
Responding to tribute by George Akume, Mark also ruled out the possibility of any member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) occupying any position in the leadership of the eighth Senate.
He was reacting to comment by Akume at the session, expressing gratitude to Mark for choosing to support his candidacy and that of Senator Ahmed Lawan for the leadership of the eighth Senate.
Mark quickly reminded his colleagues in the All Progressives Congress that he remains in PDP and as such, cannot meddle in the affairs of their party selecting their leaders.
Mark’s position effectively rested speculations and media reports of quiet moves by some prominent PDP members of the seventh Senate to occupy leadership positions in the eighth Senate due for inauguration on Tuesday.
Mark had on Wednesday, urged every Senator to be present yesterday as issues affecting the Constitution would be deliberated.
Accordingly, the matter was first in the Order Paper, indicating it would be given priority attention.
It was surprising, however, when after adopting the votes and proceedings of Wednesday, the Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, moved another motion to stand down the override of the President’s veto till another legislative day. It was immediately adopted and the issue was accordingly stepped down.
A motion for the override of the President’s veto sponsored by the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu and chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitution review was actually the first item on the order paper 0222 yesterday.
Curiously, no reason was given for the decision to step down Ekweremadu’s motion for override of President’s veto.
TMG, in a statement by its chairman, Comrade Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi, described what the lawmakers did as “disturbing, coming at a time the seventh National Assembly is winding down preparatory to the inauguration of the eighth Assembly.
“It is indeed the same impunity that became the hallmark running the Nigerian state in the recent past.
It was therefore not surprising that they ran the country aground.
“TMG condemns this subtle attempt by lawmakers to promulgate decrees instead of legislating for the good governance of Nigeria.
We take exception to the use of the nation’s democratic apparatus for acts of legislative rascality.
At TMG, we wonder why the seventh Assembly would choose the twilight of its session to embarrass Nigeria, at a time when our country is basking in the glorious milestone of