By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The Senate yesterday made a mockery of the labourious task of legislation when it passed 46 bills in ten minutes by sidestepping the lawmaking procedures as well as its standing rules.
The procedure for lawmaking stipulates that a bill must past through three phases – the first reading, second reading and third reading – before it can be passed.
However, the parliament which will round off legislation in the Seventh Senate today, received the bills from the House of Representatives and passed them without observing the procedural rules.
In a sheer aberration, the senators did not set their eyes on any of the bills before passing them.
The passage was the fallout of a motion moved by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Ita Enang.
Enang had urged his colleagues to invoke Order 1(b) of the Senate Standing Rules to clear the coast for the bills’ passage.
According to Enang, it was necessary for the Senate to pass the bills even without legislating on them, saying the Senate had equally sent similar bills to the House of Representatives for passage.
Enang added that if the Senate failed to pass the bills as sent by the House, the bills equally sent to the House by the chamber would also suffer similar fate, submitting that by “mutual consent and legislative reciprocity, the House of Representatives has adopted the same special procedures and passed such bills passed by the Senate and transmitted to her for concurrence”.
But Senator George Sekibo (Rivers East) raised a Point of Order, when he drew the attention of the Senate to Section 79(1) of the Senate Standing Rules, which provides for the procedure for passing bills.
The Order states: “Every bill shall receive three readings previous to its passage, which readings shall be on different days, unless the Senate unanimously directs otherwise and the President of the Senate shall give notice at each reading whether it is first, second or third.”
But Enang called for the suspension of Order 79(1) of the Senate Standing Rules with a view to clearing the hurdle against passage of the bills and advocated the need to invoke Order 1(b), which provides that “in all cases not provided for herein after or by sessional or other Orders or practice of the Senate, the Senate shall by resolution regulate its procedures”.
Enang in his motion said: “The Senate notes that the legislative time available to the Senate between now and the end of the legislative term on or about 3rd of June 2015 is limited, considering that time and resources have already been expended in processing these bills and there is need to pass the bills forward and for assent; that by the mutual consent and legislative reciprocities, the House of Representatives is adopting same procedures and passing such bills passed by the Senate and transmitted to her for concurrence.
“The Senate, accordingly, resolves to invoke Order 1(b) of the Senate Standing Orders and such Orders, and deem all the bills having passed first, second and third readings on the floor of the Senate and concur to same; all the bills having been re-produced and circulated to all senators; that the bills afore-named by this resolution are hereby read and deemed read a third time and passed to be transmitted to the President for assent in accordance with the Acts (Authentication) Act and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
“That the votes and proceedings containing all bills be produced for adoption as passed by the House.”
Eventually, when Mark called for a voice vote on the bills, majority of the senators supported the passage and accordingly, they were passed.
However, the passage of the bill led to a rowdy session in the chamber, as the action did not go down well with some of the senators who kicked against it.
Notable among such senators, besides Sekibo, was Senator Domingo Obende (Edo North), who vehemently rejected the action.
Following Obende’s persistent condemnation of the action, Mark said: “I have ruled. Domingo, if you disagree, you can come back with a substantive motion tomorrow.”
With that comment, the passage entered into yesterday’s votes and proceedings of the Senate that they passed 46 bills in one day.
This questionable approach to legislation probably accounted for one of the reasons former President Goodluck Jonathan rejected the fourth alteration to the constitution, saying the National Assembly failed to adhere to the four-fifths requirement for passing the bill.
Instead, he said the lawmakers only observed the two-thirds majority vote for all the amendments.
Of the 46 bills passed by the Senate yesterday, the following were meant to repeal existing legislations: People’s Bank of Nigeria Act (Repeal) Bill; Nigerian Bank for Commerce and Industry Act (Repeal) Bill; National Commission for Rehabilitation Act (Repeal) Bill; Maintenance Orders Act (Repeal) Bill; Federal Saving Bank Act (Repeal) Bill; Loan (State Development) Act (Repeal) Bill; National Economic Intelligence Committee (Establishment) Act (Repeal) Bill; Family Economic Advancement Programme (Establishment, etc) Act (Repeal) Bill; Family Support Trust Fund Act (Repeal) Bill; and Nigeria Industrial Development Bank (Guarantee) Act (Repeal) Bill.
Other bills passed were the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (Establishment etc) Act (Amendment) Bill; Office of the Nigerian Financial Ombudsman Bill; Community Service Bill; Institute of Chartered Trustees of Nigeria Bill; National Convict and Criminal Records (Registry) Bill; Nigerians in Diaspora (Establishment) Commission Bill; Electronic Transactions Bill; Chartered Institute of Statisticians of Nigeria Bill; Nigerian Metallurgical Industry Bill; Federal Audit Commission Bill; National Centre for Agricultural Mechanisation Act (Amendment) Bill; Nigerian International Financial Centre (Establishment) Bill; and Investment and Securities (Amendment) Bill.
Also included were Nigerian Communication Satellite Bill; Federal Capital Territory Education Resources Centre (Establishment, etc) Bill; Labour Institutions (Establishment) Bill; Witness Protection Programme Bill; Institute of Mediators and Conciliators Bill; Legal Education Act (Amendment) Bill; National Health Insurance Commission Bill; Federal College of Dental Technology and Therapy Bill; Federal Capital College of Nursing and Midwifery Oaths Act (Amendment) Bill; Federal Capital Territory Health Management Board (Establishment) Bill; Passport ((Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Bill; Chartered Institute of Management Accountants of Nigeria Bill; and Federal Capital Territory Water Board (Establishment, etc) Bill.
Also on the list of passed legislations were the Institute of Local Government and Administration Bill; Whistle-blower Protection Bill; Treasury Management Bill; Legislative Powers and Privileges Act (Repeal and Re-Enactment) Bill; Anti-Torture Bill; Lobbyist (Registration and Regulation) Bill; National Hospital for Women and Children, Abuja (Establishment etc) Act (Amendment) Bill; Nigerian Prison Act (Repeal and Re-Enactment) Bill; and the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Act (Amendment) Bill.
Similarly, the Senate yesterday acceded to the request of President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint 15 Special Advisers in accordance with Section 151(1) of the 1999 Constitution.
The approval was the fallout of a motion by the Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, asking the parliament to consider the request of the president as contained in a letter addressed to the Senate President on Tuesday.
The motion was unanimously supported by the lawmakers without a dissenting voice.
Buhari had in his first letter to the Senate, urged the lawmakers to treat his request with dispatch.
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