Reps Speaker, Abbas Speaks on Success, Challenges since Inauguration of 10th NASS

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Tajudeen Abbas Ph.D in a remark on Saturday pointed out the challenges and success recorded since the inauguration of the 10th House of Representatives on June 13, 2023.

Read the speech which he made during the special plenary session on Saturday 30th December, 2023.

Honourable Colleagues, it is with a sense of gratitude, fulfilment, and pride that I address you today for the work we have collectively accomplished since the inauguration of this House on 13th June, 2023. Over the past six months, the House has been a beacon of democratic values and a testament to the power of collaborative governance.

2. Dear Colleagues, in the short span of the life of this Assembly, we have suffered some misfortunes, including the death of Hon. Abdulkadir Danbuga (Isa/Sabon Birnin, federal constituency of Sokoto State). Earlier, the Member-elect representing Jalingo/Yorro/Zing Federal Constituency of Taraba State), Ismaila Maihanci, died shortly before the House was inaugurated. We are saddened by the recent deaths of Mojisola Ayobami, the young daughter of Hon. Benjamin Adeyemi Olabinjo and the father of Hon. Solomon Wombo, His Royal Highness, the Ter Katsina-Ala, Dr. Benjamin Fezan Wombo. On Wednesday, 27th December, 2023, we also received with shock and sadness news of the demise of the Rt. Hon. Ghali Umar Na’Abba, Speaker of the 4th House of Representatives. Hon. Na’Abba was an icon of the legislature and a dedicated lawmaker and patriot. May we rise to observe a minute in silence in their honour. May the souls of the deceased rest in peace, Amen.

3. You will also recall that we took the oath of office at a particularly challenging period in our nation’s history. There is no need to repeat these challenges, given that they are too well familiar to us. The point to emphasise is that we have remained responsive and committed in our efforts to ameliorate the suffering of our constituents and contribute to Nigeria’s overall peace and development. Collectively, we have lived up to our mantra as the ‘People’s House’. We have deliberated on crucial matters that impact the lives of every Nigerian and worked tirelessly to enact laws that will shape the future of our great nation. We considered a wide range of issues, including peace and security, social welfare, healthcare, education, infrastructure development, economic growth, and more. Through robust debates, bipartisan collaboration, and dedication to our constitutional responsibilities, we have passed crucial bills and resolutions that will shape the trajectory of our nation for years to come.

4. Dear Colleagues, I would like to express my deepest appreciation to all Members of this esteemed and hallowed Chamber. Your dedication, expertise, and willingness to engage in constructive debate have been instrumental in our successes. I wish to specifically commend the unity of purpose you have all demonstrated from the first day of our inauguration to now. You have sustained the unanimous support you gave me during my election as Speaker and in the election of other Principal Officers of the House. This overwhelming support has enabled us to achieve so many significant milestones within so short a time. I extend my deepest appreciation to all of you and applaud your exemplary conduct, dedication and devotion to upholding the highest standards of ethics and professionalism. Of note is the patriotism you all have demonstrated, making astonishing sacrifices to work even on weekends and during public holidays. 

5. From the onset, we deliberately adopted a leadership model that is open, transparent, impartial and inclusive. This approach is intended to enhance public trust and accountability, encourage participation, facilitate better decision-making, and promote new ideas to make the legislature more effective in discharging its constitutional mandate. I am honoured for the opportunity to serve as your Speaker. In this capacity, I have endeavoured to foster an environment that promotes constructive dialogue and consensus building.

6. As we adjourn our plenary for the holidays, I want to take this opportunity to reflect on our achievements and express my hopes for the future. In the last six months, we have recorded some legislative landmarks that have the potential to impact the lives of our fellow citizens positively. In view of the importance of Committees to the operations of the House, we streamlined the mandates of committees to avoid overlap and conflicts. We swiftly appointed Chairmen and Deputies for all their committees and constituted the membership of these committees based on objective criteria to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. By so doing, we have rationalised the Membership of committees, leading to more informed decision-making, better management of workload, and improved legislative quality.

7. To strengthen our internal processes and systems, we reviewed and updated our Standing Orders to better adapt to changing societal and legislative needs and incorporate technological advancements such as virtual and hybrid meetings and E-Parliament to enhance efficiency and accessibility. The revised Standing Orders is now well suited to address emerging issues and new challenges, such as global emergencies and the COVID-19 pandemic that obstructed the effective functioning of the legislature. Our Rules have also been reviewed to align them to international standards and best practices, facilitating better collaboration and consistency in global legislative processes.

8. In the period under review, the House concluded and presented a robust Legislative Agenda outlining clear and specific objectives that the House intends to achieve and our legislative priorities. This clarity is already contributing to focusing the efforts and resources of the House and its Committees on key issues while at the same time making the legislative process more efficient and effective. The House Agenda identifies eight priority areas, which have been carefully crafted to align with the Renewed Hope Agenda of the Executive and the yearnings of our constituents. The key areas of focus highlighted in the Agenda are strengthening good governance, improving national security, economic growth and development, social sector reform and development, inclusion and open parliament, influencing/directing Nigeria’s foreign policy, and addressing climate change and environmental sustainability. The chosen thematic areas were aggregated in consultation with citizens. 

9. Our legislative outputs in the last six months are remarkable. The House received and considered nine hundred and sixty-two (962) bills, five hundred (500) Motions, and one hundred and fifty-three (153) petitions. Of these numbers, one hundred and Twenty (120) bills have passed the Second Reading stage. They are currently undergoing further review and refinement to address some of the concerns raised during the debates. Another one hundred and twenty-two (120) bills have been referred to committees for in-depth analysis. We have also successfully passed many other bills, which have been transmitted to the Senate for concurrence. Notable among these bills are the Electricity Act (Amendment) Bill, 2023, the Federal Audit Service Act (Amendment) Bill, 2023, 2022 Supplementary Appropriation Act (Amendment) Bill, 2023 and the Oath Act (Repeal and Enactment) Bill, 2023. Other critical bills passed by the House include the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons Bill, 2023, Federal Fire and Rescue Service Bill, 2023, Administration of Criminal Justice Act (Repeal and Enactment) Bill, 2023, Niger Delta Development Commission Act (Amendment) Bill, 2023, Nigerian Medical Research Council (Establishment) Bill, 2023, Nigerian Peace Corps (Establishment) Bill, 2023 and more recently, the South East Development Commission (Establishment) Bill, 2023. The Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill 2023 that we passed was assented to by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on 23rd November, 2023. It repealed the 1964 legislation and replaced it with a more contemporary legislation that empowers the Defence Corporation to manufacture, store and dispose of ordinance. All these bills are intended to provide immediate relief and long-term solutions to the challenges that have plagued our society. Through these bills, we aim to empower our citizens, enhance social justice, promote economic growth, and promote peace and security. 

10. Over the same period, the House received and resolved over 500 Motions, many of which brought to the attention of the House and the nation pressing matters affecting the people. I have always considered Motions to be one of the most potent tools of legislative representation. They show that the legislature, better than any other institution, is best placed to articulate the needs of the people and how to address them. Notable Motions the House considered include oil theft, student loans, job racketeering, JAMB, firearms, COVID-19 fund mismanagement, 3% contribution to Host Communities and the petroleum subsidy regime. In response to the issues raised, the House constituted ad-hoc Committees to conduct investigative hearings and make recommendations for necessary legislative actions. I am glad to announce that out of the 30 ad-hoc Committees, 25 have laid their reports before the House for consideration, while four (4) have been considered. In addition to Bills and Motions, the House also received a hundred and fifty-three (153) Petitions, which are receiving necessary legislative actions. 

11. The House has made significant strides in fostering greater collaboration with citizens in all our key legislative activities. This has been achieved through engaging citizens in oversight, committee activities, and other legislative processes. These efforts have ensured that the voices of the people are heard and their inputs are incorporated into the lawmaking process. As noted earlier, in developing the Legislative Agenda, the House organised a citizens’ town hall whose inputs were incorporated into the final draft.

12. The House recognises the importance of electoral reforms in strengthening our democratic institutions. Consequently, we took the initiative to take the lead in soliciting citizens’ input on the Electoral Act 2022 and recommendations on strengthening it to deliver more free and fair elections and reduce the judiciary’s influence on the electoral process. The outcomes of elections should be decided at the Polling Unit and not in a Court Room. The over-judicialisation of electoral outcomes has greatly undermined public confidence and could erode the legitimacy of political leadership if not quickly and adequately addressed. The citizens’ town hall on electoral reforms made far-reaching recommendations that would be considered in amending the Electoral Act.

13. As representatives of the people, it is essential that we involve citizens in our key processes and decision-making. It is in line with this that the House organised a citizens’ town hall on the 2024 Appropriation Bill, where the public was given the opportunity to express views on how the budget can better address the specific needs of all Nigerians, especially those at the grassroots. The House remains committed to engaging citizens in its activities and ensuring the lawmaking process is open and inclusive. In the coming years, the budget will be taken to the people at the constituency levels to allow them also to make inputs. 

14. In line with our Standing Orders and the Legislative Agenda, the House commenced sectoral debates and briefings where we engaged heads of MDAs. These sessions allow lawmakers to engage with MDAs and better understand the unique challenges each sector faces. This understanding is crucial in developing targeted legislative interventions to address these challenges effectively. They also allow for a more transparent and accountable government. Given the critical nature of security in the country, the maiden Sectoral Debate featured the service chiefs and heads of security agencies. Their professional input and information will be invaluable in developing targeted legislations, and improving budget allocation and oversight effectiveness. 

15. The 10th House of Representatives has demonstrated a commitment to foster a harmonious but professional relationship with the Executive. A relationship between the two arms based on mutual respect and respect for our distinct constitutional mandates is fundamental for efficient governance, political stability, effective legislation, and the overall health of our democratic system. It ensures that both arms of government work in synergy for the betterment of Nigeria and our constituents.

16. Honourable Colleagues, as we celebrate our accomplishments in the last six months, we are mindful of some security setbacks and tragedies that have befallen our people. A few weeks ago, we received the sad news of the bombing of the village of Tudun Biri in Kaduna State, by the Security Agencies in what was described as a mistaken identity. Over eighty (80) people were reported dead. Also, on Christmas day, it was reported that over one hundred people were killed in the Bokkos and Barkin Ladi areas of Plateau by hoodlums. These are among numerous other heinous crimes committed by criminals against innocent citizens. On behalf of the House of Representatives, I wish to express our heartfelt condolence to the families and friends of those who lost loved ones. We pray that the souls of the deceased rest in peace. I assure you that the House will continue to support the Federal Government’s fight against insurgency and criminality through necessary legislative actions. As we applaud our security agencies for their sacrifices, we call for precautionary measures to prevent the repeat of the Kaduna mishap. 

17. Honourable Members, as we take this well-deserved break, let us carry forward the spirit of unity and teamwork that has characterised the last six months. The coming months and years will undoubtedly present new challenges. However, I am confident that with our collective resolve and commitment, we will continue to make significant strides in advancing the prosperity and well-being of our nation.

18. Dear Colleagues, before I conclude this remarks, let me registter my appreciation to the Development Partners, donor agencies and civil society organizations that have contributed to the success of the work of the House through capacity building and technical support. We must acknowledge the support of the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), the Konrade Adenauer Stiftung Foundation (KAS), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the YIAGA Africa), the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), BUDGIT, Orderpaper, CISLAC and our own National Institute for Democratic and Legislative Studies (NILDS) among many others. As we look forward to a more and robust collaboration in 2024, we thank them for their services to the House.  

19. In closing distinguished colleagues, I thank each one of you for your service to our country. Your contributions are not just for today but for the legacy we leave for future generations. May we reconvene with renewed vigour and a shared vision for a brighter, more prosperous Nigeria. To the legislative staff and aides, your unwavering support and hard work behind the scenes have not gone unnoticed. We have navigated complex issues together, and your contributions have been invaluable. May this holiday season bring joy, peace, and prosperity to you, your families, constituents and our nation. I wish you all a joyous holiday season filled with love, peace, and happiness. 

20. May the New Year be filled with hope and success. Thank you, and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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