By Linda Ike
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas said the National Assembly would prioritise issues concerning security and economy in 2024, proposing a National Legislative Security Summit.
Abbas also announced that the House would on Tuesday next week, engage the relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and the principal actors in the financial sector on the state of Nigeria’s economy.
He stated this in an address to welcome members back from Christmas and New Year break on Tuesday.
He said: “As we proceed with our legislative duties, our priorities are clear. With our Legislative Agenda set for ourselves, we intend to achieve significant mileage towards actualising the targets across the eight thematic areas. In the area of security, the most important challenge before us is to overhaul and strengthen the security architecture to improve overall effectiveness.
“As I noted earlier, the state of the economy is also of grave concern to us, and we must contribute to promoting sustainable economic growth. Our Agenda has identified concrete measures for economic restructuring, economic diversification, and agricultural development. All Committees are directed to streamline their activities towards the realisation of our strategic objectives.
“In this regard, I am pleased to announce that House’ Sectoral Briefs with MDAs will resume immediately. Accordingly, we shall engage with MDAs and principal actors in the finance sector on Tuesday, 6th February, 2024. This engagement will assess the nation’s readiness to mobilise the necessary financial resources for implementing the budget.”
Abbas listed other legislative priorities this year to include speedy consideration of electoral reforms, alteration of the 1999 Constitution, improved citizens’ engagement, enhanced oversight, institutional capacity strengthening, and greater collaboration with the Executive.
“Of immediate concern to us are electoral reforms to address grey areas in the 2022 Electoral Act. The purpose is to ensure that future elections are free, fair, and credible elections that truly reflect the people’s will. Recent data shows that 75% of gubernatorial elections conducted by INEC in 2023 ended up in the Supreme Court. A significantly higher percentage of gubernatorial, State, and National Assembly elections was litigated to the appellate level.
“Like all Nigerians, we are worried about the varying and conflicting judicial pronouncements, which can disrupt our democratic process if not properly and swiftly addressed. For this reason, the House will constitute a special technical committee with members drawn from the Committee on Electoral Matters, experts, academics and other stakeholders. The mandate of the Committee will be to review the Electoral Act 2022 and submit a proposal to the House on areas for amendment. The report of the Committee will be subjected to a public hearing to aggregate concrete suggestions for amendment.
In the area of constitutional alteration, the Speaker noted that the Legislative Agenda had identified key areas of interest for the House, including streamlining the procedure for constitutional alteration by enacting a Constitutional Alteration Procedure law to provide a timeline for the passage of the Constitution alteration bills by the National Assembly and adoption by State Houses of Assembly.
“We remain committed to continuing consultation towards assigning constitutional roles for traditional institutions, local government reform and statutory measures that promote women’s representation in elective and appointive positions,” he added.
The Speaker called for adoption of new and contemporary approaches to tackle insecurity in the country.
He decried the incessant insecurity in Nigeria, lamenting that despite numerous security measures, the menace continues to thrive, mocking the the efforts.
He said: “Honourable colleagues, I address you today not just as the Speaker of the House of Representatives but as a concerned citizen, deeply troubled by the widespread insecurity that grips our country. Indeed, Nigeria stands at a crucial juncture, facing formidable challenges that test our resolve, unity, and spirit. The threats of insurgency are severely testing the peace and stability of our country, the rise in kidnapping for ransom and the unsettling unrest and crises across all the six geopolitical zones.
“Families and communities have endured immense hardships, and our hearts go out to all those affected by these tumultuous events. We are particularly saddened by the tragic and senseless murder of our daughters, Nabeeha Al-Kadriyar and Folorunsho Ariyo; the heinous murder of over 30 people in Plateau State, as well as many others who have fallen victim to the mindless acts of terror in the last few weeks.
“We also remember those who lost their lives in the blast in Ibadan triggered by explosives stored by illegal miners. May we rise and observe a minute of silence in their honour.”
“for too long, the country had been caught in the vicious grip of insecurity, a malaise that he said had spread its tentacles far and wide, sparing no one in its wake.
“Despite numerous security measures, Speaker Abbas said “the menace continues to thrive, mocking our efforts and challenging our resolve to build a cohesive, peaceful and prosperous nation.”
He added; “It is a stark reminder that the conventional approaches to security we have espoused for so long are no longer sufficient. The time has come to think out of the box and adopt new and contemporary strategies that better respond to the complexities of our current challenges.”
“The time had come for the forces to review their approaches and strategies, innovate and adapt. “The enemy evolves, and so must we. I challenge you to rise to this occasion, to demonstrate the indomitable spirit for which you are known, and to do more in safeguarding the lives and properties of our people.”
Abbas said in light of the challenges, he would propose convening a National Legislative Security Summit, which would serve as a crucible for ideas, where stakeholders from diverse sectors – security, traditional and religious institutions, academia, civil society, and more – would forge enduring solutions to our security woes.
The Speaker pointed out that it was “time to harness our collective expertise, to break the silos that have hindered our progress, and to chart a new course towards peace and stability.”