Over the course of the past 4 (four) years, the 8th Nigerian Senate has outperformed all others before it. Having passed over 200 bills and counting, it is safe to say members of the incoming 9th Assembly will have their work cut out for them and big shoes to fill.
Lawmaking however does not rest solely on the shoulders of the National Assembly, according to Section 58(3) of the Constitution; all Bills passed by the National Assembly are presented to the President for assent. Furthermore, the President has 30 days to either assent to the Bill or withhold assent. Does this mean, a Bill cannot become law without the presidential assent, the answer is no. Sub section (5) allows a Bill to become law if two – thirds majority of both legislative chambers pass the Bill regardless of the President’s assent.
Recently, President Buhari communicated his decision to withhold his assent and not sign about 15 Bills presented to him by the Senate. His reasons boarder on legislative drafting issues which he has requested are amended, some of the laws include the National Research and Innovation Council (Est.) Bill, 2017; National Institute of Hospitality and Tourism (Est.) Bill, 2018; National Agricultural Seeds Council, 2018 and Subsidiary Legislation (Legislative Scrutiny) Bill, 2018. Others are Stamp Duties (Amendment) Bill, 2018; Chattered Institute of Entrepreneurship (Est.) Bill, 2018; Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) (Amendment) Bill, 2018; Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2017 and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2017.
Though the President is entitled to his reasons for withholding his assent, it is my fear that these very important Bills may be swept under the carpet and Nigerians may be deprived of the social, economic and developmental inputs these pieces of legislation would provide to our nation. For instance, the Electronic Transactions Bill, passed in 2017 by the National Assembly was rejected by the President on the grounds of drafting issues, however, it is almost the end of 2018 and the Electronic Transactions Bill is yet to become law.
Many of the benefits these rejected laws will bring to our nation include the tax incentives for companies of pioneer status as proposed by the Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) (Amendment) Bill, 2018; the introduction of specialized training in hospitality management and the provision of a legal structure for the certification and training of hospitality personnel in the country as proposed by the National Institute of Hospitality and Tourism Bill.
Other benefits include, the facilitation of stronger cooperation between government agencies and business entities as proposed by the Institute of Entrepreneurial Establishment Bill, which ultimately seeks to among other things, promote stronger collaboration between banks and entrepreneurs, as well as empower instructors of entrepreneurship education in both senior secondary and tertiary institutions via specially packaged trainings, meetings, exhibitions, industrial exposures and other platforms.
The Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Bill (2018) on the other hand seeks to curtail illegal activities of pirates at sea as well as to reduce the incidence of oil theft in domestic and international waters. While the National Agricultural Seeds Council Bill, 2018 seeks to create a robust seed industry that is regulated and will in turn will provide farmers with high quality seeds among other things.
The National Research and Innovation Bill seeks to provide for the establishment of the National Research and Innovation Council to among other things, set national priorities on Research, Innovation and Development and promote the gains of the application in line with national priorities. Another important piece of legislation is the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, 2018, which incorporates various legislative, regulatory, Fiscal policies, instruments and institutions that govern the Nigerian petroleum industry.
The Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2017, also seeks to provide adequately for our nation’s fight against corruption, as it seeks to prohibit and punish offences pertaining to Advance Fee Fraud and other fraud related offences and to repeal other Acts related therewith.
The Stamp Duties (Amendment) Bill addresses the transformation of NIPOST into a thriving revenue generating company and last but not the least, the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill of 2018, which seeks among other things seeks to reform the Electoral Act in the following ways –
- Provide for the instant transmission of election results as a replacement of the manual transmission of results;
- Provide a platform for online publication of voter registers;
- Give INEC powers to utilize biometric accreditation of voters
- Remove unfair qualification processes
- Set out a more rigorous process for the determination of candidates, as well as creates dispute resolution mechanisms.
- Set the maximum expense incurable by politicians
From the above, the expedience of passing these laws is made clearer as their importance and effects cuts across all sectors of everyday life including security, ease of doing business, governance and administration. Therefore, I urge the President and the National Assembly to quicken any processes that are currently outstanding and ensure the speedy assent of these bills. More importantly, I urge Nigerians to provide oversight on these issues to the government to ensure these Bills become law and do not remain unsigned like the Electronic Transactions Bill which is yet to see the light of day.
Adedunmade Onibokun is a lawyer and founder of the online legal educational platform, Legalnaija.