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LET'S JUDGE BANKOLE'S HOUSE OF REPS

By NBF News
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The election of the then 37-year-old Sabur Bankole on November 1, 2007, as Speaker of the House of Representatives, after the resignation of Olubunmi Etteh, was seen as a paradigm shift of a sort in the leadership of the House of Representatives. His manner of emergence devoid of imposition and his youthfulness attest to that. Bankole, himself, quickly set the ball rolling by promising to make the House the 'House of the Nigerian people' through robust debates and a faithful discharge of its constitutional responsibilities of law-making, oversight functions and effective representation.

Bankole also set a template for the lower legislative chamber by stating that he   would discharge his roles with minimal confrontation and conflict with the executive.  He set a new tone for the House to ask relevant questions which is pre-requisite for making of relevant legislations in pursuant of providing solutions to national issues. And truly, Hon. Dimeji Bankole-led House of Representatives made some appreciable impact in the creation of institutions to address societal challenges as well as contribute to societal development.

The Bankole leadership brought a new concept into lawmaking. The process started with the Appropriation Bill. It passed the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2007, which seeks to provide for prudent management of the nation's resources, ensure long-term macro-economic stability of the economy, secure greater accountability and transparency in fiscal operations within the medium term fiscal policy framework, and the establishment of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission to ensure the promotion and enforcement of the nation's economic objectives.

The Bankole-led House also passed the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI); the process of passage started in 1999. Even with serious opposition, Bankole ensured the passage of the bill. At several times, Bankole had to waive the rule of the House and stake his honour to ensure passage of the Bill which he said will not only help the media but the legislature in its oversight functions.

Even as Speaker, Bankole did not abandon the task of bill sponsoring to other members of the House. He sponsored about three bills; National Arbitration Centre (Establishment) Act 2009, National Arbitration Commission (Establishment) Bill 2009 and the National Office of Government Auditor Accountability Office which is in the final stage of passage, having passed second reading and is awaiting reporting to the House after a public hearing. When established the National Office of Government Performance Auditor and Accountability will perform as the Government Accountability Office (GAO) USA to ensure that value is reflected in government expenditure as well as enhance oversight function of the legislature.

For the first time, in Nigeria's democratic history, the nation's constitution was amended with the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2010. This amendment led to a qualitative development of the Nigeria's democracy. One of such development is that the nation will not find itself in quandary in case of indisposition of a President or Governor for a certain period. The Bankole-led House also successfully passed the 2010 Electoral (amendment) Act which was instrumental to the success of the recently concluded 2011 election. It also ensured appropriation of fund for INEC activities to implement the act that resulted in the election.

Speaker Bankole also set a pattern of the way politics should be played. Following his loss at the National Assembly election, Bankole did what was unprecedented in the annals of Nigerian democratic and political history at that level. He accepted the outcome of the election as the wishes of the people and congratulated the man that defeated him.

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This set the tone that helped diffuse tension and force others to join in this deed of not seeing election as a do or die affair.

In all, Bankole's House surpassed the record of their predecessors in office in the core functional area of law making.  Between 1999 and 2003, 315 bills were introduced with 110 passed. There was an improvement between 2003 and 2007 as 119 out of the 339 bills that were introduced were passed. Under the leadership of Dimeji Bankole, a record 135 out of 472 introduced bills were passed.  Among them are the historic 2010 Electoral Amendment Bill, Anti Terrorism Bill, the Freedom of Information Bill and the Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill.

Undoubtedly, many will also remember Dimeji Bankole's House and its altercation with the Hon. Dino Melaye group. However, the defining moments of Bankole's tenure are the critical bills and moves it made for the people and to help stabilize the nation's polity.