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HOUSE OF REPS PASSES 98 BILLS, 420 PENDING

By NBF News
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WITH just five months to the end of the four-year tenure of the current National Assembly, the House of Representatives is yet to pass 420 bills while 98 of such proposed laws have scaled its hurdle.

The Lower House has also not foreclosed the possibility of passing the Freedom of Information (FoI) Bill, which is adjudged one of the longest bills before the federal legislature.

It has, however, promised to conclude work on some of the outstanding 420 bills before its tenure runs out in June 2011.

Among the 98 bills passed by the Lower Chamber are all the Appropriation Bills since 2007 and the Constitution Amendment Act of 2010.

In a interview with The Guardian, the Chairman of the House Committee on Information, Ahmed Aliu Wadada, dismissed as untrue reports that the House had dumped the FoI Bill, pledging that once the lawmakers returned from their end of year break, serious work will be done on the bill.

'I want to assure you that we are working seriously on it. You know the unfortunate history of the bill but we are committed to passing it.

'What may happen is that the bill is likely to be re-committed to the Committee on Information for fresh public hearing and once that is done, my panel will give it accelerated hearing and submit the appropriate report to the House for its passage. There is no hidden agenda at all about it. Nobody stands to benefit from the non-passage of the FoI Bill at all,' Wadada stated.?

The Speaker, Dimeji Bankole, had told the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Bureau, Mr. Sam Saba, who was in the National Assembly to complain about the delay in the passage of the document that the passage of the FoI Bill, would be done in such a way that adequate punishment was provided for cases of defamation of character.

Bankole had said the National Assembly would even benefit from the FoI Bill when it becomes law because it would give the legislature access to documents in some federal agencies, which had been difficult to obtain.

The House Committee on Rules and Business, which rolled out its legislative achievements in the last three and a half years, listed three Appropriation Bills, Revolving Loan for Industry Bill, Local Content Bill in the Oil Sector and Tobacco Smoking Bill and National Assembly Budget and Research Office (NABRO) as topping them.

'We also have about 420 bills undergoing legislative processes in the Green Chamber,' the panel said.

The yet to be passed proposed laws include the 49 that are awaiting the consideration of the Committee of the Whole and another 71, which are receiving the attention of various committees.

Specifically, the Abike Dabiri-Erewa sponsored 'Bill for an Act to establish the Nigeria Diaspora Commission,' has been passed by the House and now awaiting the concurrence of the Senate and assent by the President.

Again, the Climate Change Committee headed by Eziuche Ubani, has passed a bill for the creation of a Climate Change Commission (CCC) with the responsibility for addressing development challenges posed by climate change. The Senate has already passed the bill.

The National Assembly Budget and Research Office (NABRO) Bill is among those awaiting passage while those that have been passed but awaiting the concurrence of the Senate include the National Project Monitoring Agency (Establishment) Bill 2008 sponsored by Uche Ekwunife, the National Office of Government Performance, Audit and Accountability Bill 2008. The Nigeria Arbitration Centre (Establishment) Bill 2009, which has passed second reading, is also pending.