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House Of Representatives Lists Legislative Agenda For (2011-2015)

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SAN FRANCISCO, June 29, (THEWILL) - The information you are about to read is sponsored by Nigeria’s Federal House of Representatives.

The Seventh Session of the House of Representatives (HoR) (2011 – 2015) is committed to honouring the faith and trust reposed in it by the Nigerian people and we are determined to chart a new course of legislative business for the benefit of our people. In this regard, we are outlining a National Legislative Agenda for the Seventh Session of the House of Representatives as is contained in this document. It is an agenda that seeks to reform our processes in the House, identify our legislative priorities and outline a programme of action to achieve the goals that we have set for ourselves.

Over the next four years, the House of Representatives will pursue an aggressive legislative agenda to reposition itself as a key branch of government able and determined to deliver on the key elements of governance. We acknowledge that the House has had to navigate the difficult terrain of winning public trust and confidence and even of being the champion of the peoples’ cause. Years of struggling to establish adequate legislative mores and practices, especially upon the return to democratic rule in May 1999, has meant that some of the things we have done may not have met public expectation. We have a lot of times not communicated enough, our legislative intentions or priorities. The effort to establish the House as a major institution of democracy in service of the Nigerian people has proved to be a slow and difficult one. Today, and with the inauguration of the Seventh Session of the House of Representatives, we make bold to state and with great assurance to the Nigerian people that the legislature has come of age. It is a new day – a new House of Representatives, and we are prepared to meet and surpass the expectations of the Nigerian people to represent their best interests. Fully aware of the support of the citizens at the inception of the Seventh House, we are committed to advancing the boundaries and experience of democratic representation in Nigeria.

In this regard, the House of Representatives will work in partnership and harmony with our colleagues in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to legislate for the common good and in the greater interest of the Nigerian people.

We will also seek the cooperation of other arms of government, particularly the Executive, in order to improve living conditions in Nigeria and make the government more responsive to the needs of our people. The legislative agenda of the House will aim at reviving and diversifying the economy, generating employment, strengthening our national security, curbing corruption, tackling the electricity crisis and general infrastructural decay that confront us, improving our health and educational sectors and work to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The agenda will also emphasise the importance of amending the Constitution to address several areas of concern. Our legislative agenda will be people-centred and correspond to the expectations of Nigerians.

Therefore we seek to do things differently and reverse the notion of business-as-usual approach that has been a source of worry to our people. We will be sensitive to what the Nigerian people want and increase our public sensitivity quotient.

The Seventh House of Representatives seeks to build a new image for the legislature – a strong, vibrant and effective legislature, able to assert itself as an important partner with other arms of government in the delivery of good governance, due process and rule of law.

General Principles
1. Initiate a new order that would foster transparency leading to institutional integrity through efficiency of public expenditure management.

2. Restructure management and functions of legislative committees towards adequacy in capacity and improved productivity.

3. Design and implement the e-parliament blueprint that would elevate National Assembly to international best practices and ensure public access to parliamentary information and processes.

4. Review legislative branch budget in line with the requirements of openness, effectiveness and accountability.

5. Review the constitution in all relevant areas to facilitate the implementation of the House of Representatives legislative agenda and in line with the aspirations of Nigerians.

6. Engage actively with other arms of government to restore public order and national security, and

7. Institutionalise mechanisms that will facilitate more effective engagement with various stakeholders including constituents and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).

The following issues will be the priorities of the Seventh Session of the House of Representatives:

The Seventh House of Representatives is determined to improve legislative processes and standards to achieve better and optimum results in law-making.

The Seventh session will strengthen the processes in the House to deliver better quality and more passage of bills, including private member bills. The legislative process will be overhauled to achieve quick passage of bills and ensure strict compliance with time frames.

The Committees being micro reflections of the larger House, its operations and activities will be held to standards of efficiency, transparency and accountability, which are the same standards already defined to guide the Seventh Assembly of the House of Representatives. In this regard, the Committee system in the House will be strengthened to deliver on efficiency and effective performance of legislative deliverables. The House is committed to equipping the Committees to function optimally.

In the composition of membership and leadership of Committees, special attention will be paid to the skills and relevant experience of Members in order to achieve greater efficiency. Strict compliance with existing House Rules and Code of Conduct for Honourable Members will be required as a check on Chairmen of Committees and Members who violate them. True democratic processes will be applied in the work of the Committees.

Committees will be expected to prepare and submit their work plan, as well as periodic reports to the House on their activities, which will be considered and debated. Templates and standardization of reporting formats will be introduced.

The relationship between legislators and Committee staff will be structured to deliver on the objectives of the Seventh Assembly. There is an important need to re-orient the National Assembly staff and bureaucracy and secure their buy-in, into the House’s Legislative agenda for a more efficient legislature.

Public access to House activities will be improved by timely publication and dissemination of committee reports, Votes and Proceedings, Order Paper, Hansard and other parliamentary documents

Communications from the Senate to the House will be included in the Order Paper to ensure speedy concurrence and harmonisation of bills with a view to expediting the passage of bills and to continue to build on a harmonious relationship with the Senate.

(a) Oversight
Oversight is an activity whose scope encompasses policies, processes and activities which overall goal is to eliminate wastage, plug loopholes and ensure value for money, within the appropriated time frame.

The Seventh Session will redefine the scope, methodology and effectiveness of oversight as a key function of legislative activity.

More effective oversight procedures will be put in place, with templates developed to improve the quality of the exercise. To enhance the quality and effectiveness of oversight activities, the House will partner with CSOs, professional groups, media, citizens and other stakeholders. Committees will be required to present quarterly reports of their oversight activities to the House.

(b) Salaries, Allowances and Running Costs of Members

The Seventh Session of the House of Representatives recognises the concerns raised by Nigerians about the cost of running the National Assembly. The House will be more transparent regarding all public funds spent for the purpose of paying the salaries and allowances of legislators and ensure that distinction is sufficiently made between what a legislator actually earns and what is spent to run and implement legislative business and Committee activities. The watchword in financial issues will be fiscal conservatism.

The Seventh Session will take advantage of advancement in information communication technology to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the House. To this end, the House will invest in modern and sophisticated communication technology system, to promote quick and effective communication among Members of the House, and between the Members and the staff of the National Assembly, as well as with the general public.

The use of electronic voting will be a regular feature of House proceedings in order to ensure that Members’ voting records are appropriately documented.

The Seventh House will also work with the National Assembly bureaucracy to create a more effective and reliable archival system for the national legislature. There is a need to ensure that legislative records, data and information are preserved for posterity and as evidence of the contributions of the House of Representatives to national development.

To facilitate dissemination of parliamentary information and distribution of parliamentary documents, and in the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act, the House will establish a parliamentary information centre.

The promotion of a viable and robust national economy will form the focus of the House of Representatives as it works to support the emergence of a strong Nigerian economy.

The Seventh Session of the House of Representatives will put in place legislative measures to achieve the best development outcome from government spending, including promotion of economic growth and social welfare.

The thrust of the national budget should be:
– effective prioritisation of spending on programmes within the national budget

– ensuring that adequate resources are available for spending on priority capital projects

– adoption of an effective Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF)

– effective monitoring of spending and of outcomes achieved – value for money

The House will emphasise compliance with the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA), including requirements that:

• the Executive shall seek input from the National Assembly in the preparation of MTEF.

• MTEF shall be the basis for the preparation of the estimates of the annual national budget laid before the National Assembly.

• the Executive shall at least 30 days before the deadline of the submission of its budget proposals place at the disposal of the National Assembly, the revenue estimates for the following year, including the net current revenue and the respective memorandum items.

• Annual Budget to be accompanied by:
- a report setting out actual and budgeted revenue and expenditure and detailed analysis of the performance of the budget for the 18 months up to June of the preceding financial year,

- estimates of revenue and expenditure for the next three financial years of relevant government corporations and agencies.

The House will also emphasise conformance with the principles and global budgetary best practices which include:

• the draft budget should be submitted AT LEAST three months prior to the start of a fiscal year

• the budget needs to include (or be supported by) a detailed commentary on each revenue and expenditure programme

• non-financial performance data/targets to be included wherever possible

• medium term perspective to be included
• a gross revenue and expenditure basis and include all items, including those that are non-discretionary

The monitoring of budgets to achieve value for money and delivery on promise will be of importance to the House and mechanisms will be put in place to achieve best practices based on the following:

Mid-term budget implementation review/debate
• to be carried out by the House which will require the Executive to give a breakdown of progress in implementing the budget, including brief commentary and explanation of significant divergencies between forecast and actual amounts

•comprehensive update including forecast of budget outcome and review of economic assumptions

Year-end report
• MDAs will also be required to submit an annual budget implementation status report which includes non-financial performance information.

The House will also emphasise on a budgetary process that improves efficiency. The emphasis will be on planning as a guide in the preparation of the annual budget. The sanctity of the budget and full implementation thereof will be an important aspect of the legislative agenda of the Seventh House of Representatives.

The constitutional provisions affecting the budgetary process and impacting on the application and implementation of the budget, including the provisions of section 81(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, that allows the President to lay the budget at anytime during the year, will be considered and proposed as part of constitution amendment process. The amendment is necessary to achieve the internationally recognised best practice of laying the budget before the Parliament at least three months before the end of a fiscal year.

The House will also work to amend the provisions of section 82 of the Constitution that authorises the President to incur expenditure up to six months after the budget is supposed to have been passed. With the amendment, expenditure will be limited to not more than three months of the beginning of the financial year.

The needs of the people will be an important factor in budget consideration and approval. The budget will be outcome driven and will adopt performance based budgeting system.

The House of Representatives will promote an inclusive budgetary process and will seek cooperation with the Executive and in this respect pre-budget interface with the Executive will be pursued.

The operationalisation of the National Assembly Budget and Research Office (NABRO) is key to the achievement of a more effective and efficient budgetary process. The House, in conjunction with the Senate, will work to make NABRO fully functional. An effective NABRO will provide well researched and investigated information to members of the House and National Assembly on several fiscal issues.

(a) Federal Revenue Disclosures
There is huge concern about federal revenue leakages, with reports of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government failing to adequately account for revenues received on behalf of the country in their areas of activity. The House of Representatives will work to plug the leakages of federally collectable revenue. The House will seek full and transparent disclosure of all revenues and receipts by corporations and agencies on behalf of government, in accordance with the Fiscal Responsibility Act.

MDAs will be made to account for, and remit to the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation, incomes received on behalf of the federation by the agencies. The practice whereby MDAs remit revenues into the Consolidated Revenue Fund and other public funds of the federation as they deem fit will be discouraged and relevant laws will be amended. In addition, new legislation may be considered to ensure compliance.

It will also be crucial for the House to track the use of donor funds, grants and loans in development projects. The current practice of duplication of funding from government and donor sources implementing the same projects creates room for malfeasance and abuse. The House will strengthen the established mechanism to track the application of funds and moneys given by donors to MDAs to ensure accountability and transparent use of resources.

(b) Reducing Cost of Governance
The Seventh House of Representatives will review the laws establishing Commissions and Agencies with a view to reducing wastages and eliminating duplication of mandate. Where more than one Department or Agency of government is carrying out similar functions, the House will initiate legislation to streamline and/or consolidate the duties and functions of such agencies into one unit. This will help achieve efficiency, effectiveness and value for money, in the administration of government business.

The Seventh House of Representatives will also consider legislation to empower the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission to take on the responsibility of ensuring fiscal efficiency in the collection of all revenues due and accruing to the Federation.

The current practice of revenue collection and transfer to the Consolidated Revenue Fund is replete with loopholes that will be important to plug if the nation is to earn what is due to it from the revenue earning departments and agencies of government.

The core responsibility of the House of Representatives is to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of the Federation. The Seventh Assembly recognises that there are several issues requiring legislation and intervention.

Our legislative intervention will give priority to high impact, people-centred legislation linked to service delivery and attainment of the MDGs: health, education, infrastructural development and re-building, agriculture and economic empowerment of women, the environment, consumer protection, etc.

Also to be enacted will be legislation targeted at strengthening electoral democracy and building on the effort of the 6th National Assembly that was the first to successfully amend the Nigerian Constitution: structural independence of INEC and its unbundling; democratisation of political parties. Legislation that promotes gender mainstreaming and affirmative action, as well as elimination of discrimination against all persons, and the promotion and protection of human rights, will be supported.

Priority legislation for the Seventh Session will include the Petroleum Industry Bill, Electoral Reform, Constitution Amendment, Infrastructure reforms (Power, Transportation), Education reforms, Agriculture and land reforms, job creation initiatives, (the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) Act will be amended to address the problem of Youth unemployment), Housing, including mortgage reforms, youth and social development, gender empowerment. Our legislative priorities will include legal and justice sector reforms.

The Seventh Session will strengthen the institutional and legal framework to support the security services to tackle crime, terrorism and other national security challenges.

The House will also work to remove legal obstacles to business and strengthen the legal framework of regulatory agencies in critical sectors of the economy to help bolster private sector participation in the economy and achieve national development.

The Seventh Session will work at quick domestication of treaties and protocols that are in Nigeria’s national interest as well as ensure effective oversight over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its agencies including missions and embassies. To this end effort will be made to partner with the Executive at the treaty formulation stage.

Constitution Reform Process
The Seventh House of Representatives will continue the effort at constitution reforms already begun by the Sixth National Assembly. The successful model of technical cooperation and collaboration with the Senate which led to the first ever amendment to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 in a civilian setting, will be adopted and fine tuned to again achieve results.

The Constitution amendment process will evolve from the yearnings and aspirations of our people and the House recognises the concerns of Nigerians on several issues, including land reforms, electoral reforms, budgetary process, fiscal federalism, local government and States creation requests and process, process of Constitution amendment, citizenship and the indigene issue that have been responsible for conflict in several communities across Nigeria.

To this end, the House will set up a Constitution Review Committee to immediately begin work on these issues.

The Seventh Session recognises the importance and role of constituents and critical stakeholders in the legislative process. Accordingly, the House will engage civil society organisations, professional bodies, labour, the media and other stakeholders, in order to achieve participatory representation in the process of law-making, oversight and representation.

The National Assembly Civil Society Liaison Office will be strengthened to expand its cooperation with civil society groups to achieve better access for CSOs in the workings of the House of Representatives and to participate effectively in the process of law-making.

There will be regular consultative meetings with critical stakeholders and our development partners, the frequency of which will be worked out.

The House of Representatives Public Petitions Committee will also be strengthened to deepen public access to the legislature.

House Relationships
The House of Representatives will:
• Sustain a cordial relationship with the Senate through routine consultations and meetings between the two houses for the smooth functioning of the National Assembly.

• Ensure regular interface with State Houses of Assembly and encourage regular meetings of the Conference of Presiding Officers of Nigerian Legislatures (COPON) and an annual Legislative Summit.

• Facilitate constructive engagement with the Executive while ensuring the independence and autonomy of the legislature as enshrined in the Constitution.

• Ensure a more robust relationship with the National Assembly bureaucracy, the National Assembly Service Commission and other agencies for the attainment of organisational goals.

• Strengthen participation in international parliamentary organisations such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), African Parliamentary Union (APU), ECOWAS Parliament, Pan-African Parliament (PAP), ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, among others.

• Encourage regular constituency outreach activities by Members including ensuring their establishment and operation of constituency offices.

The Seventh House will establish the modalities for the implementation of this Legislative agenda.

Our mandate is a call to national duty which we must rise to. Undoubtedly, the expectations are high. It will be hard work. The challenge of developing our nation calls for the active participation of all stakeholders. With the commitment of all of us we shall succeed as we deliberate and seek to implement this House of Representatives National Legislative Agenda.

There are challenges ahead of us and we believe that our work here will mark a watershed in the political history of Nigeria.