By Ogwezzy Richardson
The bills introduced by our legislature as being published in these recent times have been worrisome. It is surprising that despite the oil crash and the effect of Covid 19 on the country’s economy, we are still seeing huge fund demanding bills in our country’s legislature, State House of Assemblies, House of Representatives and The Senate. There are many bills introduced for the establishment of various types of tertiary institutions, motions for immediate reconstruction and rehabilitation of roads and bridges, security issues to mention but a few, the possibility that when such bills are passed into law they will be executed remains skeptical to Nigerians. It is on this background, I decided to do a critical study of what Nigerian bills entail.
A bill as we commonly know is a written suggestion for a new law that is presented to a country’s parliament so that its members can discuss it. To me, I see a bill as a draft in writing stating what is to be passed into law, by the legislator(s) bearing in mind the economic strength of the country or state, the needs, suffering, yearnings, exigencies, and expectations of people in that particular political area. And, when it is being executed it will give joy to the people. At this juncture, for the purpose of this write-up, bills, executive order(s), and motions are considered as same. The President, Governors, and members of the legislature in the country.
There are two kinds of bills in the Nigerian legislature, be it Federal or State. The Executive Bill and Private Member Bill. Executive Bills come from the President or Governor while Private Member Bills emanate from the members of the parliament. I have found out that Executive and Private Member Bills are just by name and are theoretical. In operation(practical), I have found out that, there are unworkable and workable bills. The unworkable bills as the name implies, is mirage-like, is a bill introduced by the member(s) of parliament to arouse the feelings of the people they are representing. The bill will look good and welcoming. That is, it will only make the people they are representing feel they are doing well. In most cases such bills are proposed during electioneering campaigns, that is, for those already in the House of Assemblies, so that electorates will see reasons to vote them in again. But, such bills will fizzle out or die on arrival during further readings or debates but before that, it might have achieved its purpose. The common citizens see unworkable bills as political shenanigans while legislators see it as part of our political culture. Unworkable bill is characterized by personal interest or ulterior motives by the presenter(introducer)
Statistically speaking, some motions have been moved by members of the parliament for the infrastructural development and economic growth of the country, very many of such motions have been turned into unworkable motions. Typical example of such that is engulfing Nigeria as a polity like a wild fire, is the NDDC projects. Observations, have shown that many NDDC projects awarded many years ago could not be accounted for. Laws establishing NDDC, was for the purpose of infrastructural development and economic growth in Niger Delta States of Nigeria, presently despite huge funds allocated to NDDC, there were no reflection to infrastructural development nor economic growth on the Niger Delta States. Another example of the unworkable bill is the bill for the establishment of Federal Polytechnic in Kwale few years ago, it was pleasing to the people, most especially the people of the senatorial district, this made the people in the district to vote for the initiator of the bill and all his proponents even people began to show greater love for that political party of the initiator of the bill. Sadly for the people, nothing was said about further progress of the bill. The next news was a bill for establishment of Federal Polytechnic in Orogun, in same Delta State, a nearby neighbour even, was introduced. The bill for Federal Polytechnic, Kwale is now more glaring to be unworkable(miragic) on the presentation of Federal Polytechnic, Orogun, because two Federal Polytechnics cannot be in a State.
Workable bills are bills introduced into the parliament by legislature and the probability that such bills have the chances of being passed into laws is sure event, this is because it is done by calculations, the introducers have put the strength of the economy in terms of funds available and capability of government, the exigencies, needs, aspirations, suffering and expectations of the people are captured in it. Examples of such bills are laws establishing EFCC to fight corruption, law establishing Health Insurance Scheme to promote healthy living, laws against violation of lockdown and law against non compliance of facemask etc.
The present oil crash occasioned by COVID 19 has brought drastic changes in the Nigerian economy. Though, that is not a problem because we know that, it is only changed that is permanent in life. The citizens have observed the change in our economy, expect that for bills to be introduced for consideration, they should reflect the present state of our revenue, but the reverse is the case. This reminds me of what my JSS 3 History teacher taught me in a history class, he said, Athens defeated a city and whenever the king of that defeated city is eating, his slave(servant) draws near to him and says “Sir, remember the Athenians” Nigerian legislature should always remember the impact of oil crash and COVID 19 on our economy when introducing bills to show their patriotism to the nation.
In the present state of the country’s economy, there is every need for the country to get stabilized before launching to the next level. In the course of this, I found out, that there should be a change in the type of bills introduced. The legislature should avoid all unworkable bills for retreating bills.
I see Retreating Bills as bills that tend to look into the level of execution of bills passed into laws. They are bills meant to check or monitor if passed laws are actually completed(executed) if it is to the needs or expectations of the people. Retreating bills could also be regarded as appraisal bills, because, it does not seek to introduce new ones, but rather to examine(assess) the degree of accomplishment, if possible all bills passed into law in a country. Seeing retreating bills in terms of appraisal means having an in-depth examination or assessment of infrastructural projects executed in a country or major areas the country’s huge fund was misappropriated. When this is done, the country’s law-making body can think of the next step. Though, Retreating Bills, order, and motions have been in operation in the country just recent. Good examples of Retreating Bills, order, and motions are the incessant probes of top government functionaries in Nigeria. The probes of EFCC, NDDC, and CBN very many are still on the pipeline. But, is like people have mistaken C to mean corruption. No wonder one of our Nigerian Comedians MC Edo Pikin says “C” is for corruption. He further substantiates that Nigerians that are queuing to steal are more that than those stealing already. This portends a bad signal to the country. People see that as a joke. Yes, it is a joke but it has philosophical and prophetic meaning with a very high predictive validity.
There are rumours that some State Government(s) are planning to retrench workers, some intend to reduce workers’ salaries while some have started. These are Retreating motions which are inimical to citizens.Though, Retreating motions like salary cuts for such State Governments is to strike a balance and is temporary. It should be noted that, Retreating Motions tend to correct for improvement. it is advisable that instead of States in the country to give Retreating motions like retrenchment of workers, motions for resuscitation of moribund Industries, most especially agro-based to provide employment opportunities to our youths should be encouraged.
Federal Government of Nigeria, now gives temporary employment to young Nigerians and pays peanuts, for example, N Power. Nigerian Youths Investment Fund(NYIF), and Public Social Works will soon be recruited and be paid in stipends. The Federal Government has retreated her decision by employing temporarily Nigerian Youths with payment of stipends because of her financial strength.
Apart from that, in Nigeria currently, there are speculations, that many of our students may find it extremely difficult to resume school whenever schools reopen. The public has been crying to the government(s) at all levels to help to intervene by mounting strategies(measures) to ensure Nigerian students return to school with ease. The legislature is duty-bound to introduce stringent Retreating Bills that can facilitate students’ easy return to school(that is, recoiling of students).
In sum, there will be hope for BETTER Nigeria, if the country could sincerely and genuinely acknowledge the metamorphosis on Nigerian Bills and the need to cling on Retreating Bills Bills that are unworkable(mirage-like) should be rejected on the introduction. The country’s legislature should be encouraged to seminars that will give a holistic insight of the appraisal of passing laws. I will equally use this medium to appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari, who by all standards has the aplomb to bounce on whosoever is involved in the misappropriation of funds in this country to set up an “uncivilized” committee to appraise all seemingly unworkable infrastructural projects and make them workable and realistic. The fact that many Nigerians that are queuing to steal are more than those stealing is food for thought to the country. Mr. President should not treat that with levity rather as a matter of urgency by beefing up his fight against corruption which has been one his main objectives of which he is globally known, least the country will witness corruption pandemic or be regarded as corruption stricken country.
Ogwezzy, Richardson is a teacher at Girls’ Secondary School, Kwale, Delta State