Over the years, each assembly of the House of Representatives do set for itself, a roadmap of its activities, so it was believed to be in tune the existing practice, when the 10th House recently unveiled its own legislative agenda. JOSHUA EGBODO X-rays the document amidst concerns over implementation
Weeks after the inauguration, Speaker of the 10th House of Representatives, Hon. Tajudeen Abbas, announced the composition of the legislative agenda drafting team under the leadership of the Majority Leader, Hon. Julius Ihonvbare. The team swung into action through the engagement of critical stakeholders.
During one of such engagements in Abuja, Speaker Abbass reiterated the assurance that the expected legislative agenda will address the yearnings of Nigerians, more that the House was open to the inputs of Nigerians as the agenda was being developed.
“Our desire is to have a legislative agenda that meets the yearnings and aspirations of citizens and with which they would use as a benchmark to evaluate and assess our performance after four years. Therefore, today’s meeting should not be seen as the usual talk-shop. Consider it a critical national assignment.
“There is no better way to show that the 10th Houses of Representatives is ready to respond, and urgently too, to the yearnings of those who brought us to the people’s House to do the people’s business,” the Speaker said in his address, adding that the public engagement was maintaining the resolve of the House, as representatives of the people, to regularly consult citizens in the discharge of the mandate given to the lawmakers.
The Speaker recalled while welcoming members of the House from a short recess after inauguration of the House, that he had earlier declared the 10th House as “the House of the People.”
He said, “I equally promised that while it is the duty of the House to develop a Legislative Agenda for which our constituents will hold us accountable, the House would not hesitate to consult critical stakeholders in developing the agenda to elicit their input and areas of expectations, which is the reason we have gathered here this morning. It is only through such engagements that legislators will become, truly, the representatives of the people. To do otherwise, will amount to a democracy without the people”.
Majority Leader, and Chairman of the House Ad Hoc Committee on Legislative Agenda, Ihonvbere, in his remarks, said the event marked “a pivotal moment in our nation’s history as we receive input to build a comprehensive blueprint to drive progress, prosperity, and inclusivity across our great nation”.
According to the lawmaker, the vision of the House for Nigeria is one of a prosperous and vibrant nation where every citizen can achieve their full potential. “We envision a Nigeria where the economy is robust and diversified, infrastructure is world-class, education is transformative, healthcare is accessible to all, and governance is transparent and accountable. This vision transcends partisan lines, and it is the collective aspiration of every Nigerian.
“The Legislative Agenda is a culmination of tireless efforts, broad consultations, and dedicated research aimed at addressing the critical challenges facing our nation while seizing the abundant opportunities that lie ahead”, he said.
House endorses document
Recently, the House in the committee of the whole, considered and passed the report of the drafting committee, a move many pundits saw as a relief to waiting and agitated Nigerians. The House said the document promises to provide legislative support and solution to the various socio-economic, political and governance issues affecting Nigeria, stressing that the reforms proposed in the Legislative Agenda of the 10th House will positively impact the three arms of the government, namely Legislature, Executive and the Judiciary.
Spokesman of the House, Hon. Akin Rotimi in a follow-up statement to the formal endorsement said “the eight (8) priority areas are; strengthening good governance, improving national security, law reform, economic growth and development, social sector reform and development, inclusion and open parliament, influencing/directing Nigeria’s foreign policy, climate change and environmental sustainability”.
The document highlighted the main objective of the Legislative Agenda, which is to make the 10th House “The People’s House” and improve the lawmaking, oversight and representative functions of the legislature. “Other specific objectives include to bring the House closer to the people and promote citizens’ engagement through the Open National Assembly project; promote good governance, transparency and accountability through legislative measures; support the eight-point Agenda of the Executive; strengthen the committee system for effective service delivery in the House of Representatives; and promote smooth legislative-executive relationships for good governance”, he explained further.
The Legislative Agenda also noted that the 10th House had identified the essential elements to provide direction, purpose, and a framework for effective legislative functioning. “They are intended to help guide decision-making, shape the parliament’s identity, and ensure that the House serves the best interests of Nigerians,” the policy document said. This ethical framework will guide our legislative work, inspire and motivate members and stakeholders, align efforts toward common goals and objectives and clarify the purpose and role of the House”, it said.
According to the document, the core values include effectiveness, efficiency, commitment, accountability, accessibility and responsiveness. It said the vision is for a “A ‘People’s House’ that is responsive, results-oriented and effective in performing its constitutional manner towards the security and welfare of all Nigerians”, with a mission “To promote professionalism and best legislative practices in lawmaking, oversight and representation”.
On background of the Legislative Agenda, the report said “The 10th Assembly will operate within the context of serious economic, political and social challenges in Nigeria. Citizens’ confidence in government is currently low, and a crisis of legitimacy is affecting the effectiveness of government institutions, including the legislature.
“Given the above and the huge expectations citizens have of government, the 10th House of Representatives is committed to developing and implementing a Legislative Agenda to rebuild citizens’ confidence and deliver good governance for improved democracy in Nigeria—specifically, the House is committed to ‘legislative reforms to unlock Nigerian’s economic growth and development of our vast human and natural resources”.
The policy document, however, pointed out that the implementation of the outlined legislative priority areas “depends not only on the House of Representatives but also on the involvement of other arms of the government (the Executive and Judiciary), civil society, media, international partners and all Nigerians.”
The document also noted that the Speaker had set up a House Committee on the Monitoring and Implementation of the Legislative Agenda to assess the progress in attaining identified milestones, identifying challenges and engaging in continuous review of the Agenda to incorporate findings.
Speaker Abbas, on the Mission Statement on the Legislative Agenda, recalled how he set up an Ad Hoc Committee on the Legislative Agenda, with a mandate to “set out clear legislative priorities and goals for the House to assist Members in addressing the most pressing issues facing us today”.
The Speaker further stated that the Agenda was also intended to streamline the activities of the House and guide the efficient allocation of resources. “Critically, as the people’s representatives, we recognise that Nigerians and our constituents have a right to know what issues are being addressed and what priorities their elected representatives focus on. This transparency enhances public trust and accountability. Accordingly, we have dubbed the 10th House the ‘People’s House”, he said, as he expressed the expectation of the House that the Legislative Agenda would “foster meaningful public engagement and encourage citizens and stakeholders to participate in debates, hearings, and consultations related to the identified priorities, making the legislative process more inclusive and democratic”.
He said further that “Nigeria faces numerous challenges across various sectors, and legislative interventions are crucial for addressing these issues and driving positive change. Therefore, a well defined legislative agenda with legislative priorities is of utmost importance for the efficient and effective functioning of the legislature. It is a roadmap that guides lawmakers and legislative bodies in decision-making and lawmaking processes. The 10th House of Representatives has been called to serve at one of the most challenging times for our constituents and nation.
“This well-defined legislative agenda with clear priorities is a fundamental tool for the 10th House to function effectively, efficiently, and accountably. I present it to members, committees and all Nigerians and look forward to a successful House and urge my colleagues to make this Agenda the core document of the House and ensure that all committees begin to work and meet the expectations of all Nigerians”.
Specifically on November 8, 2023, the agenda was officially unveiled by Speaker Tajudeen Abbas, who said its main role was to make the 10th House ‘the People’s House’ as well as promote transparency, accountability, and citizens’ engagement.