The Speaker of the House of Representatives Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila on Tuesday urged the chairmen and deputy chairmen of the standing committees of the House to create innovative ways of engaging the public and relevant stakeholders in every legislative process.
By so doing, the Speaker said, the House would have succeeded in building support for policy initiatives as well as promoting the relationship between the House and the public on one hand and the critical stakeholders on the other hand.
In an address to welcome his colleagues from the budget defence break embarked upon in October, Gbajabiamila said the House has a lot of tasks ahead in the coming weeks.
Gbajabiamila’s appeal to his colleagues came as the House debated and passed for second reading two critical Bills, namely: the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and the Electoral Act (amendment) Bill.
He said already, the Special Committee on Constitution amendment chaired by Deputy Speaker, Rep. Ahmed Idris Wase, has since commenced work as it had called for memoranda from the public.
He encouraged members to reach out to their constituents “to participate in both the Constitutional Review and Electoral Amendment processes by articulating and submitting the changes they wish to see. This too is part of the joint task of nation-building.
“It is through the aggregation of the many and varied opinions of all Nigerians that we will arrive at a constitution that meets all the best expectations we have for our country.
“As much as is possible, I encourage all the Chairmen and Deputy Chairmen of the House Committees to seek out innovative avenues for public engagement, stakeholder collaboration and cross-pollination of policy ideas.
“Increased public participation in the legislative process is also part of our Legislative Agenda,” Gbajabiamila said, adding that “When done appropriately, such interactions can build support for policy initiatives and promote relations between the House of Representatives and the public on the one hand, and the critical policy stakeholders on the other.”
The Speaker said following the budget defence period, “Efforts are in full swing to ensure that we will pass the budget on time in keeping with the standard we set last year, and which the Nigerian people now rightly expect of us.”
However, the Speaker observed that during the budget defence process, there were government agencies “that consider the exercise of the legislative authority to review their budget proposals as an undue incursion on the management of their offices.
“This posture stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the legislative role in the appropriations process.
“Let me at this time reiterate that when the Committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate convene to review the heads of expenditure contained in the Appropriation Bill, we do so in the exercise of clear and concise constitutional authority.
“Let me also state very clearly that this is a responsibility we take seriously, and will not evade, regardless of whatever objections may arise from any quarters.”
The Speaker asked such agencies to come over and subject themselves to the budget defence process as it is part of the constitutional mandate of the House.
“It is in the best interests of our country that all parties concerned subject themselves to this process in good faith, knowing that this too is an obligation of service to our country.
“We will pass the budget, and we will do it early, and we will do it right. The Nigerian people expect as much from us. I thank all of you for the work you have put in thus far, and I encourage you to continue in this regard.”
Gbajabiamila also called on the media to always ascribe comments made by individual members of the House to such members and not the entire House, saying whenever the House has a position on a matter, it would come out to say so.
“There are no restrictions on the rights of members to speak to the press at any time and to espouse their ideas, and positions. However, these individual statements do not represent the official position of the House of Representatives. Treating them as if they were, usually to drive a particular narrative is a deliberate attempt to malign the House to further the known and unknown agendas of outside parties.
“It is time to put a definite stop to this. When the House speaks as a collective, we will do so through our resolutions and the Spokesperson of the House. Any other pronouncements should be ascribed to the individuals that make them, as is the fair and proper journalistic practice.
“I said this, because I read through the paper this morning and the headline said that the House said the 2021 Budget will not get us out of recession, and it was ascribed to the House of Representatives. That is why I feel it is important to mention it in our opening remark. If you don’t hear us say anything officially on any policy or any issue, do not ascribe it to the House. If the House needs to speak collectively as an institution, we will do so.”
The House at plenary also prayed for the repose of the soul of Ifeanyi Okereke, the vendor that died from a shot fired by a security agent attached to the Speaker last Thursday.