Executive/legislature feud: How Nigeria lost N1bn in Senate, Reps

As President declines assent to Electoral Act Amendment bill, 39 others

Nigeria’s public sector has in the last four years lost at least N800 million spent by the National Assembly in packaging the different bills rejected by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Besides the losses by the Nigerian public sector, the private sector is also reputed to have lost at least N200 million to sundry expenses on bill lobbying, drafting and other interests.

That takes the cumulative losses by both the private and public sectors to an estimated N1 billion between June 9, 2015, and May 2019.

As at the last count, the President had vetoed 40 of the close to 300 bills processed by the two chambers of the National Assembly in the 8th session.

Investigations by Tribune Online indicate that the bill processing pattern in the National Assembly goes through a number of money guzzling stages, which left the public pause ajar at the end of the day.

Some of the areas the money is spent on include, bill drafting, lobbying, public hearing, investigative hearing, foreign strips, in case of the bill with an international dimension, joint committee sittings, experts and consultants as well as other bureaucratic sundry expenses.

Investigations also confirmed that the private sector has also lost an estimated N200 million on bills within the time under review.

Checks by Tribune Online revealed that to draft a bill will cost an average of N1million, whereas, the Rules and Business Committees of each of the chambers that would schedule such bills on the Order paper would also incur expenses on paper works.

It was gathered that the private sector, with interests on different bills, usually engage lobbyists and consultants, while some also engage legislative experts to draft such bills.

It was gathered that some of the losses by the private sector also include funds expended to attend public hearings on such bills, flights and accommodation as well as sundry matters.

A senior legislative staff who broke down the expenses on the bills said that in the last four years, we can only estimate that at least N200 million has been lost by the private sector.

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This brings to N1billion, the total losses incurred by both the public and private sector on bills rejected by the President since 2015.

The Nigerian trend is quite a contrast to that of Canada and most of the Western countries.

In Canada for instance, the problem is with the failure of the executive to push through not more than 25 bills in 18 months tenure, whereas previous governments used to record some 50 bills within the same timeframe.

The American Congress is also not on record to have faced the kind of ordeal its Nigerian counterpart has faced in the last four years.

At a dinner for National Assembly members at the Presidential Villa recently, President Buhari admitted that he did not enjoy the most cordial relationships with the outgoing 8th National Assembly.

The animosity is rooted in the mode of the emergence of the leadership of the two chambers in 2015, which is seen to have gone against the grain of the opinion of the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The presiding officers of the National Assembly including Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara eventually defected to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ahead of the electioneering process for the 2019 polls.

Investigations reveal that each chamber of the National Assembly spent at least N5 million on the preparation of each of the rejected bills, taking the public expenses on each of the 40 rejected bills to N10 million.

The final cost would stand at N400 million for each of the rejected bills, sources said.

The source also said that other sundry expenses on each of the bills stand at a conservative estimate of another N400 million.

It was learnt that some interested parties spend up to the sum of N5million in pushing each of the bills, while some could spend less, depending on the capacity of the Clerk of the respective committee, the Senators and Rep members involved and the consultants.

It was gathered that whereas some interest groups would pay no less than N1million on legislative drafting, others may pay less, while some others could actually pay higher on lobbying.

For the public hearing, the Senate and the House of Representatives each officially approve the sum of N2milion, while the cost could go higher for joint committees and investigative hearings.

The costs and amounts payable to consultants are not fixed as they are determined by the Committee Chairman, the Vice Chairman and the Clerk. It also depends on the capacity, reach and rating of the Consultant involved.

“For instance, a Professor, who is an expert on a particular field would determine his bill. What he would charge may be different from time to time,” a source said.

Though records by the Senate indicated that the outgoing 8TH SENATE has passed 293 bills as of May 7, 2019, as against the records of the previous Assemblies including 128 by the 7th Senate; 72 by the 6th Senate and 129 by the 5th Senate, the chamber has also had to contend with the biggest number of rejected bills, which for now stands at 40.

While the President gave reasons for the rejection of some of the bills, some others were just allowed to lapse after the expiration of the 30 days constitutional window.

Some of the rejected bills with the reasons for the decline of presidential assent are listed below:

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1. Electoral Amendment Bill:
– Rejected four times.
– The last reason being that if signed into law, it was going to be injurious to the recently concluded general elections.
– According to the President, some of the proposed amendments may adversely affect the operation of elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
– He also said the bill had the unintended consequence of leaving INEC with only nine days to collate and compile lists of candidates and political parties as well as manage the primaries of the 91 political parties for the various elections.

2. Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB): The President cited legislative drafting concerns and ambiguity. He also said that the bill was guilty of expanding the scope of Petroleum Equalisation Fund, which he said was in divergence from his administration’s policy. He also objected to the permission to the Petroleum Regulatory Commission to retain as much as 10 per cent of the revenue generated adding that such would put a burden on the three tiers of government.

3. Bill Seeking to Amend the Constitution for an Annual State of the Nation Address by the President:
– President Buhari said Section 7 of the bill might need to be redrafted to clearly indicate that it is Section 109 (1) (e) of the Constitution that was being amended.
– He also said that “there are existing laws that cater for legislative Service Commissions. Finally, prescribing a specific date in the 1999 Constitution for an annual State of the Nation Address may create practical challenges in diarizing this event.”

4. Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) Amendment Bill: President claimed that he took the action to enable ongoing consultations by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment with relevant agencies on tax holidays incentive regime for expansion projects, investments in rural areas as well as for agriculture/agro-processing to be included.

5. Immigration (Amendment) Bill: President claimed that he did so because it will have an adverse effect on Nigeria’s position on the Ease of Doing Business ranking.

6. Chartered Institute of Pension Practitioners Bill: President claimed that this Bill amounted to the duplication of the functions of an existing body.
Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (Amendment) Bill:
– President claimed that because the bill will interfere with and obstruct the smooth administration of revenue generating agencies of the Federal Government aside other infractions on extant laws.
– He added that if signed into law, the bill will confer the powers of oversight of the revenue currently vested in the President and the Minister of Finance on the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission and negate the existing provisions of Section 51 of the Federal Inland Revenue Service.

7. Maritime Security Operations Bill: President claimed that he refused assent because the proposed amendments will distort and duplicate the functions and operations of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

8. Bankruptcy and Insolvency Bill: President cited drafting errors.

9. Small and Medium Enterprise Agency Bill: President declined assent by claiming that “the agency will have similar objectives to the Bank of Industry particularly with regard to the funding of Small and Medium Enterprises.”

10. Energy Commission (Amendment) Bill: President claimed that its provisions infringe on the Rural Electrification Agency’s power and mandates with particular reference to the promotion and development of un-served and under-served rural communities across Nigeria.

11. Federal Roads Authority (Establishment) Bill: President claimed that it would make the entire technical supervisory ministry, the Transportation Ministry, redundant.

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12. Transport Commission Bills: President claimed that he was declining assent because “safety regulatory provisions enshrined in some sections of the bill, which are technical in nature, fall within the purview of central legislations implemented by agencies like NIMASA, NPA, NIWA and therefore should be expunged from the bill.

13. Ajaokuta Steel Company Completion Fund Bill: President claimed that appropriating $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account for funding the project as stipulated in the bill was not the best strategic option for Nigeria at this time of budgetary constraints. He stressed that Nigeria could not afford to commit such an amount in the midst of competing priorities with long term social and economic impact that the funds can be attentively deployed towards.

14. National Housing Fund Bill

15. Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria Bill 2018

16. Nigerian Aeronautical Search and Rescue Bill

17. National Biotechnology Development Agency Bill

18. National Institute of Credit Administration Bill

19. Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria Bill

20. Chartered Institute of Training and Development of Nigeria (Establishment) Bill

21. Nigerian Film Commission Bill

22. Climate Change Bill

23. Chartered Institute of Pension Practitioners Bill

24. Digital Rights and Freedom Bill

25. Stamp Duties (Amendment) Bill

26. National Research and Innovation Council (Est.) Bill

27. Chattered Institute of Entrepreneurship (Est.) Bill

28. Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences (Amendment) Bill

29. Subsidiary Legislation (Legislative Scrutiny) Bill

30. National Broadcasting Commission Amendment Bill

31. National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) Act (Amendment) Bill,

32. Federal Polytechnics Act (Amendment) Bill

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