Lawan, 9th Assembly and the middle ground
Since assuming office as President of the Senate on June 11, 2019, Senator Ahmad Lawan has practically demonstrated at intervals that he possesses the grit to take the Ninth National Assembly to record breaking heights under his leadership.
Without a doubt, his long years of stewardship as a lawmaker from his days in the House of Representatives down to the Senate justifies the intelligence and experience he exudes particularly on issues of legislation, and how same translates to good governance.
Lawan’s stint as Chairman of the National Assembly in the last six months paved the path for the implementation of the Senate’s legislative agenda with very clear focus on securing a better deal for Nigerians.
As a legislator who understands the dynamics of governance and the extent a cordial relationship with the executive could be to Nigerians and the country, Lawan would rather pursue vigorously the interest of Nigerians than involve the National Assembly in unnecessary rancour with the executive arm of government.
For critics who consider this a form of weakness or being a ‘Yes man’ to Presidential requests, it is on record that the Senate President, as a serving lawmaker under David Mark’s Presidency between 2007 – 2015, had a history of striking a harmonious working relationship with the Majority party in the Senate at the time.
As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Lawan was never embroiled in unnecessary confrontation with the Peoples’ Democratic Party-led executive arm of government.
Rather, as a member of the opposition All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) in the Sixth and Seventh Assembly, he sought to demand transparency and accountability in government spending through constant interface with Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government.
For Lawan, finding a middle-ground in the executive – legislature relations remains a sure way to go as against the counter-productive path of feudalism.
Stability in the Ninth Senate
While running for the Senate Presidency, it would be recalled that Ahmad Lawan had severally harped on the need for lawmakers to shun partisanship in the upper chamber if the Senate must forge as a united front that puts nation first before any other consideration.
So far, Lawan has walked the talk by ensuring that legislators irrespective of political divide are treated as first among equals. This played up on several occasions, particularly after the confirmation of President Buhari’s nominees for Chairman and Members of the board of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The Minority Leader of the Senate, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, following receipt of the NDDC budget by the Senate, had kicked against any move by the Joy Nunieh-interim board to defend the Commission’s budget before the National Assembly.
According to Abaribe, doing so would amount to violating the provisions of the NDDC Act which does not provide for, or allow an interim board to defend the Commission’s annual budget.
Despite political considerations weighing in the balance, the Senate President stood with the position of the Minority Leader who belongs to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by declaring the interim board void with the confirmation of the appointments of the NDDC board members.
Another instance was with the consideration and passage of the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Contract Sharing Act.
Despite being sponsored by a lawmaker belonging to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Bassey Akpan, the overall interest of the nation was placed first with lawmakers across party lines throwing their weight behind the passage of the legislation which will earn the country over USD$500 billion in the year 2020 alone.
Barely weeks after emerging the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan began the push for the country’s return to the January-December budget cycle.
At the time, his vision to put an end to Nigeria’s deformed budget cycle was considered a somewhat lofty idea that was practically unrealizable given the impeding bureaucratic bottlenecks which made same impossible for over a decade.
But sticking to his guns and relying on his power of negotiation with agencies of government, a relentless Lawan pursued vigorously his dream of strengthening that nation’s economy with the support of the executive.
For the first time in a very long while, the budget was presented by President Muhammadu Buhari to a joint session of the National Assembly on October 8, 2019.
The presentation of the 2020 budget in October signaled the end to Nigeria’s unpredictable budget cycle.
Determined to sustain the tempo already fired-up by the Executive arm of government, the National Assembly moved into action and started work on the proposal before it.
On December 5, 2019, the National Assembly finally passed the annual budget for the 2020 fiscal year, a development which gave finality to the country’s return to the January-December cycle, and stands a historic achievement under Lawan’s sterling leadership.
Just like King Midas from Greek Mythology, Lawan seems to have a way with achieving legislative feats which proved unachievable for previous Assemblies.
Other milestone achievements in the 6 months leadership of the Senator Lawan-led National Assembly are: the passage of the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract Act, the Finance Bill, 2019 and, of course, the critical Public Procurement (Amendment) Act.
Just as each of the above legislations to a great extent determines the successful implementation of the country’s annual budget, they were in the past considered the most problematic when up for consideration by the National Assembly as was the Production Sharing Contract Act which defied all attempts at amendment since its enactment in 2004.
However, with Lawan’s touch, the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin bill, 2019 was passed on October 16, 2019 by the Senate and later signed by President Muhammadu Buhari into law.
Also, the Public Procurement Act was amended and passed by the National Assembly to rid Nigeria’s procurement processes of several obstructions which interfere with the smooth implementation of the nation’s annual budget.
Bills passed and introduced by the Ninth N’Assembly
Aside the Production Sharing Contract bill, 2019, Finance Bill, 2019 and Public Procurement (Amendment) Bill, 2019 that were passed, 185 bills have also gone through first reading in the ninth Senate, while 32 other bills have passed second reading and are now undergoing the necessary further legislative processes at the relevant Senate Committees.
As part of its statutory roles, the ninth Senate confirmed 12 key appointments, including those of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ministers of the Government of the Federation, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, President of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria; and chairmen and members of eight Commissions, Services and Corporations.
Before adjourning on December 19, 2019, the Senate forwarded for screening, the Presidential nominees for the National Hajj Commission, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCOM).
The upper chamber also considered and passed the 2020 annual budgets for the Nigerian Communications Commission, the Universal Service Provision Fund and the Federal Capital Territory.
- Ezrel Tabiowo is the Special Assistant (Press) to President of the Senate.