8th Lagos Assembly: Harvest Of Private Members Bills

Oziegbe Okoeki writes on the high number of private members’ bills in the Eighth Lagos State House of Assembly in 10 months of its existence, a development that is unprecedented.

Bills are very important to the legislature. What eventually becomes law actually starts its journey as a bill in the parliament. Bills are usually introduced principally through two sources: the ‘Executive bills’ and bill from ‘Private Members bills’.

Lawmakers of the Eight Lagos State House of Assembly are setting a new record in the history of legislature through the high turn over of private members bills. The House will be one year on June 8, and in 10 months, there are nine private members bills at different stages of passage. None of the Lagos Assemblies’ have recorded as much as five private member bills in their entire four years lifespan. The bulk of the bills that they passed into laws were actually executive sponsored bills.

Observers are of the opinion that the House may record more than 20 private members bills in four years.

The private members bills are: Local Government Administration Law (Amendment) 2015; Lagos State Cancer Research Institute Bill, 2016; Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Bill, 2016; Bill on Kidnapping and Abduction. These four bills are sponsored by the Speaker, Hon. Mudashiru Obasa who represents Agege constituency 1. Obasa is a fourth-timer in the House.

Others are: Local Government Economic Planning and Development Board Bill, 2016; Lagos State Public Finance Management (Amendment) Bill, 2016; Lagos State Local Government Service Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2016. These three bills were sponsored by the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Eshilokun Sanni Wasiu. he represents Lagos Island 1 Constituency and is a second-timer in the House.

The Lagos State Properties Protection Bill, 2015 is sponsored by the Majority Leader, Hon. Sanai Agunbiade, who represents Ikorodu constituency 1 and a third-timer in the House. The remaining one: Shield for Rape Victims and Civil Liability Bill, 2016 is sponsored by Hon. Gbolahan Yishawu, who represents Eti-Osa 2. He also sponsored one private member bill in the Seventh Assembly as a first-timer, which was passed and signed into law by the former governor, Babatunde Fashola.

The goal of the Local Government Administration Law (Amendment) 2015  is to increase the tenure of chairmen and councillors at the councils to four years from the current three years and also give the House a say in the removal of erring chairmen and councillors. The sponsor, Obasa, said: “we want to create the same opportunity for local governments, to give them all opportunities and privileges to serve the same number of years like elected officials at the state and federal levels.

The Lagos State Cancer Research Institute Bill, is to create more awareness about the life terminator, cancer and to set up screening centres in all local governments. Obasa said: “we want to have a board or a research office that can look at issues of cancer critically and provide lasting solution. People can be rescued if they discover early that they have the problem. With screening centres in all local governments and opportunity for our people to access such centres we will be able to reduce the number of death caused by cancer annually”.

On the Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Bill, the speaker said: “Because crime is growing and the police are is totally inadequate, we want to provide something to complement the effort of the police. Policing is not totally about carrying arms. You can police with communication gadgets, by being vigilant and alert. We want to recruit people and position them somewhere to cover and monitor the area; people who can then signal or alert the police to come around and make arrests where necessary or stop the impending danger, so that we can have protection of life and property, which is the total responsibility of any government”.

The Bill on Kidnapping and Abduction, according to the sponsor, is to tackle the new dynamics in crime in the society. “Crime is taking a different dimension that the existing laws have not really captured. Kidnapping and abduction have become a new trend. so, we have to look at it and generate something that would provide for where we are lacking”.

The three bills sponsored by the Deputy speaker are meant to take care of the lacuna in economic planning, development and financial management at the local and state levels

The Lagos State Properties Protection Bill, otherwise called the Ajagungbale or land speculators bill is to check the criminal activities of land grabbers in the state who have constituted themselves into a menace and security threat.

The Shield for Rape Victims and Civil Liability Bill, 2016 is meant to protect victims of rape and shield them from undue exposure at trial in court.

The high turn-over of private members bills, no doubt, a healthy development, raises some questions: why the sudden upsurge in private members bills? Have the lawmakers suddenly woken up to their responsibilities? Is it a sign that the lawmakers are more hardworking and proactive? Or could it be because there are still so many areas of life in the state that has not be taken care of by laws? Or could it be as a result of better training and experience?      .

Obasa attributed the high turn over to the maturity of lawmakers. He said: “I will adduce this to the increase in opportunity to learn as a parliamentarian. You know the parliament has been in existence now for almost 16 years. It simply means we are growing, mature politicians.

“At the same time, those who are coming from outside, it is either they have served under the executive or they have been something before they joined the House. So looking at the experience they have gathered from where they are coming from and the one the existing members in the House also have acquired. So, I think these are the factors that are influencing the sudden increase in private members bills.

“I think the society as a whole, is like something where we all learn from; when you look around you, you look at the situation, you look at what is happening, you look at our statutes book, you discover that this thing is lacking, there is no provision for such in the existing statutes book; you have nothing else than to bring something new to add to the existing laws or to bring new law.

“If you look at the dynamics of crime in our society today, it is taking a different dimension that the existing laws have not really captured; something like kidnapping and abduction have become a new trend. so, we have to look at it and generate something that would provide for where we are lacking that would protect that area where the existing law have not really covered. These are major factors that are responsible for sudden upsurge in private members bill

The Majority Leader said “One of those things I see, we have been saying it, and it is manifesting. We have been saying it that a legislature would grow when the individuals in the legislature are experienced people. Now, we have three fourth-timers, six third-timers, we have like 11 second-timers. So, we have people in the legislature who are experienced in the art of lawmaking.

“With the training that the House has received, individual members now know how to go about sponsoring a bill and looking critically into the society to see which area do we feel needs legislative advocacy, to take care of some of the things. So, I see that as one reason why we have more of the bills.

He added: “The more experienced hands you have in the House, the more the House will be alive to its legislative responsibility. We are also looking critically at laws that have been passed before now and bringing them into conformity with present realities through amendments.

“Constitutionally, members of the House are elected to make laws, review laws and repeal laws. The reason for the high-turn-over is because over time, the House has been trained. We still have very credible and experienced hands in place. You would have imagined what would have happened if there are no old hands to show the new comers the way and the art of lawmaking and legislative advocacy.

Culled from: The Nation

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