The British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Harriet Thompson, has urged the National Assembly to pass the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill and other critical bills before the expiration of its tenure.
Thompson made the call when she paid a courtesy visit on the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, and Leader of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, on Monday in Abuja.
She also called for the passage of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (Amendment Bill), the Police Reform Bill, Disability Bill and Gender Equal Opportunity Bill as well as the Electoral Reform Act (Amendment Bill).
According to her, the call has become necessary to ensure that lawmakers are alive to their legislative duties in spite of the commencement of Presidential and National Assembly electioneering campaign across the country.
Thompson said: “We are here today to talk about some aspects of your legislative agenda as the official campaign has started prior to the elections.
“We very much hope that the next assembly will be able to continue with some of the serious business ahead of it.
“We hope to hear from you and if I might say some bills with which we have particular interest and we have spoken many times before.
“The first is the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, the Companies and Allied Matters Act, the Police Reform Bill, the Disability Bill and the Gender Equal Opportunity Bill and the Electoral Reform Act.”
The deputy high commissioner said passage of the bills would go a long way in meeting the needs and aspirations of Nigerians, particularly in terms of their wellbeing, security and development.
Responding, Saraki pledged the commitment of the leadership of the National Assembly towards ensuring that the campaigns does not in any way affect the functions of the legislature.
He further assured that all pending critical bills would be attended to before the end of the present administration.
Saraki said: “It is always a pleasure to see you. It is very important to emphasise that it is our duty in the national assembly to see that legislative work continues.
“I assure you and the public that we will continue to do our best to see that some of the bills which are also key to us and emanated from the legislature are passed.
“They are the PIGB which has never gone this far. We have worked very hard in the two chambers of the National Assembly and sent it to the Executive, unfortunately it came back with a number of issues raised.
“However, these are issues that we feel should not stop the progress of the bill.
“We are a bit disappointed that the bill was not signed, because the issues raised could easily be addressed and not hinder its passage into law.
“We consulted widely especially with stakeholders in the petroleum industry.”
He further said that a lot of work had also gone into other parts of the bill, stating: “we have already gone far in the fiscal bill and the host community bill, all part of the PIB”.
He added: “They were to be laid for further legislative action but the rejection of the PIGB has slowed this down a bit.
“We are trying to address the issue and sending it back to the Executive because we know the enormous impact it will make in terms of transparency and accountability in the sector and government revenue.
“Allied Maters Bill has been passed we are only waiting for concurrence in the House of Representatives.
“The Police Reform Bill will go through public hearing very soon.
“The bill came as a result of increased number of insecurity cases across the country.
“We are hopeful that it will scale through in the life of this administration to effect the necessary institutional changes in police architecture.”
He expressed optimism that the Executive will sign the bill into law, saying that it was for the benefit of the country.
Saraki said the senate would hold a public hearing on the matter in few weeks’ time to ensure its eventual passage.
On Disability Bill, the senate president said, “I am sure it has been transmitted to the Executive. I will check the records to know the position of the bill”.
He added: “On the Gender Bill, there are one or two areas that we need consensus on. Hopefully it will be passed before the end of the session.
“For the Electoral Bill, it has been sent back to the Executive. We have done exactly what the President asked for.
“The bill is important to improve the quality and credibility of our elections.
“A lot of work has gone into it and we are waiting for the president’s assent.
“Though election campaigns have started we will ensure that governance does not suffer.”