The Speaker of the House of Representatives Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila has said that the current realities brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have necessitated the House to review its Legislative Agenda launched last October and come up with an updated version.
The Speaker said the House took into cognizance the fact that COVID-19 came with a lot of challenges that could not be addressed by the first Legislative Agenda, which was prepared long before the outbreak of the pandemic.
In a keynote address at the retreat for the leadership and members of the House on the updated Legislative Agenda on Saturday in Abuja, tagged ‘Our Contract with Nigerians,’ the Speaker said the House would ensure it follows the objectives of the updated Legislative Agenda logically so as to achieve success.
Gbajabiamila said though the House came up with the last Legislative Agenda a year ago, “However, in all our planning and imagining, we did not know that the world will soon change drastically, in ways we could not then conceive of, and with consequences beyond our wildest imagination.
“Before now, the extent of our difficulties was well known to us. We have population growth that far outpaces the rate of economic growth. Insecurity has made vast swathes of our country uninhabitable for citizens and unattractive to investment.
“We are at war, fighting insurgents in the North East who want to remake our world in the image of a medieval theocracy. Our education system is producing graduates who cannot compete in the 21st-century knowledge economy.
“At the same time, economic and social inequity exacerbates our age-old conflicts, making cooperation and progress difficult, and often impossible.
“As a consequence of the new realities imposed on us by the Covid-19 pandemic, the question then is, how do you achieve your ambitions in a world where the signposts of certainty have moved so far that we can barely even see them, or recognise where they used to be?
“This is the reality from which the Nigerian people are looking to us for lasting solutions. Are we able to rise to the challenges of our times? I believe that we are. This updated Legislative Agenda, and the implementation plan which we have tagged ‘Our Contract with Nigerians’ sets out the new priorities of this 9th House of Representatives and commits us to a plan of action over the next year, and for the rest of our tenure.
“We have called this document a contract because that is what it is: a written account of what we owe the people and how we intend to meet our obligations within the shortest possible time. These documents represent our intention to be held accountable based on what we have freely committed to achieving, and which I am confident we will realize, to the glory of God and the edification of our people.”
Gbajabiamila said the retreat was an opportunity to empower members “with the confidence to dare and the skills to deliver.
“I encourage all of us to use the time here today to learn from the speakers and each other, exchange ideas and develop individual roadmaps that would guide our interactions as we work together to deliver a House of Representatives that meets the highest expectations of its citizens.
“I want you to remember today as always what our mission is: to protect those who need us, to shield them, to empower through opportunity, to decide what future we want and then to build it.
“This is our mandate, and we will deliver because we must, because there is no alternative. I pray for God’s guidance on all our endeavours and I wish journey mercies to all those who will be travelling today and the days ahead.”
In a goodwill message, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Bar. Boss Mustapha, said the retreat could not have come at a better time “because our nation and indeed the entire world is facing the most important emergency of our generation in the form of COVID-19 pandemic.”
He said the impact of the pandemic has disrupted all global systems, including governance, economy, lawmaking, food production, transportation, education and health systems to mention, which was why the legislature needed to recalibrate and reposition itself on the delivery of the expected outcomes of its contract with Nigerians “because the next three years will be very critical to our nation.”
The SGF, who is also the chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF), said the mutual relationship that currently exists between the Executive and the Legislature has made governance more result-orientated and development driven.
“The list of examples of mutual respect and understanding range from the respect for the principle of separation of powers, constant consultations, promptness in dealing with requests from the Executive, thorough and timely passage of the budget and a host of other positives steps taken by the legislature.
“There is no doubt that we are laying a sound foundation for future generations of Nigerians to build upon in governance, accountability and behaviour, all pointing in the direction of convergence of our determination to develop a peaceful, strong and virile nation.”
The updated Legislative Agenda is divided into three components: immediate legislative action, intermediate legislative action and long term legislative action so that the lawmakers would have the opportunity to propose laws and take actions that would fit in the current realities.
Lanre Lasisi, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Speaker, House of Representatives, Federal Republic of Nigeria.