BREAKING: NASS Passed National Anthem Bill in 6 Days, but These 4 Crucial Bills Have Been Pending for Years

It took the presidency and the National Assembly only six days to introduce, debate, pass and sign the National Anthem Bill. The bill, which summarily takes Nigeria back to its old anthem, passed first and second readings in quick succession on May 23. By May 28, the Senate had passed ‘Nigeria we hail thee’ as the National Anthem and sent the bill to the presidency for assent. Barely 24 hours later, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu signed the bill, and it became law....CONTINUE READING THE ARTICLE FROM THE SOURCE

Different reactions, mostly outrage, have followed the signing of this bill into law. Some Nigerians argue that the anthem, a colonial vestige, should not be a national symbol of an independent Nigeria. For some others, sensitising Nigerians to the national anthem would constitute another unnecessary expenditure for the federal government.

Most importantly, however, concerned Nigerians have questioned the relevance of the bill and the quickness of its signing, especially considering what the economic indicators in Nigeria currently look like.

FIJ has compiled a list of four more essential bills that have been stuck in the legislature for years. Some of these bills have not been passed by the National Assembly. The ones that have a legislative nod have not been signed into law by the president.

It has been more than eight years since the bill drafted to criminalise sexual harassment against students of tertiary institutions in Nigeria was introduced. But despite frequent reports on this act, especially against women, the bill has been stuck between the National Assembly and the presidency.

In 2016, Ovie Omo-agege and 57 other senators sponsored the bill to jail staff of tertiary institutions found guilty of acts of sexual harassment against students. However, the passage process hit a snag in the House of Representatives after the Senate passed it in 2017. The representatives rejected the bill because “it was not comprehensive enough”.

In 2019, Omo-Agee reintroduced the bill to the Senate. The re-introduction was likely triggered by the outrage that followed the British Broadcasting Corporation’s investigation into sexual harassment. The Senate passed the bill again in 2020.

There was another two years between the time the Senate passed the bill and its approval by the House of Representatives. In June 2023, both arms of the legislature gave a joint nod to the bill.

The ninth assembly had not got a presidential nod for the bill when it was dissolved a week later.

EXPORT PROHIBITION REPEAL BILL

In March, FIJ reported how the Nigerian agricultural sector missed out on significant profit because of a law made under the military dictatorship of Ibrahim Babangida.

The 1989 Export Prohibition Act prohibits Nigerians from exporting agriculture produce like yam, rice, maize, cassava, beans and imported food items. According to this act, the punishment for exporting the items listed above could be as severe as life imprisonment.

The clamour to repeal this act emerged in 2017, when Nigeria attempted large-scale yam exports but failed. FIJ reported how various stakeholders in the agricultural sector had appealed multiple times to sitting legislatures to repeal the bill.

In 2019, Sabo Mohammed sponsored and introduced the bill to repeal the act to the floor of the Senate. The bill, however, didn’t get passed by the Senate until December 2022.

The bill didn’t get its first reading at the House of Representatives until July 2023. The bill remains stuck within the National Assembly, about seven years after stakeholders began actively lobbying for it.

For context, the combined global market value for all the food commodities on the list was about $560 billion as of 2023. As of 2021, Nigeria was the largest producer of cassava in the world, with an output of about six million metric tonnes.

Nigeria only just joined the list of countries that recognise the importance of mental health in January 2023, when Buhari signed the Mental Health Bill into law. Before then, the bill had survived two attempts at an overhaul in 2003 and in 2013. The signing of this bill made the clamour to decriminalise suicide in Nigeria louder and more pronounced.

The first significant attempt at decriminalising suicide in Nigeria started in the ninth House of Representatives. In 2022, Francis Waive, representing Ughelli north/south, sponsored the bill to scale down the punishments from a one-year jail term to community service and mandatory counselling.

However, the bill could not scale legislative scrutiny. In March, the new bill to decriminalise suicide passed second reading in the House of Representatives, about two years after the first attempt, courtesy of Waive.

FIJ has reported several cases of employers refusing to pay their employees. With the right laws in place, it is possible that employees will be better protected.

There have been two major attempts by the National Assembly to protect employees in Nigeria from employers that owe salaries. In 2016, the Employees/Workman (Unpaid Wages Prohibition) Bill 2016’ was introduced in the National Assembly. The bill didn’t pass the first reading until 2019, after which it was recalled by the ninth assembly for reconsideration.

Another attempt at protecting employees did not resurface until three years later, when Adewale Hameed, representing the Agege Federal Constituency, sponsored the Employee Renumeration Protection Bill. According to the bill tracker of the Policy and Legal Advocacy Center, the bill has only just passed first reading since it was introduced in July 2023.

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