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Nigerians’ll decide fate of hate speech bill – Lawan

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Following the unceasing attack on the proposed hate speech bill, Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan, on Monday declared that Nigerians will determine the fate of the controversial bill.

Lawan also insisted that the 9th Senate and indeed the National Assembly should be judged by its actions and inactions.

The Senate President made the declaration at a media parley in Abuja on the achievements of the 9th Senate in the past six months.

The proposed hate speech bill has continued a barrage of attacks by prominent Nigerians since it was introduced by its sponsor, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi.

But Lawan noted that Nigerians would have the opportunity to decide whether the bill would be passed or not.

He added that Nigerians would have a date during the public hearing on the bill to say whether they wanted the bill passed or not.

He expressed happiness that Nigerians were talking about the bill saying “it is not up to members of the National Assembly alone to deal with the hate speech bill.”

According to him, the bill is for every interested person to say if they wanted the hate speech bill passed or not.

On the labelling of the National Assembly as a rubber stamp parliament, Lawan insisted that misrepresenting what the Senate stood for, Nigerians judge the upper chamber by what it does.

He said that it would only be proper to call the Senate rubber stamp if it doing “rubber stamp” biddings of the executive.

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Lawan said, “Let me take this opportunity to appeal, judge us by what we do. Judge us by our actions. We have undertaken so many actions so far, and the press has been in this journey with us. Please judge us by what we do and what we don’t.

“There is no way we can, for example, pass into law something that will be inimical to the people of Nigeria. No we can’t.

“But we will do everything possible to ensure that we legislate on what will make life better for Nigerians and we have shown the sign so far.

“We have tried in the Senate to remain united, focused and deliver on what is good for Nigeria. So far, I think we have not done anything to show that even if a request is against Nigerians, it will be passed.

“But I don’t want to even imagine a situation where the National Assembly will be mean at Nigerians because we are a microcosm of Nigeria.

“So that settles the issue of rubber stamp. Because when we do rubber stamp, you can say this is rubber stamp. But if we do what is right, please encourage us because it helps.”

“I answered something at the beginning about hate speech. Hate speech (bill) is one issue that has elicited so much reaction from Nigerians.

“Personally, am happy that everybody is talking. It is not up to members of the National Assembly alone to deal with the hate speech bill.

“Like I said at the beginning, it is for every interested person. If you say the hate speech bill should not pass, when they would conduct the public hearing, get as many people against the hate speech bill as possible ton attend the public hearing and make their case.

“I am sure it is better for me stop to talk about hate speech so that I don’t also engage in hate speech.”

“So that settles the issue of rubber stamp. Because when we do rubber stamp, you can say this is rubber stamp. But if we do what is right, please encourage us because it helps.”

Lawan said that the 9th National Assembly will do things differently to break the jinx with the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) nex
He said, “The Petroleum Industry Bill was first introduced in the National Assembly in 2007 but is yet to be passed in its entirety.

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“The National Assembly will this time around adopt a different approach to make the passage of the PIB a reality.

“We want to see a situation where the Legislature and the Executive work very closely to have a PIB that will attract investment into the oil and gas sector in Nigeria.

“We want to create an investment climate that will be competitive. We know some other countries have this product; therefore we have to be competitive. We have to create an environment where the businesses make profit.

“This is a journey that involves everyone. We want both government – and that includes the legislature and executive – on the one hand and other relevant stakeholders in the sector, particularly the IOCs (International Oil Companies) to work together to ensure that this environment we are trying to create is an environment that will work for all of us.

Lawan said the Electoral Reforms Bill is also of great priority to the National Assembly.

“The Electoral Reforms Amendment Bill is a priority because of the urgent need to improve our electoral processes and secure the democratic gains that we have made in the Fourth Republic.

“We want to pass the Bill well ahead of the next electoral cycle in 2023 and avoid the political heat and pitfalls that imperiled the efforts of the eight National Assembly which passed the same bill close to the last general elections.

“We are not oblivious of the interest and concerns some of these bills have generated from the public. But, we must not forget that lawmaking is a rigorous process that allows for all sides of the argument to be heard and the true will of the people established before a bill becomes law.”

“This Senate and indeed the ninth National Assembly will not pass any bill that is not in the national interest. Ours is and will remain a Senate that will always work for Nigerians,” Lawan said.

The Senate President stated that in the last six months of his Presidency, the Senate recorded a feat with the passage of six critical bills needed to accelerate the Nigerian economy.

He added that the bills would complement the successful implementation of the 2020 budget which was recently passed by the National Assembly and return the country’s annual budget cycle to the Janaury-December timeline.

Among the critical bills passed are: The Deep Off-shore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract Act and the Finance bills.

“The three other bills that we have passed are the Public Procurement Act 2007 (Amendment) Bills, 2019, which we did to sanitise the public procurement process and curtail the incidence and influence of corruption.

According to Lawan, “Aside from the six bills 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.”

He added that “As part of its statutory roles, the ninth Senate has also 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.

“Presently, we are screening the Presidential nominees for the National Hajj Commission, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCOM).

“The Senate is also likely to pass the 2020 Budget for the Federal Capital Territory before we embark on our Christmas and New Year recess.

Lawan noted that the Senate has, within the past six months, received 78 public petitions which were referred to the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions.

Most of these petitions, according to Lawan, were presented by private citizens with grievances against agencies or agents of government.

“The committee has so far examined nine of the petitions, concluded its investigations and laid its reports on the table.

“The Committee is also working on the other petitions with a view to satisfactorily addressing the grievances behind them”, he said.

Fielding questions on the non-payment of severance allowances for legislative aides who served in the Eighth National Assembly, the Senate President disclosed that all affected aides will be paid their entitlements by the end of this week.

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