30 May A Review of Some Bills Signed Into Law By Buhari… I
President Muhammadu Buhari, the 15th President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, will be coasting back home to Daura in the next couple of days, after eight years in office. While his supporters and especially his appointees argue that he has given his best to Nigeria, it is hard to argue, based on factual socio-economic indices, that his administration has improved the quality of lives of Nigerians. More Nigerians were killed by non-state actors; more Nigerians became unemployed; more Nigerians succumbed to poverty, whether abject or multi-dimensional; and inflation groped all Nigerians for the eight years that he wheeled the affairs of the country. Definitely, his best was below the expectations of Nigerians when he was first sworn-in in 2015.
However, the last eight years have not been all gloomy; the country experience massive improvement in infrastructure, and the Buhari administration enacted some laws that seem pivotal to social reforms, although the executions of these laws are not so remarkable.
Orodata takes a dive into the pool of social reform bills signed into law by the Buhari administration, and we shall highlight four of them in this first series.
NOT TOO YOUNG TO RUN
Passed by the National Assembly in 2017, gathered dust for a year awaiting the President’s assent, Buhari finally signed the Not-too-young to run bill into law in May 2018. The law aims to improve the participation of youths in governance and politics, and indeed, we witnessed a slight improvement in the participation of youths in the 2023 general elections, although the same election produced a 71-year-old Bola Tinubu as Buhari’s successor.
The law which altered Sections 65, 106, 131, and 177 of the constitution, reduced the age qualification for the various elective positions in the country. For the position of president, from 40 to 30; for governor, from 35 to 30; for senator, from 35 to 30; for House of Representatives membership, from 30 to 25; and for State House of Assembly membership, from 30 to 25.
While the law is yet to make a remarkable impact at the federal level, improved youth participation is being witnessed at state levels. Orodata reported recently that eight Gen Z’s, between the ages of 25 and 30, were elected into state houses of assembly in a number of states. This number is almost inconsequential but it gives hope of more improvement in future elections.
Youths below the age of 30, account for 70 per cent of Nigeria’s population.
PETROLEUM INDUSTRY BILL
The PIB seeks to provide legal, governance, regulatory and fiscal framework for the Nigerian Petroleum Industry and development of Host Communities. The bill had endured countless reviews in the National Assembly since 2000 until it was signed into law in 2021, two decades after it was initiated. It overhauls Nigeria’s whole oil and gas sector.
The law revamps the perennially loss-making state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) by turning it into the NNPC Ltd, a quasi-commercial entity that shall prioritise profit-making, and be responsible for losses. The ministries of Finance and Petroleum shall hold the company’s shares on behalf of the government.
The law also created two regulatory agencies—the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) and the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, (NMDPRA)—that will be responsible for the technical and commercial regulation of petroleum operations in their respective sectors, and have the power to acquire, hold, and dispose of property, as well as sue and be sued in their own name.
Full implementation of the law is expected to commence later the year under the next administration, but there are areas of concern.
The PIA provides for a parastatal to be known as the Host Community Development Trust Fund (HCDTF) with the aim of fostering sustainable relationships between the host communities of oil wells and installations, and oil companies. And in addition, provide direct social and economic benefits from petroleum to these communities. However, there are protests that the three percent allocated to host communities from oil revenues of the oil companies is too small. Stakeholders in these communities are of not pleased with the burden of security placed on them by the law. The PIA also imposes on these communities, the duty and responsibility of protecting oil and gas assets installed, and that they may be held responsible for vandalism of any installations on their soil.
NIGERIAN CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION (ESTABLISHMENT) ACT
President Buhari signed into law in 2018, a bill establishing the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). This, no doubt deserves some credit, considering that a year after the bill was signed, a global pandemic struck.
The agency had been in existence for disease surveillance, preparedness and control since in 2011 but it was existing without any legislative backing.
The NCDC did a pretty good job in its handling of COVID-19, so much so that it caught the attention of the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who described it as remarkable.
NDCD has a core mandate to detect, investigate, prevent and control diseases of national and international public health importance.
ELECTORAL ACT, 2022
This is arguable, but the new Electoral Act brought positive changes to the last general elections. While the conduct of the elections was quite disappointing, there were some positives made possible by the Electoral Act.
First, the law was able to prevent irregularities and undemocratic means of nomination in party primaries. Parties had to conduct direct or indirect primaries, and party executives could not impose candidates on members. This marked an end to the era of a strong man in the party merely writing the names of candidates without regard for members of the party.
Another positive was the extension of the timeframe for campaigns by political parties. According to the old electoral law, campaigns should commence 90 days prior to polling day and end 24 hours prior to that day. However, the new electoral law extended the window for campaigning to commence 150 days before polling day and end 24 hours prior to that day. This gave political parties extended time to disseminate their campaign messages to the populace and afforded the electorate more time to decide what party and candidate they wish to vote for.
More importantly, the electoral law provides for the use of technology, registration of voters, documentation of voters’ data, voting, and transmission of votes. Although implementation especially in the area of transmission was poor, the use of technology, in addition to the revised definition of over-voting helped in reducing rigging. Based on the provisions of the new Act, ‘overvoting’ refers to where votes cast at a polling unit exceed the number of accredited voters and not the number of registered voters as provided in the old Electoral Act.