We may not pass Hate Speech Bill – Ahmed Lawan

The Senate gives six months scorecard.

Ahmed Lawan, president of the Senate, has assured Nigerians that the obnoxious Hate Speech Bill will not be passed if the majority of Nigerians do not want it. He gave this assurance on Monday at Abuja in a press briefing where he gave account of the Ninth Senate’s stewardship in the past six months.

Lawan had reaffirmed that the Ninth Senate will only make laws that work for Nigerians. He was asked to reconcile that to the Hate Speech Bill that seeks to gag the social media, which has passed second reading in the Red Chamber. “The bill is not going to be passed without public hearing. I want to assure you that the preponderance of public opinion will determine the fate of the bill.”

He said that the Senate had been very active in the past six months, providing support for expected good governance “and its record compares favourably to any other before it in the history of our nation.”

Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan Photo
Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan

The ninth Senate has passed six Bills into law, four of them members’ bills. The first of these bills is the Deep Off-shore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts Act CAP D3 LFN 2004 (Amendment Bill, 2019.) The Bill was promptly signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on November 4, 2019.

Lawan says “The passage and signing of this law demonstrates what two institutions can achieve when they are guided in their actions by patriotism. This law will significantly increase accruals to the government from crude oil contracts. It has also ended our years of inexplicable failure to call in returns due to us from our joint venture partners. As a result of this law, we have expanded a critical revenue stream and ensured more funds will flow into the treasury that will enable the government to execute its budgets and critical developmental projects.”

The two executive bills passed are the Appropriation Bill 2020 and the Finance Bill 2019. The Finance Bill 2019, passed on November 21, 2019, amended seven existing tax and fiscal policy laws  (Companies Income Tax Act, 2004; Value Added Tax Act, 2007; Customs and Excise Tariff (Consolidation) Act, 2004; Personal Income Tax Act, 2007; Capital Gains Tax Act, 2007; Stamp Duties Act, 2007; and Petroleum Profit Tax Act, 2004).

The reform of Nigeria’s tax system is to enhance its implementation and effectiveness.  This would create an enabling business environment and reduce the tax burden for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). 

The objectives of the amendments include:

(i) Promoting fiscal equity by mitigating instances of regressive taxation;

(ii) Reforming domestic tax laws to align with global best practices;

(iii) Introducing tax incentives for investment in infrastructure and capital markets;

(iv) Supporting small businesses in line with on-going “Ease of Doing Business Reforms” and;

(v)  Raising revenues for the Government.

The Finance Bill also provides a framework for the 2020 Budget.

For the Appropriation Bill, Lawan explained, “We also promptly passed the Appropriation Bill in line with our commitment to changing the current unhealthy and unpredictable budget cycle to a January to December fiscal calendar. This structural change and the prompt passage of the Appropriation Bill will give the government a full year to implement the budget. We believe this measure will enhance planning, implementation, and monitoring of the budget by the relevant organs and agencies and significantly improve our annual budget performance.”

The three other bills passed are the Public Procurement Act 2007 (Amendment) Bills, 2019; which sanitized the public procurement process and curtailed the incidence and influence of corruption.

Aside from the six bills that were passed,  Lawan said 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.

Asked what he thinks of the federal character principle enshrined in the constitution and why the Senate is watching the President repeatedly breach this in his appointments, Lawan said he believed in the principle and has observed it in the engagement of his aides. He explained that nobody has written any petition of the breach of the principle to the Senate.

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