Ahmed Lawan, presidentof the Senate, has assured Nigerians that the obnoxious Hate Speech Bill willnot be passed if the majority of Nigerians do not want it. He gave thisassurance on Monday at Abuja in a press briefing where he gave account of theNinth Senate’s stewardship in the past six months.
Lawan had reaffirmedthat the Ninth Senate will only make laws that work for Nigerians. He was askedto 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 tobe passed without public hearing. I want to assure you that the preponderanceof 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.”
The ninth Senate has passedsix Bills into law, four of them members’ bills. The first of these bills isthe Deep Off-shore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts Act CAP D3 LFN2004 (Amendment Bill, 2019.) The Bill was promptly signed into law by PresidentMuhammadu Buhari on November 4, 2019.
Lawan says “The passageand signing of this law demonstrates what two institutions can achieve whenthey are guided in their actions by patriotism. This law will significantlyincrease accruals to the government from crude oil contracts. It has also endedour years of inexplicable failure to call in returns due to us from our jointventure partners. As a result of this law, we have expanded a critical revenuestream and ensured more funds will flow into the treasury that will enable thegovernment to execute its budgets and critical developmental projects.”
The two executive billspassed are the Appropriation Bill 2020 and the Finance Bill 2019. The FinanceBill 2019, passed on November 21, 2019, amended seven existing tax and fiscalpolicy 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 ProfitTax Act, 2004).
The reform of Nigeria’stax system is to enhance its implementation and effectiveness. Thiswould create an enabling business environment and reduce the tax burden forMicro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).
The objectives of theamendments 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 capitalmarkets;
(iv) Supportingsmall businesses in line with on-going “Ease of Doing Business Reforms” and;
(v) Raising revenues for the Government.
The Finance Bill alsoprovides 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 billspassed are the Public Procurement Act 2007 (Amendment) Bills, 2019; which sanitizedthe public procurement process and curtailed the incidence and influence ofcorruption.
Aside from the sixbills that were passed, Lawan said 185Bills have also gone through first reading in the ninth Senate, while 32 otherBills have passed second reading and are now undergoing the necessary furtherlegislative processes at the relevant Senate Committees.
Asked what he thinks ofthe federal character principle enshrined in the constitution and why theSenate is watching the President repeatedly breach this in his appointments,Lawan said he believed in the principle and has observed it in the engagementof his aides. He explained that nobody has written any petition of the breachof the principle to the Senate.