The eight House of Representatives formally ended on Thursday with a valedictory session.
The session which lasted for almost seven hours at the house chamber was attended by past speakers, deputy speakers and other principal officers of the house.
Speaking at the event, the Chairman of the House Rules and Business Committee, Edward Pwajock, said 1,643 bills were introduced by the House. He said 1,465 bills were private member bills.
He said the house passed 382 of the bills and treated 70 bills that originated from the Executive and 108 bills from the Senate seeking concurrence.
Mr Pwajock said 1,588 motions were sponsored, 1413 motions were resolved while 17 were withdrawn.
He said that over the legislative life of the 8th assembly, 1192 petitions were received and laid before the house.
Notable amongst the former lawmakers who graced the occasion were Imo State Governor, Emeka Ihedioha, who was deputy speaker in the seventh assembly, Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, and former speakers Ghali Umar-Na’abba and Patricia Etteh.
in his address, the outgoing speaker, Yakubu Dogara, expressed concern over the future of Nigeria because of what he described as the alarming rate of insecurity across the country.
Mr Dogara in his emotional parting speech said the 8th National Assembly was the most persecuted and harassed parliament in Nigeria’s history.
He said despite all odds, the assembly recorded “huge success with unprecedented records set in legislative business.”
While expressing appreciation to all the leaders and members of the House for the confidence reposed in him by electing him Speaker, he also thanked them for the cooperation the leadership enjoyed throughout the four years he was in charge.
On the insecurity in the country, he said the situation would be reversed only when the leadership shuns politics and partisanship and harnesses the best human and material resources to confront these menace.
“It appears we are losing the fight against violence and as if that is not bad enough, the situation is so dire that known statesmen are becoming petrified and speaking up in ways that may further rend our national fault lines. It is like we refused to hear the whispers and now the screams are threatening our eardrums.
“This is a national problem that we can only solve if we pull ourselves together and not apart; regardless of political persuasions or creed. The challenge is to get the leadership that throws out politics and partisanship out of the window. Leadership that reins in all our best human and material resources to confront these menacing challenges. Yet, instead of uniting to confront this very danger, all one hears are sermons of divisiveness and permutations for 2023 elections. I wonder daily if this is not how the bottom looks like,” he stated.
Mr Dogara said the wonderful cooperation he got from his colleagues enabled the house to enjoy a stable and peaceful session.
“Honourable Colleagues, on your behalf, I make bold to say that the 8th House of Representatives, and the National Assembly as an institution, has been a huge success.”
“This is without apology to whoever may hold a contrary opinion. The stubborn facts are out there for every commentator to see. We took off amidst head winds and turbulence but on stabilising, we have witnessed book throwers and table climbers transform into solid leaders.”
“We have seen mace grabbers wrestled until they surrendered to the dictates of the Rule of Law, true friendship and brotherhood.”
“We have witnessed the transformation of those who struggled to move mere motions to eloquent debaters and to crown it all, those who, at inception did not understand themselves, working together, in spite of whatever differences, for the national good.”
“This is the spirit that defines us as legislators, the institution of the legislature; and I am happy we embraced it fully,” he said.
“The 8th House holds the record as the most persecuted and harassed Parliament, ever in Nigeria’s history,” he added.
“Some of our members bear the scars of reckless deployment of Institutional prerogatives. We witnessed sieges and invasion by State operatives.”
He said some members suffered witch-hunts, house arrests and false accusations.
“We are also witnesses to the barrage of uncharitable criticisms and assessments bandied on daily basis in the media by hired mercenaries who masquerade as analysts.”
He said most of these analysts are ignorant of the fact that the parliament was not designed to be an alter of praise for the Executive but a co-equal branch to serve as a check on Executive power.
He added that he felt fulfilled as a leader because the assembly, “bolstered by the spirit of patriotism and nationalism, was able to sustain the legacies of previous parliaments by ensuring that the House was not compromised or exploited.
“The job of parliaments all over the world is to escalate constructive conflict. It is our job to search for the truth and without the clash and compromise of ideas, the truth can never be found.”
“Everything loses its meaning in the absence of the truth. Anyone who sees disagreement or conflict as inherently bad has no business leading a democracy because we are not likely to ever see any healthy democracy that is not productively noisy.”
“This House and indeed the legislature must always engage in debates about both pleasant and unpleasant issues, if it must continue to do the work of democracy.”
“Progress ceases the very day we cease to disagree. Every invention, every innovation has always come from someone who disagreed with the status quo.”
“That is why the Athenian law maker, Solon, undoubtedly one of those who cradled Democracy, once decreed it a crime for citizens to shrink from controversy. “
He added that no parliament anywhere can win a popularity contest and parliaments are not meant to receive praises.
“Any parliament that receives praises, especially from the Executive, must be an assemblage of enablers who have abandoned fidelity to their oath of office.
“To the chagrin of some, I am happy that this Assembly, just like others before it, did not allow partisanship to erode our system of checks and balances.”
He said posterity and history will acknowledge that the members did their best, given the circumstances and the very toxic environment under which they operated, though the Legislative Agenda was not implemented a hundred per cent.
He charged all re-elected lawmakers and appointees to positions of authority to soberly reflect on the deteriorating welfare of hapless citizens and live up to the biddings of their offices and the oaths they took so that Nigerians can yet hope again and begin to rebuild their lives.
“In spite of all my worries about the project Nigeria, my optimism about our future remains, undiminished.”
“I said before and I now repeat that I hold no fears for the future because we are limited only by leadership and our vision, not by our resources. We shall overcome! No matter how long the night may last, the day will break.”
“I have no doubt that our salvation will break out as sudden as the dawn appears.”
“The scriptures say, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Let us all unite in working to hasten this glorious morning.”
Remembering the members who could not complete their tenures due to death, Mr Dogara said he will continue to cherish their glowing memories. He also wished those who lost elections the best in their future endeavours.
The speaker charged members-elect of the 9th National Assembly to be determined to raise the bar of the records of the 8th National Assembly, especially on the issue of flawed elections.
“We must ensure the conclusion of the ongoing legislative processes on Electoral Reforms in a way that will make electoral fraud near-impossible, if we are to enjoy true democracy,”
OTHER LAWMAKERS SPEAK
Speaking earlier, Deputy Speaker of the house, Yussuf Lasun,appreciated members for voting him into office.
He said some person did not believe in him and were of the view that he would mess up the office but in the end, he had done well.
Mr Lasun who will not return for the 9th Assembly urged returning members to uphold the rules and traditions of the house.
The Majority Leader of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, said though the 8th house started on rocky soil, the leadership style of the speaker and maturity of members stabilised the ship.
Mr Gbajabiamila said that he would miss members who would not return and urged those re-elected to work hard to further build the institution.