Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: House Held Plenary for 107 Days in 2012, Spent 140 Days On Holiday

The House of Representatives held plenary sessions 107, spent a total of 140 days on holiday between January 1 and December 31 in 2012, Daily Trust investigations have shown.

Based on the provisions of section 63 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, the House is required to sit for at least 181 days in a year.

However, the constitution does not specify the way the House calendar should run and if committee sessions form part of the required sittings, as it only says: "The Senate and the House of Representatives shall each sit for a period of not less than one hundred and eighty-one days in a year."

Our correspondent reports that although the two chambers of the National Assembly operate a legislative calendar that runs from June to June of the proceeding year, an analysis of the total number of sitting days by the House show the House sat for 107 days.

Under the House standing rules 2011, the lower legislative chamber only sits in plenary on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays while committees hold sessions throughout the week.

However, in 2012, the House held two special emergency sessions-the first was on Sunday January 8 during the fuel subsidy removal and on Friday, June 15- over the allegations of $620,000 bribery allegation levelled against former chairman of the House adhoc committee on Subsidy probe Rep Farouk Lawan.

Our correspondent reports that the two special sittings were the first in the recent democratic history of Nigeria.

During the period, House held plenary sessions as follows: January 10 days, February 13 days, March 12 days, April 9 days, May 14 days, June 10 days, and July 9 days. August was zero days because MPs proceeded on two months annual recess after concluding their first legislative year since inception and resumed on September 18th.

In same September, the House sat for 6 days, October, 9 days; November, 9 days while December was 6 days and they proceeded on Christmas and New Year break to resume on January 10.

Like the Senate, House also sits only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Also, last year, the legislators had two weeks Easter break in March and April and another two weeks break in March ending and early April for the Easter break and what they called "constituency outreach."

There was one week break in early May for May Day public holiday and on May 24, the House adjourned plenary to May 30 to mark the 2012 Democracy Day.

Between June 6 and 19, MPs were on a 13-day break to mark the first anniversary of the seventh House but they cut short the break on Friday June 15 to debate the $620,000 subsidy probe bribery allegations.

From July 19 to September 18, the House went for its annual recess which lasted 62 days.

On October 18, the House again embarked on a 19-day Eid el-Kabir break and resumed plenary on November 6. Again, in early November, MPs adjourned plenary sittings for one week for over sights of ministries and departments on the implementation of the 2012 budget.

On November 29, the House also adjourned plenary to December 11 mainly for the lawmakers in the various standing committees to conclude work on the 2013 budget.

On December 20, after passing the 2013 Appropriation Bill, the House adjourned for a 21-day Christmas and New Year break to resume on January 10, 2013.

When contacted, Chairman House Committee on Rules and Business Rep. Albert Sam Tsokwa (PDP, Taraba) said "there is no way you can calculate our sittings from January to December of 2012 because our legislative calendar begins from June to June and as such, we have less number of sitting days in the first half of three legislative year due the two months annual recess from July to September. It's not like the normal annual calendar.

"Suspending plenary does not mean you are on leave because we do some other legislative businesses such as the constitutional hearings in the 360 Federal constituencies, two weeks oversights of MDAs and so on."

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