Reps pledge commitment to passing social welfare bills
The Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, on Monday said the House was committed to making laws that would improve the living standard of the vulnerable in the country.
Dogara said this at a public hearing on the Bill for an Act to protect “the elderly and vulnerable persons’’ along five other bills on social welfare in Abuja.
Represented by the Deputy Minority Whip of the house, Rep. Binta Bello, at the event organised by Committee on Women Affairs and Social Development, Dogara reaffirmed that primary purpose of government was security and well-being of citizens.
“No nation can lay claim to civilisation and development without a clear policy, structured to take care of the less-privileged.
“The House of Representatives is committed to making laws that will go a long way to raise the standard of living and creating a favourable condition for an all-inclusive development.
“We owe society the duty and responsibility to take care of their welfare, especially where there is a lacuna in the system,” he said.
Dogara said that the bills concentrated on the welfare of the vulnerable, elderly, women, children, disabled, the sick, unemployed, orphans and the general less-privileged.
He urged the committee to exercise its legislative judgment wisely in the general interest of the nation.
The speaker tasked the committee to concentrate on matters on the exclusive list and allow the states’ Houses of Assembly to make laws for matters on the residual list.
He said that matters should be carefully looked into to avoid duplication of the mandate of an already existing agency unless when inevitable.
He said that where necessary, existing laws could be amended to give more powers and expand the scope of an existing agency for better performance.
In her remarks, the Chairman of the committee, Rep. Stella Ugwu (Enugu-PDP), said that the public hearing was an opportunity for stakeholders to make contributions to the Bill before it was passed.
She said the target persons were very important and that the vulnerable were represented in every family cross the country.
Ugwu expressed confidence in the calibre of stakeholders participating in the hearing, adding that their contributions would further enrich the Bills.
Also, Rep. Enitan Badre (Lagos-APC), sponsor of the Bill, said that when made a law, it would criminalise the exploitation of the vulnerable.
He said that orphans were often left out of school while the signatures of elderly persons were often forged and their money and properties taken.
Badre said that there was no law directly criminalising such acts which were often carried out by greedy close relatives driven by quest for inheritance.
He pointed out that bill proposed minimum jail term of three years for offenders and instant retrieval of monies and properties illegally acquired.
In separate contributions, the stakeholders commended the legislators for the bills which sought to promote the welfare of the vulnerable.
They said that there was need to supervise the activities of orphanages and that it should be addressed as “homes’’ not orphanages.
In her remarks, Executive Director, Dave Omokaro Foundation, Dr Emem Omokaro, said that the Bills sought to provide legislative architecture for the operation of social protection.
Omokaro called the attention of the committee to National Social Protection Policy of the Federal Government.
She explained that the policy which was drafted by local and international stakeholders had been published by the government.
According to her, plans are ongoing to cascade the policy to the states across the federation for effective implementation.
Omokaro explained that the contents and values of the national policy which had a portfolio of not less than 60 projects, was anchored on three pillars of social transfer, social insurance and labour market programme.
She said that the implementation of the policy, which was targeted at indigent Nigerians and domiciled in the office of the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment, had commenced in some areas.
She recommended that the committee should meet with the operators of the policy and address issues of duplication of functions.
Omokaro said that the methodology already developed by the stakeholders in the policy would be given legal backing with a piece of legislation.
She said if that was done, Nigeria would move fast in overall development of the country.
Omokoro said that the Bill, which canvassed the establishment of National Council for the Elderly, had passed public hearing already, provided for all social protections put forward by the new bills.
She urged the committee to look at the bill carefully to prevent making laws that would clash and difficult to enforce.