Time proves too short for BBI debate

Friday, April 30th, 2021 00:00 | By
Parliament in session. Photo/PD/SAMUEL KARIUKI

Mercy Mwai and Hillary Mageka

Proponents of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) will have to wait longer to pass the Bill after legislators failed to conclude debate and vote on it yesterday.

This is after both the National Assembly and the Senate were forced to adjourn before lawmakers concluded debate on the law amendment Bill.

Adjourning the debate in the Senate, Speaker Ken Lusaka ruled that senators needed ample time to ventilate.

“From the look of things, it’s not good to push ourselves too hard so that by the time we’re even voting, people are too tired,” Lusaka observed.

“So I’ll allow everybody an opportunity to speak and direct that we will gazette another day next week to be able to conclude the matter and vote because we also have other urgent matters that are coming our way,” he added.

Last evening, Leader of Minority in the National Assembly John Mbadi, however, downplayed Parliament’s failure to pass the Bill yesterday, saying it had no timelines and as long as MPs have interest on the Bill, they will be allowed to deliberate on it.

“There are no timelines on this Bill and, therefore, legislators will be allowed to debate it because a constitutional moment is a monumental moment that we cannot just ignore, so we are still okay,” he said.

 Minority Whip Junet Mohammed, on his part, said they postponed voting on the Bill to allow MPs to deliberate on it more. 

“We postponed debate so that a lot of people can debate on it, even next week we want as many MPs as possible to air their views.”

This even as it emerged that MPs planned to introduce several amendments to the Bill when debate resumes next week.

Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni led the push for amendments to be made before it is released to Kenyans for voting.

New constituencies 

Citing Article 94 of the Constitution, Omogeni, who co-chaired the joint committee on Justice and Legal Affairs of the Senate and National Assembly, said Parliament has been given powers by Kenyans to exercise legislative authority on behalf of the people. 

“It will be very undesirable for National Assembly to pass a Bill that has got clauses that are different from what is being passed by this House before we do the corrections,” Omogeni said.

He also asked Parliament to remove from the Bill the proposal creating 70 new constituencies, terming it unconstitutional.

 “The committee arrived at a finding that the Second schedule that proposes to allocate constituencies to 28 counties and leave out 19 is unconstitutional and is of no effect,” he held.

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei told People Daily several legislators had lined up amendments to the Bill.

“The postponement of the vote was crucial to give members time to canvass, engage, dissect and bisect because we are representatives of the people.

Parliament does not exist in vain and it is not a lottery; next week we will have several amendments against the bill,” he said.

In the National Assembly, the political differences between MPs allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta and Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga and those backing Deputy President William Ruto played out on the floor of the House as MPs debated the Bill.

 While the Uhuru-Raila camp supported the BBI proposals, saying they would address issues of marginalisation as well as increase allocation to counties, those allied to Ruto claimed the Bill will not only burden Kenyans but also goes against the spirit of the Constitution.

 The camp allied to Uhuru and Raila, however, opposed any amendments to the Bill with the co-chair of the joint committee, Kangema MP Muturi Kigano, differing sharply with Omogeni on the issue.

Kigano maintained that the committee had unanimously agreed that the Bill cannot be amended as it was brought to the House through popular initiative. 

“We agreed that we cannot amend this Bill in its present form or substances, therefore, the Bill remains intact as transmitted to us.

The errors we have on these documents are just on face value but will not change the substance,” said Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa.

 Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo called on MPs to pass the Bill in the current form, saying the committee was unanimous in all the decisions it made.

But MPs Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu), Cecily Mbarire (Nominated) Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira) and Aisha Jumwa (Malindi) said the Bill in its current form if passed will be unconstitutional as the proposal to increase the number of constituencies was done in an irregular manner.

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