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BBI Bill may get Houses’ nod in less than 10 days

By Jacob Ng’etich | March 4th 2021

Justin Muturi(Left) Speaker of the National Assembly of Kenya with Senate Speaker Kenneth Makelo Lusaka(Right) when they announced a 30 per cent pay cut due to the Coronavirus pandemic. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

After unanimous passage in county assemblies, the Building Bridges Initiative’s (BBI) push to change the 2010 Constitution will this afternoon move to the National Assembly and the Senate.

The Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020, tabling in the Houses follows its approval by 43 county assemblies.

Nandi and Elgeyo Marakwet county assemblies rejected the Bill, but the decision by Baringo County Assembly is currently a matter before the courts.

Uasin Gishu remains the only county Assembly yet to take a vote on the Bill.

Yesterday National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi told The Standard that the Bill will be introduced in both Houses this afternoon, with indications that it could take about 10 days to dispense with the matter in both Houses.

In his earlier communication on Tuesday, Muturi said the House Business Committee had set the Thursday date for the Bill given that it did not require the 14-day period applicable to others in Bills in Parliament owing to the provision of Article 257 of the Constitution which directs for expeditious introduction of legislation driven under a popular initiative.

Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka, on his part, directed Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni-led Justice and Legal Affairs Committee to hold a joint meeting with their National Assembly counterparts and conduct public participation.

The two speakers have insisted that the BBI Bill be introduced as was presented to the 47 county assemblies by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

In the afternoon, Majority Leader in the National Assembly Amos Kimunya and his Senate counterpart Samuel Poghisio will table the Bills.

Kimunya said that the Bills will undergo the first reading today.

In an interview with The Standard, Poghisio said after the tabling of the BBI Bill, the two Houses will advertise in two national papers and then begin the process of public participation.

“We will have public participation for seven days, after that we will bring it back to the Houses and pass it on the same day just like the county assemblies did,” said Poghisio.

He said there will be no time wasted in the process.

Change of plan

Initially, there had been plans for both houses to publish the BBI Bill as the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2021, with an addendum indicating that the Bill had been passed by the most of the majority of county assemblies but midway there was change of plan.

Instead, Muturi observed that on second thought, they agreed with the House Business Committee that republishing was unnecessary.

“The republication of the Bill could injure the integrity of the Bill as proposed by its promoters and presented to the county assemblies. It adds no value and could lead to the delay in the process,” Muturi argued.

Just like Muturi, Lusaka called for the expediting of the process and ordered the Clerk of the Senate to place an advert inviting the public to submit memoranda on the Bill and expedite the process.

The Clerk of Senate Jeremiah Nyegenye said he had asked IEBC to provide certified copies that will be used by senators.

“We will ensure that there are adequate copies for our senators,” said Nyegenye.

Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua said the role of Parliament in the process was just a formality given that whether they passed it or not, they will not affect a thing and the process would still end up at the popular vote.

Gachagua said most of the things on the Bill do not require a referendum and could become law if the president would assent to them after it is passed by Parliament.

“We know their intention was to change the structure of the executive which must go through a referendum. The rest are just sweeteners to the real intention of the Bill. We will debate it, though even that will not affect the amendment Bill,” said Gachagua.

After Parliament, Poghisio said both Houses will give their certificates to the IEBC which will then move to formulate the question and set a date for referendum.

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