‘National Assembly yet to justify mandate’
Skepticism over implications of proposed Economy Emergency bill
As the National Assembly reconvenes from its two months vacation today, one crucial issue, which is expected of the lawmakers is how to cooperate with the Executive arm of government in finding quick and lasting solutions to the current economic recession, which has virtually paralysed most business activities and worsened the condition of living in the country.
Apart from that, Nigerians are also hopeful that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), would be up and doing in getting rid of internal wrangling that has pitted its majority-led legislative arm against itself.
Some of the issues, which Nigerians have expressed concern over and wish that the National Assembly must not allow to distract its attention from focusing on the present economic mess in the country, are the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki’s trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the forgery case involving him and the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, the allegation of padding of the 2016 budget, which was a burning issue among the principal officers and the leadership of the House of Representatives and some other distractive matters that held the legislative arm from performing effectively before going on vacation.
Nigerians are also hopeful that the National Assembly would give appropriate attention to the proposed Emergency Power Bill by President, Muhammadu Buhari.
The Bill – “Emergency Economy Stabilization Bill 2016” is being proposed to help stimulate the economy.
While Nigerians said it is imperative of the National Assembly to resolve pending issues before it, both in the Senate and the House, their concerns is that matters that have to do with the economy recession must be given adequate attention “otherwise the tax payers money being used to maintain them would be tantamount to waste.”
Indeed, some Nigerians who spoke with The Guardian yesterday were skeptical that except there is a divine intervention, the current National Assembly appears not to be in the right frame of mind to do anything different from what it was doing before it went vacation.
One of the respondents said that the country missed it during the transition period last year, when President Buhari failed to come up with clear and visible economic policies that could alleviate the sufferings of Nigerians.
Some also concluded that the ruling APC has been running a government bickering, internal crisis, shadow chasing and visionless administration. They said unless the National Assembly intervenes maturely “Nigeria may run under economically on or before the end of 2017.”
Former Senator, Mr. Femi Lanlehin, who represented Oyo South Senatorial district, said the first approach the National Assembly must adopt as they resume today, is to eschew all issues that has to do with partisanship and concentrate on how to assist the executive get the economy out of recession.
According to him, “It was unfortunate that the APC-led National Assembly allowed a lot of internal bickering to affect its performance before going on vacation but with the current challenges confronting us they need to look beyond their internal affairs and settle down for their legislative business.
This also should include the judicial arm of government.”
On the economy emergency power, Lanlehin said what the government has now in terms of the Procurement Act is enough, if well managed “honestly, I don’t see the need for such power considering what the likely implications might be in the long run.”
The Spokesman of Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere Yinka Odumakin doubts if the current National Assembly will do anything out of the ordinary to revive the economy or at best assist the executive in revamping it.
He hinged his opinion on the fact that the lawmakers are in worse crisis among one another than the economy recession we are talking about “therefore I don’t see them assisting in anyway.”
According to him, “Why I am of the view that the National Assembly would do nothing to help Nigeria and Nigerians was based on the backlog of crises it left before going on recess, which are symptoms of the diseases affecting it and the country at large.”
He, however, said what the legislative arm could do to assist itself and the country is to start a process that would lead to restructuring of Nigeria “they should start a process to address our fundamental challenges because the recession and the crisis confronting the National Assembly are all symptoms of the disease affecting the country.”
Odumakin chided the APC administration for running a visionless government since it took over power in 2015, saying: “We have witnessed more of a troubled and antagonistic legislature under the APC since it took over power and there is no sign the party would change it tactics. I am sorry to say that it would amount to a miracle if the Eighth National Assembly will not have more of crises on resumption than it has before vacation.
On the current economy recession, Odumakin said the National Assembly, should as a matter of urgency compel the executive to bring out all the money it has locked up in the Treasury Single Account (TSA) otherwise “the economy situation we found ourselves may spell doom very soon.”
Said he: “It would be necessary for the National Assembly to constructively engage the executive on the issue of savings as it resumes. It does not make sense for any government to continue to save money under the situation Nigeria finds itself where people are suffering and businesses are dying.”
He also charged the lawmakers to examine critically the implications of the Buhari’s proposed Emergency Economy Stabilization Bill stressing: “I hope if such power is granted, it would not amount to dictatorship.”
National Chairman, African Democratic Congress (ADC), Mr. Ralph Nwosu said the state of the economy should be the first priority of the legislators as they reconvene today because the country is currently in the worst of times economically.
According to him, “The National Assembly must forget about its internal bickering, if truly it love Nigerians, and face the economy squarely. It is like the executive arm is not getting it. The Nigeria economy is now categorised as a junk and unpredictable one in the international community and unless something urgently is done, it can go under. The legislators need not to be reminded that they need to face it.”
Nwosu also expressed skepticism on the proposed emergency economy bill, saying: “Nigerians would want to know what is wrong with the Procurement Act and other constitutional provisions to that regard.”
He flayed the government economic policies, saying: “The National Assembly has really not done enough in scrutinising what the Buhari economy policies are and how it has been of assistance to the living standard of the Nigerians masses. The last one year has been very tough and one can conclude that this is the toughest economy situation Nigerians have ever gone through.”
Former Minister of Transport and a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Board of Trustees (BoT), Chief Ebenezer Babatope charges the legislators to engage the executive am constructively as they resume because the country is at present in terrible mess economically.
According to him, “What the National Assembly has been doing in the last one year does not justify the mandate given to them by the people they represent. Here is a critical situation that they must address. I am not suggesting any confrontation with the executive but they must see to it that they carry out their oversight function on the implementation of the budget and also scrutinize the implementation of the N350 billion injected into the economy.”
A member of the House of Representatives, Nkem Abonta Uzoma who represent Ukwa East/Ukwa West Federal Constituency of Abia State yesterday said the first priority of the National Assembly would be the issue of recession.
He disclosed that the National Assembly would take a critical look at the proposed bill from the President and would as a matter of urgency continue on its oversight function to see how effectively the budget is being implemented.
His colleague and Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrasak Namdas also promised the National Assembly would be up and doing bearing in mind the state of the country’s economy.
Though he stated that he has not seen the proposed bill except for what he has been reading in the news, he said, “When it eventually comes we shall weigh it appropriately and take a decision that would go in the interest of Nigerians.”
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