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National burden for lawmakers – Part 2

By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa
30 August 2022   |   3:49 am
Since its emergence, the 9th National Assembly has been more of a weeping institution, a clearing house and a reporting Chamber, where elected representatives of the people stoop to beg directors of parastatals to attend public hearings, at times issuing empty threats without any follow-up action.

National Assembly. Photo/facebook/TopeBrown/NigerianSenate

Since its emergence, the 9th National Assembly has been more of a weeping institution, a clearing house and a reporting Chamber, where elected representatives of the people stoop to beg directors of parastatals to attend public hearings, at times issuing empty threats without any follow-up action. It was in the 9th Assembly that legislatures approved over N300B for an agency (NDDC) without a functioning Board (repeatedly since 2015), where sole administrators illegally appointed into office turned the hallowed Chambers into some Nollywood movie scene through executive epilepsy, displaying fainting spells shamelessly without scant regard for public decency.

And not long thereafter, the Minister of Niger Delta openly accused the legislators of corruption whereupon they then scampered like chickens, chorusing “off the mic”, to bury the emerging scandal. It is the same National Assembly that could not accept the challenge of the Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo, SAN for an open debate on allegations of corrupt practices.

Having succeeded in installing its cronies in positions of authority at the National Assembly, the executive has since then embarked upon mindless borrowings, putting our nation at the mercy of shylock imperialists, who whimsically drafted contracts that threaten even our cherished sovereignty, at times in their own language. Yes, it is a National Assembly that prides itself in ‘reporting’ errant serving ministers and heads of parastatals who defy its summons, to the President.

On December 14, 2021, the Chairman of the National Assembly, Senator Ahmad Lawan laboured assiduously to convince Nigerians that the Assembly that he presides over is not a rubber stamp institution of the executive. At the Distinguished Parliamentarians Lecture in Abuja, Senator Lawan stated that what Nigerians carry was only a perception, insisting that the three arms of government are independent but they work together for the success of government. Let us hear him:

“According to him, Nigeria has three arms of government that are constitutionally equal but the people are heavily represented at the legislature than the other arms. He said that for the peace and development of the nation, the three arms of government must work together as the failure and success of one arm of government will be attributed to all.

According to him, “the legislature, being the first arm of government constitutionally, the closest and as well the most accessible by the people, easily lends itself to public scrutiny and sometimes takes the blame even for government decisions that fall outside its legislative competence.

He explained that the “three arms of government have a responsibility to each other and an obligation to Nigerians, thus they must have a cordial relationship based on mutual respect for constitutional rights and mandate to succeed.

Though corruption in any arm of government is not acceptable and must be condemned, to, however, single out one arm of government without any hard evidence is to undermine the authority of that institution. He said the major factor that contributed to the negative perception of the legislature was political apathy, “arising from the school of thought that politics is a ‘dirty game’ and politicians are ‘dirty.’ He said the 9th Assembly “would continue to improve public perception of the legislature”.

For me and indeed many other Nigerians, there is no other time to ‘improve the public perception of the legislature’ than now, in relation to the roles that they are expected to play with the amendment of the Constitution. If we must say it as it is, Nigerians do not trust the present National Assembly to assert itself against the executive arm. And if they claim not to be ‘a rubber stamp institution’, then the legislators must as a matter of national urgency, rally round the Houses of Assembly of the States to urgently execute the most important national assignment facing them, to conclude on the draft amendments and ensure that it is part of the Constitution.

As elected representatives of the people, the National Assembly must assert the will of the people by amending some of the provisions of the Constitution in order to rescue Nigeria from disintegration. Nothing else will suffice; they must disappoint their detractors with a major legislative revival. We cannot afford the misfortune of parading elected representatives who are whipped along the lines of executive preferences, all the time. There has to be a balance of power and of forces, for our nation to ever dream of attaining the expected growth that our leaders have touted so often. The burden on Honourable Gbajabiamila and Senator Lawan is onerous and they have to work with their colleagues to discharge it. It is a historical assignment that has to be performed now. The time for excuses is long gone. Being part of the ruling party, they owe the sacred duty to fulfil their promises to the people of Nigeria. 2023 is drawing close and all our memories are intact concerning these promises.

Concluded

Adegboruwa is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN)