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The National Assembly and other matters

By Hope Eghagha
31 July 2017   |   3:40 am
Of the three arms of government in Nigeria, the most often attacked, abused, and suspended is the Legislature. This is most unfair.

Of the three arms of government in Nigeria, the most often attacked, abused, and suspended is the Legislature. This is most unfair. The current National Assembly, a body which has dealt with law-making in the most considerate, committed and conscientious manner has also been derided by some of the very ignorant persons in the world. Using the social media as a platform they have poured opprobrium on the Senate without any iota of evidence to substantiate their wild allegations. Sadly, even a former Head of State who later became an elected President has joined the fray by calling the Senate some names which I dare not repeat here. It is my duty, therefore, to rise in defence of the National Assembly particularly the Senate.

Whereas the Executive and Judicial arms have remained stable and consistent even under the harshest military rule, once there was a truncation of government the surest target was always the Legislature. For example, under the Gowon junta (August 1966 to July 1975) the legislative Houses were in the cooler for nine years. Before the Gowon days, from January 1966 to July 1966, the Legislative Houses were suspended by the brutal incursion of the military for six months after only about some odd six years of practising the art of law making through debates, resolutions and bills. The junta of Murtala Mohammed and Olusegun Obasanjo (1975 to 1979) kept the Legislative Houses locked up for four years. Under the Generals Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, Sanni Abacha, and Abubakar juntas (1983 to 1999) the Legislature was sealed up for a total of 16 years!

In those brightly dark years the word of the Head of State was Law, given cover by decrees which were never debated by any elected body. The Supreme Military Council and later the Armed Forces Ruling Council made and passed decrees by which the military and civilian population were governed excellently; and this brought extreme prosperity. They even made use of the judicial arm to give the bite to their good or bad laws for the benefit of Nigerians, born and unborn. The result is that we as a people are not too familiar with legislative duties and processes; also the legislators across the country are still rehearsing and learning the rudiments of law making. This is why we must give due credit to the current legislators for the onerous role they have played in developing and stabilising the polity.

As we can see, the National Assembly has been very active in passing laws for the benefit of all Nigerians, both living and dead. Among the laws passed are the ones that have made poverty a thing of the past. This they have done through the new minimum wage which they hope to pass that will apply to all citizens, both in the private and public sectors. In response to public outcry about the fat salaries which they draw in the midst of a biting recession they hope to agree to cut their salaries by 95 per cent and live on the pensions and allowances which they continue to draw from their previous positions. This is a worthy example that even the dead should commend.

In my honest view the National Assembly members should not agree to cut their salaries at all. What is N18 million or N20 million as a monthly take home for any legislator in contemporary Nigeria? By the time 50 constituents visit them the whole money would be gone into paying school fees, marrying wives for their assistants, and paying rents for hapless people. Some have compared the salaries of these legislators with the miserable pay of university teachers. What do these teachers do by the way? Those randy fellows who eat little girls for breakfast in exchange for excellent marks? Our dear legislators should be allowed to earn their fat salaries in peace. It’s not that we are even sure of the actual take-home of our distinguished legislators; so a lot of what is bandied about in the media may just be hot air. If it is true that they earn the highest in the world, there is nothing to it in my mind. Indeed, they should have their salaries tripled so that they can effectively perform their difficult legislative duties. If we envy them let us all struggle to be federal legislators.

By far their greatest contribution to the lives of suffering Nigerians is the PIB which will make subsidy to wealthy oil bunkerers a thing of the past. Thenceforth, the price of petroleum products would crash to the level at which even the beggars on the streets can purchase kerosene. Indeed at the moment kerosene is available, so available that the rich can actually wash their plates with it. In furtherance of this law, they have also supported the movement of the headquarters of the Oil Majors to the Niger Delta. Shell and Chevron are back in Warri and Port Harcourt. We must commend the debates that made the movement possible.

Lawmaking is a serious and delicate business. I do remember when the House of representatives was turned into a boxing arena in June 2015 over serious national issues, just the way the Senate had had its own physical fight and violent exchanges in November 2015 and later in April of 2016. These legislators so love the Nigerian people that our representatives are ready to fight for us by beating one another physically with horse whips and hot blows. The Senate before this one was not that active. They fought over nothing. Nigerians will remember these fights which our honourable men and women of the current National Assembly have had over our welfare. May God bless them!

In ending this celebratory essay, I congratulate the National Assembly on their monumental achievements in the absence of the President particularly as they tried to bring the APC change about the other day by sponsoring a motion to make the Senate President Acting President of the Federal Republic. This they did when the substantive Acting President Yemi Osinbajo travelled from the country without their permission to attend an international engagement in one desolate country. They need to teach the Executive Arm that the Legislative Arm(y) should not be toyed with because people have always held and continue to hold them in high and impenetrable esteem. The legislative broom of the National Assembly must sweep the dirty floor of the nation very well by ensuring that only laws that will serve the overall interest of our great legislators are passed into law. No one can contest this.