Reshaping Nigeria Through The National Assembly, By Ayorinsola Obisanya
Many believe that the executive arm of government should only be credited for the success or chastised for the failure of its administration. Hence, the legislative arm of government is stylishly left out of criticisms when jabs are thrown at the President for failing to perform. This attitude was palpable during the last general elections when some Nigerians still don’t see the reasons of electing a representative to the National Assembly. They are not bothered. All they want is a new president. One wonders if the new President they clamoured for can work alone without the existence of the lawmakers.
The National Assembly is Nigeria’s bicameral legislature and law-making body. It consists of 109 members of Senate and 360 of the House of Representatives. Totalling 469 lawmakers. This is large enough to make laws that would give the country a positive lift. Unless, they are like many others who mark attendance to avoid declaration of vacancy of seats.
Under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, ‘the National Assembly shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the federation..’ This expressly stipulates the priority of the National Assembly. In contrast to this constitutional provision, the executive arm which is chaired by the President and Governor of a state shall execute all laws made by the National Assembly. It is relevant to note here that the executive in no way can make statutory laws in governing a country. Without an iota of doubt, it is audible to the blind and visible to the deaf that Nigeria needs a total restructuring. And for the new government to perform above per, the executive arm is in no need of lawmakers who are onlookers and expectant of allowances. It is high time Nigerians felt the impact of lawmakers and not four years bench warmers dressed in starched ‘Babaringa’. The Eight National Assembly can achieve as much as possible if the occupants can do the needy.
The Seventh National Assembly was known for its list of numerous bills. Up till date, some of these bills are nothing closer to metamorphose into laws. It is disturbing that a bill in Nigeria might take four years to be deliberated upon before its passage. Yet, some won’t ever see the green light of passage into law. In a proper legislation setting, time shouldn’t be wasted on a particular bill, knowing fully well that there are others awaiting deliberation. A bill is either accepted or rejected. Yet, this is not implicitly or explicitly stating that the legislative process should be rushed. Else, the intent of the people will never be achieved.
With the #Change tide around, it is expected of the Eight Assembly not to elongate the process of bills passage. There is no gain in dragging the process of lawmaking. The nation is in dire need of new laws, amendment of some and excluding some repugnant ones. It will be a welcome development if some bills are passed within the first hundred days. Afterall, legislative work in Nigeria isn’t a part-time job.
One of the bills that should top the priority list of the National Assembly should be the Petroleum Industry Bill (PBI). Up till now, it is inexplicable while the Seventh National Assembly desired to be slow on this issue. Recently, there are signs that the bill may be rejected. For what reasons? ‘The bill seeks to make oil and gas operation more efficient, transparent and accountable to the Nigeria people. Also, to liberalise the management and control of the oil and gas sector and thereby bring in more investments, and improved fiscal regime and resources to the Federation Account for sharing by the three tiers of government.’ ‘Another bill is the Fly Nigeria Bill which will make it mandatory for public officers to use Nigerian airlines in trips funded by the treasury unless there is no Nigerian airline flying to the destination.’
If the President does not believe the bill is good for the country, leading to him not signing it, the National Assembly gets another chance. With enough votes, the legislative branch van override the executive branch’s veto, and the bill becomes a law. This should be done where it is apparent that the bill in question is of great importance to the positive growth of Nigeria.
The alteration of the 1999 Constitution is not debatable. Nigeria really needs a constitution is for ‘WE THE PEOPLE..’ Apart from the fact that the Seventh National Assembly tried in concluding to separate the office of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, it also provided for the appointment of the Accountant-General of the Federation in order to enhance transparency and accountability in the management of the Federation Account. However, there is need to make the economic, social and cultural rights as provided in chapter two of the constitution more than a mere declaration. Especially, the right of a child to enjoy basic education and health services. According to the 11th EFA Global Monitoring Report 2013/2014 Nigeria has the world’s largest number of 10.5 million children out of school and will likely be ‘off track by 2015.’ It’s non-justiciability gives the government the comfort of failure and go undisturbed. The primary purpose of governance and government is the security and welfare of the people.
Also, effective autonomy for local government for the development of the grassroot. This is long overdue. Many local governments in Nigeria are suffering in the hands of oppressive state governments. Although, the Seventh National Assembly granted full financial and administrative autonomy to the 774 local governments in Nigeria, the problem lies in making such grant effective. The Nigeria executive in some ways do the ‘I don hear you’ thing.
Since the Seventh National Assembly is known for its accustomed ‘take a bow’ routine of screening ministerial nominees, the Eight National Assembly need to stop this. It is evident that the routine cost the nation a lot by appointing scandalous and corrupt men who busied themselves on how to milk the nation’s account dry. Seriously, there should be more to the ‘take a bow’ exercise which normally, is a sign of respect. Ministerial nominees should be subjected to rigorous screening. Though, the major problem is the failure to separate party affairs from national assignments. The lawmakers of the eight National Assembly should visit the past of nominees, question the present and picture the future. Rejecting nominees is apt. Let the President know that the Constitution recognises separation of powers. Handle your house and let me handle mine. Yet, collaboration is imperative in the incoming administration considering the difficult position of Nigeria’s economy and financial status. This will also enable the arms of government to provide solution to national challenges. If there are competent hands as ministers, a lot of things would definitely be in order.
Be distinct by not saying ‘Aye’ every time since your party is at the helms of affairs and not ‘nay’ because you are so unlucky to be in the opposition. Hence, trying every possible means to make the government fruitless. Nigerians are fed up with lawmakers that only appear to mark attendance, sleep or make nonsensical display like the Sixth National Assembly. Lawmakers are not miscreants. People chose you because you are fit for the job.
The Eight National Assembly should be prepared to tackle corruption and work towards achieving a better economy.
And I hope we don’t have to witness another scaling of gates. House chaos that includes excessive beatings and the smuggling of the maze, making it to go into oblivion for the time being.
God bless Nigeria!