Northern Nigerian Breaking News

ANALYSIS: Has NASS fared well as representative of the people?

By Kingsley Okoye

The legislature can be described as the assembly of the representatives of the people. It is seen as the heartbeat of democracy, to the extent that an appropriate aphorism on this organ of government reads “No legislature, no democracy.”

The delivery of democratic gains, consolidation of national unity, good governance and sustainable economic and social growth by any government to its citizens is a function of quality roles of elected legislators, who represent the people at the parliament.

These responsibilities consist of representation, lawmaking and oversight. The preamble of the 1999 Constitution clearly states that the purpose of promoting good government and welfare of all people is the purpose of having the legislature, as representation, lawmaking and oversight remain the bedrock on which policies and programmes of government are anchored and executed for the good of the people.

However, perceptive analysts have divergent views on whether or not the national assembly has lived up to its responsibilities as representative of the people.

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While some commentators’ believe that since 1999, the national assembly has failed to champion solutions to existential needs of the people through adequate representation, some other commentators’ are of the opinion that it has done creditably well, giving its vantage role in facilitating gains of democracy via lawmaking, representation and oversight.

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Dr Uchenna Okoro, a Policy and Public Affairs Commentator, said that the rating of the national assembly’s performance has been a subject of debate, adding that while some people score the institution high, most people scored it below average.

He said the popular notion among Nigerians is that the National Assembly has yet to adequately discharge its duties of representing the people.

“First, the representativeness function is nothing to write home about as the legislators are seen to be representing self-interests rather than interests of their constituents.

“Secondly, the processing of national budgets has not gone without drama since 1999,” he said.

He said that most Nigerians believe that anytime the legislators’ go on oversight, they are on a mission to make money for themselves.

He, however, said in spite of the seemingly disparaging comments on the functions of the lawmakers, there seems to be a different perspective to their lawmaking function as a huge number of bills and motions have been processed over the years for the good of Nigerians.

Dr Charles Idoko, the President, Vanguard for Development of Young Minds, said it was not out of place to averagely rate the national assembly, given the high volume of bills passed over the years.

He, however, said the issue is not the number of bills passed but the impact on people, saying that the assembly has done creditably over the years in some aspects as representatives of the people.

“There have been a series of agitations against the 1999 constitution as a result of contradictions of provisions and obsolete provisions that no longer suit current socio-economic and political situations of the country.

“If not for the input of the national assembly, through its continuous amendments to the constitution, Nigeria could have been engulfed in constitutional crises capable of truncating the hard-earned democracy.

“In addition, elections in Nigeria since inception have been marred with controversies, irregularities, and consequential high number of litigations.

“The national assembly has on many occasions risen above expectations to amend the electoral act in response to existing electoral challenges and needs,’’ he said.

He added: “The fear of the national assembly has been the source of the executive’s efforts in pushing for good governance in Nigeria.

“There were instances, where the legislative checks on other arms of government, especially the executive, have avoided democratic tyranny in the country.

“For instance, Nigeria could have ended up in a similar situation that engulfed Burkina Faso (in October 2014), earlier in 2007 when attempted tenure elongation was vigorously pursued. While average Nigerians continued to mount resistible pressures, it took the irresistible effort of the national assembly to throw out the third term agenda thereby sustaining and consolidating Nigeria’s nascent democracy.’’

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Dr Eze Okeke, a legal practitioner said that the national assembly, in spite of its perceived limitations, has stood on the part of the people it represents by safeguarding democracy via enactment of peoples’ oriented laws.

He said policies of the executive that are seen to have negated the wellbeing of the people have been reversed and in some instances discontinued by motions and resolutions of the national assembly.

These motions, according to him, have averted challenges around provision of basic needs of the people and impacted positively on their wellbeing.

He listed some of the actions to include adoption of motions for provision of relief materials for people hit by natural disasters, insecurity, reconstruction and rehabilitation of deplorable road networks and accelerated consideration of human interest partitions.

Others are interventions that helped to avert industrial action by labour unions in the education, health and other sectors of the economy.

He also said the assembly has also paid attention to challenges affecting Nigerians in Diaspora.

He said that at different times the assembly took definite steps to adopt motions and resolutions on issues like xenophobic attacks, migrant killings of Nigerians in Diaspora, farmers-herders clashes, Boko-Haram attacks, militancy in Niger-Delta and serial kidnapping among other security concerns of the people.

He said the assembly has collaborated and worked as development partners with the executive in restoring the December to January budget cycle by passing the budget without controversy during the 9th assembly.

Speaking, the spokesperson for the 10th Senate and the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Sen. Adeyemi Adaramodu, said that the legislature has performed well in its three responsibilities of lawmaking, oversight and representing the people.

“The 10th National Assembly, especially the Senate, has done well because we have passed a lot of life-changing motions; we have passed motions on the economy, infrastructure, and security.

“On the issue of oversight, we have also done well, the first budget that the 10th Assembly passed was the 2024 budget, and we have been carrying out oversight on electoral matters, labour, security and the economy, particularly with the current inflation in the country.

“So those are areas that we have been having oversight, the committee on power calling the public and other critical stakeholders to deliberate on the tariff hike, especially the issue of Band A, B, C, D and so on electricity supply.

“On security, we have had closed-door meetings with Service Chiefs, FCT management and leadership, when kidnapping was at its crescendo some time ago.

“The Committee on Petroleum and Gas (Upstream and Downstream) went to the refineries, especially the Port Harcourt refinery, to find out what was happening there, why are we not having the local production to ameliorate the problem of supply of premium motor spirit (PMS), which Nigerians use frequently,” he said.

But, Dr Lawrence Odeh, a University Lecturer, faulted the claim, saying that the national assembly has yet to adequately represent the people.

“Not at all, they have disappointed Nigerians who elected them; they have jettisoned the underlying principle of serving public interest, which forms the basis of their existence to the pursuit of selfish and self -centered interests.

“This is evidenced in their humongous remuneration, which has placed them as one of the most paid legislatures in the world.

“Paradoxically, the people they claim to represent have been adjudged as the least paid workers in the world, with a paltry sum of N30,000 as minimum wage.

“Also, their oversight and other related constitutional functions have been grossly politicised to the detriment of ethical governance, public accountability, and sustainable development.

“In a nutshell, the National Assembly has lived far below its expectations, it has not made a tremendous impact to democratic consolidation in Nigeria.”

(NAN)

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