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Page 48 2 Eugene Enahoro 0807 493 2395 (SMS Only) NASS have forgotten themselves Formed as a merger of opposition parties to unseat the People’s…

Page 48 2

Eugene Enahoro 0807 493 2395 (SMS Only)

NASS have forgotten themselves

Formed as a merger of opposition parties to unseat the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) whose successive governments since 1999 had brought the nation to near ruin, the All Progressives Congress (APC) won the elections. Having embraced former PDP members into their ranks they are now struggling to cope with the fact that most defectors joined to fulfil their personal ambitions rather than bring about the change Nigerians so urgently desire and indeed deserve. Any opposition party which campaigns on a mantra of change can be forgiven for not knowing what they were getting themselves in to. It is not unusual for parties in power to hide the depth of trouble they have placed the nation in, so it should come as no surprise that that the real extent of the rot and damage done, as well as the drastic actions needed to rescue the situation, would be unknown to any incoming government. Be that as it may, the one thing which had become abundantly clear is the rot in the National Assembly (NASS). Established under Section 4 of the Nigerian Constitution the NASS is a bicameral legislature comprising the Senate and House of Representatives. Modelled after the Congress of the United States of America the NASS guarantees equal representation of the States irrespective of size in the Senate, and proportional representation of the population in the House of Representatives. Apart from its main business of enacting legislation the NASS has broad oversight functions and is empowered to establish committees of members to scrutinize bills and the conduct of government officials. Their over concentration on oversight functions and continuing squabble over composition of committees to the detriment of legislation, are sufficient evidence that legislators have forgotten themselves. In Nigerian parlance whenever people become so used to doing the wrong thing that they behave as if it’s normal, they are said to have “forgotten themselves”. The inference from this statement is that such people need to be reminded of exactly who or what they are and their place in the scheme of affairs. Our avaricious legislators are so busy furthering their own personal interests that they now constitute a serious hindrance to national progress. Due to the widespread belief that legislators are generally indolent and corrupt, calls for a unicameral legislature which had never previously been taken seriously are now receiving widespread support. Even at a time when President Muhammed Buhari (PMB) is reducing the number of ministries so as to reduce the cost of governance, the NASS not only refuses to follow suit but worse still has increased the number of its committees. In the 7th Legislature there were 89 Standing Committees in the House of Representatives, in the 8th legislature there are now 96. This in effect means that an increased number of committees will now oversee a reduced number of ministries! Although the Speaker Yakubu Dogara claims the proliferation of committees is to “check corruption and impunity in government”, the truth of the matter is that the bulk of corruption allegations in the House have been associated with the operations of committees and oversight functions. Although Dogara went further to say that he doesn’t comprehend the term “juicy” committees, the concept isn’t difficult to understand. This term came about because of allowances and perks received by committee members. Those serving in “Juicy” committees will of necessity be required to travel internationally and carry out oversight functions in foreign nations. For this they will be paid allowances in US dollars. Members of less “juicy” committees will only be required to travel round the country and be paid Naira. The number of parastatals attached to a ministry also determines how “juicy” the oversight function is, as this offers room for patronage and employment opportunities. Despite the attempt to dodge the issue Speaker Dogara inadvertently revealed the truth when he said “every member of a committee will enjoy ample and equal opportunity”. If in fact the business of the House was work hard and make sacrifice then there would be no question of using the word “enjoy”. On his own part the Senate President Bukola Saraki said “As the highest law making body in the country, we have a huge task ahead of us to find answers to our numerous problems”. With all due respect to him that is not their job. The job of the legislature is to enact meaningful and impacting legislation which they had palpably failed to do over the years. It is the job of the executive to find solutions to our numerous problems. The NASS has done no serious work since it was inaugurated and the year is over. They must remember what they are being paid to do and stop acting in their personal interest.

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