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Two Years of lawmaking: Why the House has not passed many bills – Eyiboh

Well, I can tell you that, as a member of the House of Representatives and spokesman of the body, I don’t think the presidency ever…

Well, I can tell you that, as a member of the House of Representatives and spokesman of the body, I don’t think the presidency ever said the House is a failure. I think what the president said, rather, may have been to express the concern that he wished that the House would step up its activities in the area of legislation. But, be that as it may, in 2008, the British House of Common passed four bills.  That is not to say that we are going on at that speed, but what we are trying to say is that the process of legislation is a painstaking process, a process that must be exercised with caution because, if, for example, you want to amend the Police Act, and the Executive sends in the bill, you don’t just sit down in the House and pass it. All you need to do is, first and foremost, you look at it, and having done that, you send it to the appropriate committee. The committee will now invite stakeholders for input, in form of public hearing.  What  they collate from public hearings, which are various contributions from stakeholders, will  be collated and passed back to the House in plenary, so the House will now engage in robust and constructive debate, whose  outcome will become law. Such bill, when it becomes law, will be very popular and acceptable.  But, if you pass it the way you want, it then becomes like the Electoral Act. You will see a lot of lacuna. You will see judicial bashing; various negative comments and it will be injurious to democracy. So, what I’m saying is that in the issue of bill passage, we should not be concerned about the outcome, but the process. The process must be painstaking, proactive, futuristic and considerate.

 We have heard so many public hearings. In fact, almost every month, there is always one taking place, but we have never seen any of them being pursued to the logical conclusion, inform of a bill or a decision that would make an impact on Nigerians, including probes. Why is this so?

  I can tell you that some people will say so, but for you to say so is as a result of the lack of appreciation of the situation. Take, for instance, the ad hoc committee on the finance committee of the House.  It was because it displayed its oversight and investigative responsibility that they found out that about N3.6 trillion of revenue were not remitted to the coffer of government.  Take, for instance,  immigration. The Nigeria Immigration Service, I think, last year generated about N1.5 billion. This year, between January and March, how much has it generated? More than double of this figure has been generated and put in government coffer in just three months in year 2009.  Because some of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) were hiding under the military decree, which was to the effect that  seven percent of revenue generated by the MDAs  be retained by the agencies, not much was being remitted into government coffer. The military decree became an Act of Parliament, but it became inconsistent with the relevant section of the constitution.  Now, you see a situation in which in a university, for example, which is a revenue generating department of government, a vice-chancellor will generate N600 million from tests, but he will not use it provide laboratory equipment, which is in the budget. He would rather use it to purchase frivolous things for his office, basic things that would be required for better learning, which are included in the budget, are not available. If you ask why, the vice-chancellor will simply say, the money was not released by government. But why didn’t he use the revenue from test and other consultancy programmes of the university? The House has been tackling issues like this to avoid waste and corruption by MDAs. And we are correcting them. So for you to say the probes are to no end it is not correct.

You have spent two years in the House of Representatives. Do you think your dreams of being a lawmaker have been fulfilled?

We have to start first from what a dream is to me; a dream is an illusion but when a deadline is attached to a dream it becomes a vision. So my representation in the House of Representatives has been a vision because a deadline was attached to that dream. And the extent of the success is not like road construction when you say that,  look I wanted  five kilometres, I have done one kilometre. In this case, this is an issue of representation like a vision. lt has milestones; what have you done in the last one year or in the last two years. So, rightly speaking, by June we are going to have what is called a mid -term update, which is two years out of the four years.  Then you have to measure that within the context of four cardinal issues: the issues of representation, the issue of oversight, the issue of legislation and the issue of appropriation. Now, the issue of representation is how a legislator has been able to bring about commensurate derivatives to the people he is representing, because your representation is an aggregate of the investment of your people on you. So the public trust that the people have invested on you, like every other investment, must produce returns on that investment. In simple economics, it is called social and economic reforms, and reforms in whatever form does not exist in a vacuum. The people have to be transformed in that reform so it is your representation that will act like a brain box; a network that will be able to activate the service delivery vehicle that will integrate your people into the national project. So to that extent, l have been able to integrate my people into the national project because l have created opportunities and have been able to restore the confidence of my people in government.

Specifically, what have you attracted to your constituency since your election into the House of Representatives?

Okay, it is not the issue of influencing per se but the issue of what my tenure has brought to my people because if you are talking of influence, you are now trying to play God, which l am not. First and foremost, in the course of my representation, l have privately shown a direction of what my people need. I have 100 per cent funded and sunk about 12 boreholes with overhead tanks and a generator house in 12 different locations in my constituency. I have sponsored 82 youths from my constituency to learn instrumentation and welding fabrication at the Maritime Academy, Oron. I paid their tuition and accommodation fees, and furthermore, l placed them on a N10, 000 monthly allowance. At the end of the one year training programme, each of the youths will receive a generator set and welding machines.

How did you get the money to run your such schemes?

Remember, l told you that l single-handedly fund the schemes 100 per cent. l don’t receive any funding from any other quarter.