Nigeria’s parliament was disappointing in 2015; here are 5 ways to make amends in 2016

It goes without saying that most Nigerians long for a significant change in the situation of the country; a change which will have a knock-on effect, on their daily lives. However, such change cannot come about without the participation of our National Assembly.

Unfortunately, whether the National Assembly can live up to this huge responsibility is severely under question, and many observers, including this writer, do not believe that they can. For a start, this current assembly is less cerebral than the last one, and has become — especially in the Senate — more of a retirement home for governors who achieved not much during their stay in office.

The lack of quality representation in Nigeria’s legislature shows in one simple factoid: to my knowledge, not one of our “distinguished” Senators has a research team in his employ. Not one of them as far as I know, has a fully functional constituency office where he can easily be reached by his constituents with their complaints.

As a matter of fact, between 2011 and June 2013, each of our 109 Senators at the time drew about N400 million in salaries, allowances and self-allocated bonuses according to details of lawmakers’ allowances, as well as listed earnings for federal lawmakers. Yet, at least thirty-five of those serving senators, had not listed a single Bill in their name. Of those thirty-five who sat in the Senate chambers and did nothing for at least two out of four years, two; Chris Ngige, and Aisha Jummai Al-Hassan, have become Ministers in the current government.

As if that is not depressing enough, we have a complete football team who proposed no Bills during their last tenure, but somehow managed to find their way back into the Senate: David Mark, George Akume, Ahmed Zanna, Ali Ndume, Danjuma Goje, Kabiru Gaya, Ajayi Boroffice, Sola Adeyeye, Bukar Ibrahim, Sani Yerima and Kabir Marafa. To be fair, Ndume, since he assumed leadership of the APC majority, has proposed a few Bills. The nature of those Bills, will be subject for another discussion.

Our present lawmakers found their way into office after dishing out from their various campaigns, promises to take the country to the next level. Sadly, Nigerians did not scrutinise them properly enough, as we were mostly more interested in the drama surrounding the office of the President. This means that we are stuck with them. Now that they are in office, can Nigerians expect them to fulfil every single bit of the the “change” crusade?

The start has not been auspicious.

To buttress the point that our legislators are more interested in the perks of office rather than in governance, both chambers of the Federal Legislature have continuously been involved in fights over key positions, including the position of Senate President, a fight which has led to a fracture within the ruling party that is yet to heal. The Senate President has allegations of corruption levelled against him, and his career as Senate President is in jeopardy as he battles those charges at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

Given the Senate President’s precarious position, and the tussle for key leadership roles, the business of legislation has more or less been pushed aside to foster selfish gains. Important Bills that Nigerians should expect the Senate to deliberate on lie unattended to, while non-issues are seen as priority. An example is the recent “social media Bill” which has insidious aspects linked with trying to destroy the evidence gathering procedure, shows us that their priorities lie elsewhere, not in a working country. The sub-plot behind the Bill is the allegation that itssponsor, Senator Na’Allah, is facing allegations of theft, and will want to make it difficult for his accusers to gather evidence.

If, by some miracle, the “Honourable” members of both chambers decide to concentrate on important concerns, I would suggest that the following issues be priorities in 2016:

  • The amendment of the electoral act to enable electronic voting, and voting by Nigerians in the diaspora.
  • The amendment of the Constitution to create state and municipal Police forces, with provisions for Federal oversight to guard against civil rights abuses
  • The repeal of the Land Use Act
  • The enactment of legislation permitting the development of ports by states, with relevant Federal oversight.
  • The establishment of a social security system into which citizens would be enrolled at birth.