Functions Of Eighth National Assembly In NigeriaFeatured, Featured Contributors/Columnists, Latest News Friday, June 5th, 2015
By Prof. R. A. Ipinyomi, University of Ilorin, Nigeria
Come June 9, 2015 the eighth national Assembly in Nigeria will be inaugurated for a new tenure of four years in accordance to the constitution of Nigeria. The APC party, who currently controls the executive arm, also has a majority in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. The third arm of government is the Judiciary consisting of professionals, career individuals and appointed officials. The clusters of people in the Judiciary are mainly trained lawyers who refer to themselves as learned individuals. In the university we have found a number of them have refused to learn, instead they are pursuing money. Some of them are on the benches while others are attorneys and practicing lawyers. Some lawyers have been elected as members of the executive branch like the Vice President, Prof Oluyemi Osinbajo, others lawyers are in the national assembly. Our interest is how the new national assembly can be functional for the interest of Nigeria and ordinary Nigerians rather than emphasis of power separation or interpretation of any grey areas in the constitution. We desire that the new assembly will put less emphasis of personal comfort or even the notion of power separation and function to enhancing the development of Nigeria overall.
We hope also that every member of the National Assembly will understand the concept of separation of powers to mean simply that each branch is independent. This simply means that each branch has a separate function, each branch is independent and may not usurp the functions of another branch but the branches are nevertheless interrelated and should function for the same community of Nigerians and their wellbeing. Hence they are expected to function as a unit, as one of checks and balances such that the power of one arm serves to contain and modify the power and functions of another. The primary aim of the constitution is to ensure that the citizenry and that national integrity are safeguarded and that the nation is protected against tyranny that may arise either from the executive or from other sources like Boko Haram. With the zeal that is driving President Buhari and his supporters all arms must be at work to checkmate him and ensuring he remains a focused democrat and not a military dictator or religious bigot. Our fears are actually more on the national assembly that we suspect always put personal interests over national and functional issues rather than a Buhari becoming a tyrant.
Nigerians are so agitated to the extent that they are no longer going to accept a candidate they voted for only yesterday, who was unable to pay his house rent as at when due, that the same person is now building houses all over the places and living prodigally. Similarly Nigerians want laws that have meaning to their lives immediately. For example the current fuel scarcity roped in fuel subsidy cannot be blamed on the executive arm of government only but also on sleeping legislators and other arms of government who failed to foresee the problem. We are expecting the legislative arm of government to go more specialized and professionally in their operations. The outgoing seventh National Assembly appeared to have been proud of its achievement of passing 106 bills in the House of Representatives and the Senate passed some 200 plus (45 of them only on their last day in office) in four years. Unfortunately only a fraction of what little they were able to pass got the executive signature.
There are two folds problems of concern to us. How much has been paid (input) to get only this little output? Each bill is like several billion naira to us. Why would the president not accent a bill that took so long and cost Nigerians so much to pass? Were those accented to by the president “more important” than those that he pushed aside? I have not seen all the bills but the few I saw have diverse interests and not primarily on social economic development, job creation, development of functional energy generation and distribution, food production and its guarantee in the nation, functional education and vocational training, and the like. The subcommittees were not very proactive but only waiting on requests rather than initiations on their own. More embarrassing is an unofficial finding from different ministries who complained that to get a reasonable budget passed for them would be at a cost. The more a ministry was able to push and grease the hands of the people in the national assembly the more likely the ministry would get a big budget. I found this information while I carried out an assignment for UN/FAO Nigeria in 2013. We were there to research into food security in Nigeria, Nigeria Agricultural Statistics Systems and general data collection and storage. Different ministries could not collect needed information from the field because they claimed to be handicapped by none budgetary allocation or none release of same. Instead of the legislative arm or the judiciary coming to their aids they were requesting for money from them, it would appear.
Under the new clamour for change we are expecting the system of checks and balances, where each arm acts as a restraint on the powers of the other arms. We reiterate here that the president can either sign the legislation passed so that it becomes a law or he may veto the same. The President must not just do nothing. The national assemble also has power to advise and consent on a presidential appointment and can also reject an appointee. On the other hand the courts have the power to interpret the constitution and the laws, can uphold or over turn an act of the legislature or rule on action by the president. It is an interrelated arrangement and expected to work in consonance and not competitive. Nigerians are expecting a big change that will improve the society and check the excesses of individuals in the society, whether they are elected, government appointees or private individuals. No particular arm of government has absolute authority but power is apportioned among the three arms for the overall good of they society.
Thus the task before the eighth national assembly in Nigeria is not just to appoint officials to run their clubs but rather to serve the public. For example, recently in Kogi State some of us met and made a remark that Kogi State had only two Senators in the sixth and seventh sessions because the Senator that represented Kogi West, Senator Smart Adeyemi, has been living in Kwara State and investing in the economic activities of Kwara but with zero investment in Kogi State. We expect each elected member to run offices in their constituencies, be accessible and approachable, research into the interest of the people they represent and formulate bills from that source. It is not enough to always be seen on TV holding the microphone at the parliamentary sessions discussing issues that have no input from your constituency or a result of a research. Honourable Dino Melaye is coming to represent the same Kogi West Senatorial District and we hope there would be a major change. Each elected member of the National Assembly must challenge themselves to go back to develop their respective constituency and work with them always. We have found that when elections are approaching some of these politicians result into massive financial inducements to the wrong quarters and mobilization of youth for wrong activities. Anyone who wants to be a successful politician must take time to learn its acts.
Prof. R. A. Ipinyomi
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