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OPINION: The Challenges Facing Nigeria Senators

By Prof. R. A. Ipinyomi, University of Ilorin Nigeria

We find it very pulsing finding an appropriate description for the numerous challenges facing the current serving Senators in Nigeria. One of such clallenges is their description of functions for secondary school students. We shall not let the cases between their president and the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, mislead our judgement nor the inability to separate their roles and functions on a national budget. These are just symptoms of the people in that house and how they understand their jobs and roles in the society. Our aim here is to attempt to point them to where they ought to be and what ought to be their preoccupation. If our society must change it will have to start from lawmakers. They must not make laws and break them, and they must make laws for the purpose of driving the society in a definite positive direction.

By description the Senate is the upper house of the National Assembly of Nigeria. It consists of 109 senators, from 36 states are each divided in 3 senatorial districts each electing one senator; the Federal Capital Territory elects only one senator. The President of the Senate is the presiding officer of the Senate, whose chief function is to guide and regulate the proceedings in the Senate. The current Senate President is Sen. Bukola Saraki of the All Progressives Congress. This description may help a JAMB candidate to pass a general knowledge examination. But is that why we elected them? Just ordinary and arbitrary numbers and representation?

A family relation had just left me this morning after telling me the numerous challenges facing his family. He thought his enemies were behind his numerous woes (rather than the Nigeria government); his wife is very ill and at least one of his four children is also very ill. I knew all these before he came. How does this affect the daily function of the Nigeria National Assembly? This guy is from a salary non paying State. He could have taken his son to an approved hospital when he was initially involved in an okada-trailer accident that broke his limbs, instead of a harberlist home. His state seems to care less on what happens to its citizens or its hired workers. To make matter worse the governor believes his inability to pay as at when due is because of the proportion of ghost workers. Who hired these ghosts and how do we flush out unseen ghosts? In any case there is a disconnection between the state government priorities and the priorities of its workers. Many workers cannot care for their households any more. Even if the salaries are paid today, plus all the several months of arrears, the seed of lack of trust in government ability to pay salaries had been sold in the mind of workers. There will henceforth be no loyalty of service and no trust in the political campaign and government promises.

The Nigeria Senators recently sent back to the presidency the 2016 appropriation. The budget of the nation is the prerogative and function of the national assembly to amend in line with their function, to approve or even reject. They cannot initiate new subheadings or new projects. This is where we need to understand the relationship between the current Nigeria Senate and the other arms of government, especially the presidency. We recall the way the leadership of this eighth senate emerged, and not supported by even APC party leadership. Hence the needed pre budget interaction between various arms of government didn’t take place. It was all wait and see. The Nigeria Senate President should tell us how many times he had been able to discuss national issues with the president apart from statutory occasions? Let him tell us how many time the APC leadership met on national issues with him apart from on “false asset declaration”. This is one aspect to use in describing the Nigeria senators. They have nothing to do with what is going on in Nigeria except just to follow their leader because their leader wants to revolt against the system, his party or because their leader can pay for their loyalty. We had thought that many of these senators were financially conformable before they became senators and not that becoming senators would have been their ruin.

Is there no way the Senators could be educated to know that they were elected to serve the people and honestly work with the government of the day to achieve this goal? Nigeria has only one Senate and as said above consisting of 109 Senators. We shall address this composition and the spread at another time because we do not believe that each state should be equally represented. States with large populations should have more senators whilst states with small populations will also have fewer senators. The total number may come to 109 or fewer. Because they are already behaving as a burden to national economic growth rather than agents of development and investment, rather than scrapping them, we may reduce their number to “at least one senator per state”. For now, a Senator for 1.8 million will come to about 100 Senators. We shall fine tune this argument at a later opportunity.

What services are we expecting from them and are not getting? They have failed in their first national assessment on budget. The budget should have been people oriented, policy driven and goal achieving; and where their inclusions should have gone. Rather they thought they need to use the budget to fulfil their personal campaign promises to their constituencies, without providing new sources of incomes. The executive is to raise funds and spend same whereas the legislators are to campaign on effective monitoring and even wealth distribution. Because many of Nigeria senators had been governors before, they are now failing in the realisation of their current roles. They seem to confuse the roles of the executive with the roles of legislators. They should lobby to include their wishes in the budget rather than electing a leader that has nothing to do either with any arm of government or his own party leadership. Politics is purely horse trading, collaboration and cooperation, even after long debates and open disagreements. Any Senate president selected from henceforth must be accessible, tolerant, and ready to lobby for the majority of Nigerians, not just purchasing bullet proof vehicles for a few. Who is pursuing the Nigeria Senators but their deeds?

Prof. R. A, Ipinyomi

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