National Assembly: Not a Den of Thieves

by Tunde Ali

Nigeria National Assembly is the highest law making body. It consists of the House of Senate (Upper House) and the House of Representatives (Lower House). The former is made up of One Hundred and Nine (109) Senators while the latter consists of Three Hundred and Sixty (360) Honorable members. They are elected from the nooks and crannies of the Geo-political zone called Nigeria. The constitution vested in it the power to make laws for peace, order and good government of the Federation. This responsibility is not unusual in a Democratic Country that uphold the Rule of Law and practices Separation of Power.

Nigeria, being a member of world democratic nations is not different in her democratic structures, what is amazing is the composition of the Legislative body. Individuals from diverse socio-economic, political-philosophy, religion affiliations and intellectual backgrounds are elected to legislate for the nation. This situation creates a complex condition that requires the coordination of only a pragmatically astute resource manager and insightful leadership; which quite frankly has eluded the past and present legislative Assembly.

The Presidents of the Senate right from the era of Dr. Joseph Wayas in the Second Republic (1979-1983) to the incumbent David Mark has demonstrated gross incompetence and poor understanding of the roles of the third highest office in the nation. What they did most of the time was to sit over different deliberations or presumptive legislations that in most cases never saw the light of the day. This was because of improper coordination, and inability to foster consensus across the aisle. This dis ingenuity had cost the nation the enactment of good laws that could have moved the nation forward and forthright the country’s democratic culture.

Political party or leadership without a guiding philosophy or ideology is like a pilot without navigator. Any flight attempt will inevitably result in calamity and peril. Leadership in the National Assembly most especially from the Second Republic apart from been deficient in political ideology, was devoid of honest, competent, principled and visionary leadership. To date, there has been eleven Senate Presidents:

Nnamdi Azikwe, 1960-1960 NCNC
Nwafor Orizu, 1960-1966 NCNC
Joseph Wayas, 1979-1983 NPN
Iyorchia Ayu, 1992-1993 SDP
Ameh Ebute, 1993- 1993 SDP
Evan Enwerem, 1999-1999 SDP
Chuba Okadigbo, 1999- 2000 PDP
Pius Anyim, 2000-2003 PDP
Adolphus Wabara, 2003-2005 PDP
Ken Nnamani 2005-2007 PDP
David Mark 2007-date PDP

with nothing to show for their tenure in office. Despite the enormous political power wield by the office of the Senate President, the past occupants of the office, most of whom came from the South Eastern part of the country, which has been described as “underdeveloped”, “abandoned”, “oppressed”, or “wretched”, etc refused to use the influence of their office to bring development to their political zone and community. Most of them got wrapped-up in the luxury of office and resorted to indescribable opulence. They engaged in despicable corrupt practices that culminated in incessant impeachment. For instance, Dr Joseph Wayas abused the office of the Senate President with impunity during the Second Republic under Alhaj Shehu Shagari. The idea of spending a night in Lagos, and eating breakfast in London in the following morning emanated from his office. Rather than concentrating on the business of legislation, he was busy romanticizing with different women of little virtues. He paid the price when the junta boys led by Buhari/Idiagbon overthrew the pervasive regime.

Senate President Evan Enwerem was impeached in November 18, 1999 for falsification of names and credentials.

Senate President Chuba Okadigbo was impeached in August 8, 2000 for corruption and lousy wastage of public funds.

Senate President Adolphus Wabara was impeached on April 13, 2005 for corrupt practice. He was alleged to have sought and received bribe from the Education Minister.

The other senate presidents whose names are not mentioned here are not left out in this show of shame; they all have stains on their sleeves. David Mark, the incumbent Senate President has not been openly accused of any corruption or wrong doing so far (in this office); but time will tell if he will pioneer a new identity for the enviable office or en capsuled in the tradition of his “forefathers”.

With incessant allegations of corruption levied against members of the National assembly albeit some past Senate Presidents, it shows that the so called elected representatives of the people, with the exception of very few, has exhibited flagrant dereliction of vested responsibilities. They have with their greed and insatiable desire for wealth, unconsciously or subconsciously confirmed that their interest is neither to serve the electorates nor to sustain the credible institution of democracy.

Some of them are stains and unworthy prelate. They are morally deficient and unfit to seat in the congregations of the nobles. They pretended to be the friends of the masses and the liberating agents for their oppression. They spoke fanciful words to secure the trust and votes of their victims (electorates), but eventually deflated the trust and confidence reposed in them. Rather than serving the interest of the electorates, they opt to corruptly enrich themselves at the detriment of the masses and mortgaged the destiny of generations yet unborn by compromising the sanctity of the oath of their mandate. Otherwise; How could one explain the behavior of the members of Senate Committee on
Gas, Environment, Petroleum Resources (Upstream and Downstream) and Finance who were invited and attended a retreat organized by the Oil Companies in Ghana (without official clearance), and received estacode with the agreement to negatively influence or “kill” the Petroleum Bill which seeks to deregulate the oil sector?

What interpretation could one give to the act of Senator Nicholas Yahaya Ugbane (Chairman, Senate Committee on Power) who was indicted for his role in 6 Billion Naira fraud with Rural Electrification Agency (REA)? OR

How can one rationalize the endless arrest of the members of the National Assembly by the EFCC, for corruption and fraudulent practices? Or even comprehend Elumelu’s threat upon arrest to unveil the names of other collaborators in the Presidency with whom the schemes of 6 Billion Naira fraud was planned.

President Yar’Adua in a letter sent to the Senate President – David Mark reiterated his disappointment about the quality and quantity of the work done by the Senate from 1999 to date. The President revealed that only four laws were passed by the Senate in 2008. Funny enough, three of the laws were on Budget, while the forth was on the salaries of past Presidents, Vice Presidents and other Public Office holders. This information is a shameful revelation of the wastages and lackadaisical attitude with which the business of the government is been handled in the National Assembly. These Senators make haste in legislating and passing laws that fatten and guarantee their salaries and allowances, but drags their feet and sometimes becomes passive on other laws that does not address their immediate concerns and needs. This passivity makes one to question the readiness and the seriousness of the legislators to perform the functions for which they were elected.

The National Assembly is a third of the pinnacle tower in the Republic. It is therefore expected to be peopled by elected representatives of the people who have demonstrated high degree of responsibilities, nationalism, and dependability. Credible individuals with unassailable virtues. Knowledgeable individuals of substa

nce and worth who can stand shoulder to shoulder with their counter parts anywhere in the world in terms of intelligence, wit and wisdom. Their integrity must be tested and vouched. Member of the National Assembly should not have been convicted of any criminal wrong doing or allowed to contest election from the prison, (talk less of winning as an inmate). Our law makers should be bold yet humbled, they should be able to articulate their convictions without fear, favor, or prejudice but tolerate opposing views with civility. The absence of the aforementioned will necessarily impede the process of law making and create a milieu for counter intuitive dispensations.

The in decorum that characterize the National Assembly should be addressed with alacrity. Those bad eggs should be sort, separated and booted out of the gallery of the honorables. Theirs is part of the image problem that the nation is crippled with. A spade should be addressed as same, and not agricultural stone. After all it was one person that was blind in a country, before it was a.k.a “the blind country”. The gravity of inaction or insincerity of purpose will maul the credibility of the nation’s National Assembly and reduce it to the den of thieves.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information and Media, Senator Ayogu should therefore review the circumstances and limitations that encumbered the optimum performances of the Senate rather than being rantly defensive. He was reported in This Day newspaper of May 13, 2009 while briefing Senate Correspondents at the end of Plenary, that “Nigerians should be concerned about the quality and not the quantum of the bills passed by the Upper House.” This is not Plausible ! Nigeria deserves quality as well as quantity, after all, time spent legislating are reimbursed by the tax payers; and they deserves the best. Qualitative bills in their reasonable quantities will be part of the parameters to measure the performances of the National Assembly. And if the Assembly that is made up of 109 members (Senators) can only come out with four bills in one whole year (2008), how could that justify the colossal amount of money invested (not to talk of stolen) in the body by the tax payers? how could its productivity be determined ? or its efficiency and effectiveness be measured ?

Senator Ayogu Eze informed that; there are 60 pending bills, 33 of which was sponsored by the Executive arm of government, and no fewer than 20 sponsored by legislators. What the Senator did not say is whether any of those pending bills ever go through preliminary readings or tabled for hearing at the floor of the house. The statistics provided by the Senator indicated a role reversal. Though any arm of the government can initiate a bill, but in this situation, significant numbers of bills emanated from the executive arm, yet the legislature who barely came up with a third was still unable to pass any into law. This makes the subject of competence to be relevant. It is a known fact that some members of the National Assembly falsified their credentials, some have School Certificate / GCE while some “grandfathered” themselves into such minimum qualifications. The presumed consequence of this is that quality time are wasted in explaining the wordings rather than contents of bills and the process of legislation to law makers who could barely speak or understand English Language. This I believe is inevitably slowing down the law making process.

Another thing that Senator Ayogu Eze did not say or possibly ashamed to say is that legislators who are voted to make good laws for the nation are themselves epitome of fraud and corruption. By this token their conscience is dead and judgment impaired. Inherent corruption and deficit in honesty made it impossible for them to legislate against similar vice. It is disturbing to note that over 60 percent of corruption and in decorum behavior that permeates our body politics is directly linked or traced to the legislative members who are presumably “honorable”. Ironically, this are the same people that has been saddled with the responsibilities of making good laws to promoting good governance and peaceful society where honesty is applauded and mischief is reprimanded.

Time is money, it is therefore expected to be spend wisely and judiciously. The elected representatives at the National Assembly should be reminded that their membership of this body is at a cost to the tax payers, therefore any act of passivity or docility is intolerable. Laws that will regulate and improve the quality of life of the citizens must be put in place. Sectors such as Health, Education, Housing, Energy, Transportation, Aviation, Agriculture, Commerce & Industries, Science & Technology, Banking & Finance, Stock Market, etc must attract legislations for transformation.

Senate President should stand tall and call his house to order. Accurate record of Senators activities in the National Assembly should be documented and made accessible to the public through a web site. This effort will afford the public the opportunity to know those legislators who are actually fulfilling their legislative duties as opposed to those sit tight; do nothing; bench warmer; I con cored party statistics.

The legislators who are indicted by the court of law or the House Committee on Ethics and Public Petition for corruption or any illegal activities must be “evicted” from the Legislative body and outlawed from future politicking.The integrity of the National Assembly must not be compromised. This will send warning signal to other legislators who are mischievous or at least vulnerable. Law making responsibility is a privilege, and does not positioned any legislator above the law. With this information at-hand, each community, district or state will be able to monitor the performances of their elected legislator and determine their re-electability.

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