The two legislative chambers are saddled with many responsibilities as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria but the common-man is yet to feel their impact. Many legislators have soon forgotten the promises that were made to their people during elections. One of such promises made by the legislators to the electorate was the alleviation of their sufferings through the provision of electricity, drinkable water, good roads and also the passage of bills that will give them a new lease of life. The reason for the failure of many legislators to deliver on these promises may be adduced to the life of luxury they live at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
Nigerian legislators hardly come to the Constituencies/Senatorial Districts to discuss issues that are bothering those who elected them. Most Constituencies/Senatorial Districts are faced with enormous hardship because the representatives at the two chambers of the National Assembly are not concerned about the sufferings of the people of those Constituencies and Districts. Well, this non-chalant attitude of most Nigerian legislators is not surprising because they do not have the interest of the common-man at heart. They make promises to people just to get their votes and thereafter turn their backs on men and women who have entrusted them with the task of improving their lives. In fact, many Nigerian legislators are two-faced, saying one thing during election campaign and doing another thing once in office.
In the 2008 budget, the Federal Government was reported to have earmarked N60 billion for constituency projects but how much of this money was spent? The most disheartening situation is the high number of legislators who warm the bench of the National Assembly with no bills passed except for a few number of them who have made attempts. Notable among such legislators is Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa whose bill on Freedom of Information (FOI) and disabled persons when passed into law would have a positive impact on the lives of ordinary Nigerians. Although, reports have it that the Senate passed more than 30 motions and bills between June 2007 and December 2008 but most of these bills favour the rich more than the poor. An example is the bill on Frequent Cancellation of Scheduled Flights by Airlines in Nigeria. This is strictly for the high-class and the fading middle-class of our society. Some other legislators have passed important bills that were either killed or ignored by the committee members of the two chambers without winning their approval. Nigerian legislators spend ample time arguing matters that are of no good to the Nigerian people. What they argue about often times are in their best interest rather than the nation’s.
Undoubtedly, part of the duties of legislators is to ensure that their states were treated equally in all legislation but this should not override national interest. Everyone understands many legislators’ motive of contesting to become a member of the National Assembly. The new comers view it as a means of getting rich while old members want to maintain their status and power.
Much to everyone’s disgust, the Senators and House of Representative members are expected to spend N783 million on refreshments during the year 2009, in addition to spending N13 billion for their official trips, local and foreign. Despite President Yar’ Adua’s claim that the 2009 budget would reduce overseas trips by National Assembly members, an outrageous amount was voted for their travel and general expenses. This shows that the Yar’ Adua administration’s austerity measure does not cover the travel expenses of National Assembly members. It is only applicable to the poor civil servants but is government really sincere about saving cost in this fiscal year?
As we may recall, the House of Representatives in the year 2008 was embroiled in a N680 million contract scam as well as a N2.3 billion car scandal. The leaders of Nigerian government have continued to mismanage public funds that can be used to reduce the high level of poverty in the country. These monies if invested in education, health, housing, security, agriculture etc would go a long way in alleviating poverty and desperation among the teeming population of Nigerians.
It is my hope that the two legislative chambers would intensify efforts towards making laws that would impact positively on the lives of the common people. And as the National Assembly attempts to address major challenging national issues such as the review of the 1999 Constitution, power probe report to mention but a few, the legislators should always remember their responsibility to work for the people. It is imperative that they leave a good legacy because they will not be there forever.