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Sunday, 18 November 2012

WHY THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY SHOULD BE ON PART TIME

                                                             
The high cost of running the State Assemblies and National Assembly on full time basis without meaningful achievements in terms of law making has made it imperative for the legislators to operate on part-time basis. This is instructive because 25% of overhead of the Federal Government is gulped by the National Assembly. The lawmakers had increased their salaries and allowances at different times. Early this year, the legislators jacked up their quarterly allowances from N15m to N27m for each member of the House of Representatives while each senator had their allowance raised from N42m to N45m. Despite these huge allowances each member of the National Assembly receives, they also receives N5m medical and insurance budget yet they are still pressing for further increases.
 That was why in 2010, the Governor of the Central Bank, Lamido Sanusi Lamido, was troubled by the whooping expenses of the national assembly and said, “If you look at the budget, the bulk of government spending is recurrent. That is a problem. Twenty five percent of overhead of the Federal Government goes to the National Assembly. We need power; we need infrastructure; so, we need to start looking at the structure of expenditure and make it more consistent with the development initiative of the country”. The members of the State Assembly also receive huge salaries and allowances like those in the National Assembly. How difficult is law making that should warrant anybody receiving as much as N45m allowance quarterly? How much does a professor, who is the highest ranking lecturer in the university receives monthly that lawmakers who do not contribute much to the society be paid so much? Governance supposed to be service to humanity and not an avenue to amass wealth as it is in the country presently. So, with the way the State Assemblies and National Assembly are operating presently, they should be made to operate on part-time basis. This is so because they are not doing anything meaningful that will justify them to continue to operate on full-time basis! They sit for 180 days annually and use the remaining 185 days for their personal businesses, are they not operating on part time basis already but receive salaries and allowances for full time? In China and many other countries, businessmen are richer than politicians but in Nigeria, politicians are richer than businessmen. This is the reason why people resigned from their businesses to join politics in Nigeria but politics should be an avenue to serve humanity and not a means to amass wealth at the detriment of the masses. In other climes, politicians who want to make money usually resign from politics and go into business but it is not so in Nigeria. Why should politics be a means to make money in Nigeria? In spite of the largesse the members of the National Assembly enjoy, they sit for only 180 days of the 365 days in a year! How many workers in this country go on annual leave for 185 days in the various companies or ministries they work with? Thus, our representatives sit for only six months in a year and spend the remaining six months on their private businesses yet claimed to be on full-time basis, earn so much salaries and allowances for doing nothing! It is just like the Nigerian Government that is being run as a unitary government under the guise of a federation. Thus, as long as the members of the National Assembly sits for only six months in a year, the National Assembly should operate on part-time basis as it was done in the First Republic. The members of the National Assembly in the First Republic who sat on part-time basis performed better than the present crops of legislators who are on full-time. Recently, the Senegalese parliament scrapped the senate because of its financial implication. Consequently, former Lagos State Governor, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, in a forum last month, asked for the scrapping of the Senate. He said, “......Why do we need two Houses of the National Assembly? The House of Representatives, representing the smaller constituencies, is enough in the same number of population. Why not get rid of the Senate for a slim and better legislature activity? Let us start examining that”. Some members of the upper chamber of the National Assembly vehemently rebuffed this call to scrap the Senate. But can the Senate justify its annual monumental expenses considering the poverty level that is pervading the country? If the Senators truly represent the masses and are concerned about the welfare of the people, why will they appropriate to themselves mouth-watery allowances when the people they claimed to be representing are wallowing in abject poverty? The true representatives of the masses cannot be living in affluence when the people they are representing are hungry. This is not the way to represent the people. Since the country returned to democracy in 1999, the National Assembly has never enacted laws that would better the lives of the ordinary Nigerians. How many laws has the National Assembly enacted to better the lot of the masses? The only law the legislators had enacted that concerns the ordinary people of this country is the Freedom of Information Act of 2011. Apart from this law, which law have they enacted that have impacted positively on the lives of the common man on the streets? As it is at the National Assembly so it is at the State Assemblies that had not done well too in the area of law making. So, the State Assemblies should also operate on part-time basis. The members of the National Assembly have abandoned their oversight functions of monitoring the various ministries and parastatals that is why there is so much corruption in them. If the National Assembly has been playing its role of over sighting the ministries and parastatals, they would have been performing their statutory duties very well. This is why there are abnormalities in our ministries and parastatals. Have the members of the National Assembly asked why Nigerians are subjected to multiple taxes? Nigerians are compelled to pay multiple taxes coupled with high cost of diesel and petrol to power their generators usually make businesses very difficult to run in the country. Many members of the National Assembly don’t even know how to write a bill. So, some of them had never introduced a bill to the assembly for consideration. Also, some of them had never contributed to debates for once. All they know how to do is, when the Senate President or Speaker of the House of Representatives, say those in support of this bill should say, “Yea” and those not in support say, “Nay”. They will all chorus, “Yea or Nay”. This is all most members of the National Assembly have been doing for the past thirteen years and earning so much money! Have the members of the National Assembly asked why the country as the sixth producer of crude oil in the world is importing refined petroleum products? Have they asked why there are no houses for the ordinary Nigerians? Have they asked why the Lagos-Benin Road has not been tarred since 1999? Have they asked why the prices of food are so high? Have they asked why the education sector has collapsed? Have they asked why there is no potable water for the citizenry in a country that is surrounded by water? Have they asked why there is no electricity? Have they asked why gas flaring cannot be stopped? Have they asked why the health sector has collapsed and our leaders patronised foreign hospitals? These are the germane questions they supposed to ask in order to put the executives on their toes so as to make life comfortable for Nigerians and not sitting in the State Assemblies and National Assembly and earning so much money for doing nothing. Also, the members of the National Assembly have failed the country because a lot of them have been accused of bribing and corruption during probes into various sectors of the economy. From the power probe panel which was headed by Hon. Ndidi Elumelu, the Nigerian Stock Exchange probe which was headed by Hon. Herman Hembe and the recently concluded Fuel Subsidy probe which was headed by Hon. Farouk Lawan, were all enmeshed in scandals. In a nutshell, the legislators at the State Assemblies and those in the House of Representatives should be on part-time while the Senate should be scrapped as advocated by the former Lagos State Governor, Senator Ahmend Bola Tinubu. This is so because the Senate has outlived its usefulness in the act of law making in the country. Senators have never stood by the masses in the issues that concern them. They have always taken side with the Executives to make life unbearable for the masses. So, what is their relevance to the masses?

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