It’s simply the truth, when Nigerians are urged to see the legislative arm as what differentiates civil rule from a democracy. You can have a fully functional judiciary and the executive arm, but it’s takes an elected, representative legislature, the throbbing heart of a democracy, to say, you have a government of the people.
However, the National Assembly has on different occasions failed to meet up to expectations in a country like ours, where we lived without this arm of government all through the years of military rule. And the common instance, where Nigerians, see members of the legislature as not living up to billing is when they intervene in matters of national importance-to little or no effect. Sometimes, it feels like members of the National Assembly enjoy toying with the emotions of Nigerians, pretending to care about their welfare and well-being even as they work towards ensuring their survival, but they only end up leaving the people in the lurch. From where, do we begin to count how many times, senators and member of the House have fallen short of providing solutions to national challenges?
In August 2016, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), announced that Nigeria’s economy had slid into a recession after negative growth in the first two quarters of the same year. It was a frightening announcement, that confirmed the growing complaint among millions of Nigerians, that life had become even more difficult. With low oil prices depleting government revenues, weakening the national currency and driving up inflation to an 11-year high, folks, screamed to the high heavens, that times were tough.
Some analysed it as late in coming, but by January, the House of Representatives resolved to constitute, what it called, a Tactical Committee on Recession. The resolution of the House on January 26 followed the adoption of a motion entitled “Need for More Proactive Steps to Abate Hardship Being Experienced by Nigerians As a Result of the Economic Recession’’. By February, the House inaugurated the Bode Ayorinde-led committee with a three-month deadline. The committee was given the clearly stated task of monitoring steps and policies initiated by the Federal Government toward returning the country’s economy to the path of growth. The committee was also expected to interface with government ministries, agencies and departments, and interact with Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, the Nigeria Labour Congress and civil society organisations in a bid to arrest the recession.
Sadly, the committee is no where near submitting it’s report, nine months after inauguration and the recent announcement by NBS, that the Nigeria is out of a recession. According to bureau, the economy in the second quarter of 2017, notched up growth of 0.55 per cent, an indication that the economic recovery was driven by improved performance of oil, agriculture, manufacturing and trade sectors of the economy.
What has this committee to show for the huge sum allocated to it to carry out, what parliamentarians in saner climes would consider a sacred assignment? I would say very little, besides the chairman enjoying 15 minutes of fame, resulting from a visit to Vice-President Yemi Osibanjo, a meeting in Lagos and a display, I find hard to call a press conference. It was at the weekly press briefing of the House press corps, by the spokesman of the House, Abdulrazak Namdas, which Ayorinde practically gate-crashed, that he in the most belligerent manner, retorted that he expected journalists to ask how big the budget of the committee is. He didn’t give a direct answer to the question on if the committee was allocated N30 milion as has been speculated. If the lawmaker has no regard for nosy reporters, does he also not care about the feelings of the electorate, some of whom are among the 3.67 million, who lost their jobs as at March 2016 or the over 11 million, who have been jobless for sometime?
As if rub salt in the wounds of Nigerians, who would have loved to see the House compare and contrast its findings, with the economic statistics presented by the executive, Ayorinde and his team went on a week-long tour of Malaysia and Singapore. The excuse? The panel members say, they want to compare the economic growth indices of the two countries with Nigeria’s. The facts are a call or click away, but members of the committee think wiser to spend money on travelling. In fact, the two-nation junket was announced at the briefing, which Namdas probably thought would be an opportunity to show the House was responsive and responsible. I have to say, the House spokesman didn’t chose the right committee to show off. Did Speaker Yakubu Dogara also pick the wrong team to handle a task, if it was properly handled, would have sold the Green Chambers to the public? Many would agree that with Nigeria clawing out of recession, this committee which the House raised while it was down with the recession blues has outlived it’s usefulness. It is even more worrisome, that this committee upon returning from the two-nation trip will host a two-day summit, starting from Monday, still as part of what many would call an expired mandate. Dear lawmakers, Nigeria has been declared recession free, you haven’t made a single recommendation, and you’re still going ahead with a summit on the same subject.
But for the tax-payers money spent, one would have asked that the committee, to ‘just forget it’. For a middle ground, sportsman-like solution, where athletes complete a race even when they have lost already, a well articulated report from the panel can be tendered as the next best thing. And like, the younger generation would say, the committee should present its report already.
Members of this committee should remember the announcement on the floor of the House by the chairman, Committee on Rules and Business, Emmanuel Orker- Jev, that about 162 reports were still being expected from committees. Of course, like I noted earlier, there are a number of standing and adhoc committees which have submitted detailed reports and in fairly decent time.
Such committees should act as examples to the Aliyu Madaki headed ad-hoc committee to investigate reinstatement of the former chairman of Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina.
Madaki, who seems to have fully reconciled with Dogara after a long period of being a vocal critic of the Speaker has the onerous task of investigating a matter, that has dented the reputation of President Muhammadu Buhari, an individual he so admires.
Madaki it was, who led the committee which investigated the remarks made by minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola on the 2017 budget, which incensed the National Assembly. The Committee presented it’s report on Wednesday.
Never mind, that Fashola grudgingly apologised, it took a back and forth between him and three members of the Madaki Committee, namely Ben Nwankwo, Edward Pwajok and Mohammed Sani-Abdul, to save the House the embarrassment. Also to be sincere, it took the interventions from Nwankwo, Pwajok and Sani-Abdul to prevent Fashola from turning the investigative hearing into a lecture on budgeting and public administration for members of the committee.
The Maina scandal, the billions stolen and how he was reinstated on a higher rank in the interior ministry, is what people from the outside look at and call Nigerians fanatically corrupt. Nigerians are united in the opinion that, all high ranking government officials involved in any aspect of the Mania debacle be sacked and fully prosecuted. For the House to prove that it’s not just down with the Maina-mania, Madaki and his team must conduct a probe that is devoid of frivolity and time wasting. Needless, to say they also have to come up with a report that can withstand scrutiny.