The inauguration of the 9th National Assembly (NASS) – the senate and the house of representatives – on June 11, 2019, by President Muhammadu Buhari is a clear indication that Nigeria’s democracy has come of age, and may also have come to stay having existed for two uninterrupted decades since 1999.
This optimism and appreciation of this development – though cheerless to so many citizens – stems from the fact that previous efforts at democratic rule had been truncated by the military, whose dictatorial regimes lasted for nearly three decades, put together, since independence in 1960.
As it is, Nigeria has had every reason to be upbeat with the present feat, hence the need for the NASS to do everything necessary to protect this current democratic rule which scholars all over the world, have agreed to be the best governing option for a civilized society, like ours.
It is, therefore, in the interest of the NASS to protect Nigerians who have surrendered their sovereignty to the lawmakers for protection and for attainment of their general well-being. This demand is imperative given that the legislature, indeed, the architecture of government as operated in this country has always carried out its activities in ways that leave them being accountable to the citizens whose sovereignty they stand upon.
The 9th NASS must work out legislative demands that would compel the executive arm of government to carry out responsibilities, indeed, functions that would bring succour to the Nigerian people. Needless to note that ordinary Nigerians are certainly passing through harrowing experiences in the areas of insecurity of lives and property, unemployment, decayed public infrastructure, acute shortages of public health services and educational opportunities as well as mass poverty, low life expectancy amidst rising cost of living, high cost of doing business and fiscal and monetary challenges that have made the national currency lose its worth among other foreign currencies.
It therefore behoves on the NASS to develop legislative strategies by way of appropriate laws that would enhance the governing process that would task, if not compel, the executive to be upbeat in ensuring that Nigerians do not have to wait endlessly to see their country have a string exchange rate against the dollar and other foreign currencies; enjoy uninterrupted power supply; experience motoring on pothole free roads; regular and flowing tapes; functional health and educational institutions as well as live in a society where there is premium on security of lives and property, free from banditry, terrorism and violent criminalities and other vices.
We are aware that corruption has remained a sure point in the country, especially among the political elite – some of whom have cases with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Even then, the NASS must support the executive and the judiciary in the country. Yes, even if the previous acts of corruption should have some forbearances, conscious efforts should be made in the present to curb the menace, check fresh ones from occurrence. The reality is that no economy develops or grows in the covet of corruption in the country’s polity currently. This vice must be put to death for the economy to move forward. The NASS must be deeply and sincerely involved in the war against corruption.
Many have argued that the cost of running the presidential system, as operated in Nigeria, is high and should be reduced. We cannot but agree with the proponents. We therefore challenge the NASS to begin to rethink their emoluments, especially their allowances and other payments made to the lawmakers, lay way of reducing them with a challenge to also do similarly.
For years, the country has battled the challenge of having a yearly budgetary season beginning from January. Whereas, the executive has the greater share of the burden to bear, the NASS can also help to ease the process by reducing the length of time the document stays with them before the document is finally passed into law. Making the Appropriation Bill an element of polities as has been the case in the past is unacceptable to Nigerians who have borne the cost of this wrangling those years. Thankfully, now that the NASS is effectively under the control of the ruling party, All Progressive Congress, APC, with the executive, both should work assiduously hard to give Nigerians a January to December budgetary season. The import of this cannot be underestimated in an economy whose government is the highest spender.
Granted that the amendment of the constitution is a continuous exercise, the 9th NASS should strive to get President Buhari to assent to the new revenue sharing formula so that states and local governments – where most Nigerians belong – should have more financial allocation and capacity to discharge their responsibilities to the citizens. The earlier this is done the better for the Nigerian states because Abuja is too far from the ordinary Nigerian.
Besides, the time has come for the NASS to make the social welfare conditions of the citizens to be judiciable. The Ninth NASS will forever be remembered if they can drive this expectation through a Buhari presidency.
In all, the NASS should strive to put in place laws that would see Nigerians live in an environment of liberty, prosperity and peace. Any legislation that would restrain public freedom and social justice and the rule of law must be resisted by NASS even if it is from the executive.
While it is reasonable for the NASS and the executive to collaborate, corporate and concur on common issues that would conduce to good governance of the country, the NASS must not surrender its independence to the Buhari presidency. We say so because President Buhari did not show sufficient tolerance to the contrary views in his governing process in his first tenure. It is most unlikely that he would change in his ‘Next Level’ agenda. The siege to the house of supreme court justices and the eventual suspension of the former chief justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, and his forced resignation and prosecution by the executive, the continues detention of the former National Security Adviser, NSA, to former President Goodluck Johnathan, Col (Rtd) Sambo Dasuki and the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zazaky despite court rulings granting them bail are clear indications that president Buhari has little regard for the rule of law and fundamental human rights of the citizens as stipulated in the constitution.
The Eight NASS under Senate President Bukola Saraki and House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara did so much to protect the independence of NASS and the general interest of Nigerians. The 9th NASS under Ahmed Lawan (Senate) and Femi Gbajabiamila (House of Representatives) should not disappoint Nigerians. They owe Nigerians a duty to represent their legislative interests and to save them from every form of official recklessness. History beckons on the Ninth NASS.
For a better society