National Assembly, Ten Years After (II)

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Folarin
Folarin

This is the concluding part of the piece by Senator Teslim Folarin published last Wednesday In the last ten years, the National Assembly has risen to national challenges through legislation of appropriate laws. We have passed a law establishing the Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC, to ensure that as a nation, we devote attention and resources for the-devel­opment of the Niger Delta. In the same vein, we passed the appropriate laws to put a stop to gas flaring, thereby protecting our environment and health and well-being of our people in the Niger Delta. The law is also to make sure that we broaden the base of our national revenue. We are presently in the process of passing a bill to ensure more local participation in the oil and gas sector. The local content bill, when passed, will guarantee that many aspects of the oil sector have local participation. This law will create more jobs for Nigerians in the sector. It will also mean that Nigerian businesses are more involved in the industry, thereby reducing capital flight in the sector. We have passed laws to bring sanity into the financial sector which was bedev­iled by instances of failed banks before the advent of the democratic experiment in 1999. The National Assembly has passed many laws concerning the wel­fare of Nigerians. Principal among this is the Minimum Wage Amendment bill which paved the way for significant improvement in the take home pay of Nigerian workers. In the bill covering the estab­lishment of a Commission for the control of erosion and desertifica­tion, the National Assembly sought to protect the environment as well as the well-being of Nigerians who are victims of these environmental disasters. In the same vein, the National Assembly passed a law for the establishment of a Commission to cater for the interest of com­munities located in hydro-electricity producing areas. When this democratic dispensation commenced in 1999, corrup­tion was a major crisis confronting the country. We have passed laws establishing the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to check the menace of corruption. There have been new challenges and realities since the enactment of the Acts establishing these commis­sions as prime agents in the war against corruption. The National Assembly is already in the process of reviewing these laws to take care of these new challenges and realities. A relevant law under the consideration of the National Assembly in the quest to check corrup­tion is the law permitting the state to seize properties suspected to be proceeds of corruption pending the completion of investigation into such cases. In this bill, we can see how the National Assembly responds to challenging challenges of the society. Let me clarify that while many of these bills emanated from the executive arm of government, they nevertheless depend on the legis­lature to give them the rigour that will grant them the teeth to effec­tively check the problems they are meant to address. Besides these bills, the National Assembly as a routine entertains motions that address pressing national issues. Through this process, the attention of the executive arm of government is dawn to issues that bother Nigerians. The issues that have regularly featured in our motions include national security, the plight of Nigerians in Diaspora, the state of public infrastructure, the cost of living, happenings in the financial sector and the decay in our educational and health institutions. I wish to state that the executive has found this platform a viable source of knowing the views of Nigerians. The National Assembly also regularly through its Public Petitions Committees listens to petitions from citizens on sundry issues. These over the years have included alleged wrongful dismissal from work, discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, gender, religion or health; and abuse of office by government agencies especially the armedd forces. These issues are considered and investigated by appropriate commit­tees of the National Assembly. Many of such petitions are resolved to the satisfaction of aggrieved citizens. The findings and recommenda­tions of the National Assembly help to improve federal agencies. It is unfortunate this is one of the least reported activities of National Assembly. In the exercise of its oversight function, the National Assembly has drawn attention to many atrocities committed in government. Public hearings by the National Assembly have afforded Nigerians informa­tion about their duties. Where such oversight function engagements turn up instances of corruption or mismanagement, the National Assembly has had cause to bring in law enforcement agencies to get public officials to account for their stewardship. One issue over which the National Assembly has been misunder­stood is that of Constituency Projects. At a point in the present dis­pensation, legislators at the federal level felt that government projects are not evenly distributed. As politicians who won election into par­liament on the strength of the pledges they made to the electorate, the legislators agitated that they should be involved in the determination of the distribution of such projects. The reason for this is not far-fetched. Our budgetary system leaves initiation of budgetary proposal to the executive. However, the elec­torates judge the efficiency of a legislator by the number of federal projects he can bring into the constituency. Where legislators are not involved in the distribution of projects, what projects get to his con­stituency becomes a game of chance. Yet, his worthiness as a repre­sentative is based on this. It was against this background that legisla­tors agitated that the budgetary process should involve them in the distribution of government projects. Their role is limited to this. It does not extend to the award of contracts for the project. It is heartwarming that since the commencement of this process, legislators have been able to attract government projects to their con­stituencies. This dividend of democracy in the local communities is one demonstration of the role of legislators as representatives of their people. I wish to seek the support of the media to help educate the Nigerian public that legislator do not award contracts and they should not be assessed by the number of contracts they can give out. Legislators should instead be assessed by how well they. represent their constituencies in parliament. Conclusion Let me conclude by admitting that the National Assembly is aware that many Nigerians expect more from it. We are aware of the expec­tations of Nigerians and are committed to meet these expectations. As we celebrate 10 years of democracy, I Make the pledge that the National Assembly will strive to meet these aspirations of Nigerians.