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National Assembly And Over Sight Functions

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The National Assembly under the Nigerian presidential system
of government is a bicameral legislature with two chambers, namely the Senate
and the House of Representatives.

The 7th National Assembly was inaugurated on June 6, 2011,
with the Senate having 36 re-elected members and 73 elected for the first time,
making the 109 Senators of the upper chambers; House of Representatives with
360 members had 100 persons re-elected while 260 were first timers.

The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as
amended provides that the National Assembly is the highest elective lawmaking
body of the country. It has vested in it the power to enact laws for the peace,
order and good governance of the federation.

No doubt, the National lawmakers had made relevant laws for
the betterment of society and corporate existence of the nation as well as
undertaken oversight functions to the best of their ability in line with the
principle of checks and balances.

Just recently the lawmakers intervened in the Central Bank
proposal for the introduction of N5,000 note and other denominations requesting
that the plan be kept in abeyance. President Jonathan also accepted the
resolution and subsequently directed the Central Bank to put the idea on hold.
This move was applauded by Nigerians for government being sensitive to
perceived negative impact of the proposal for the wellbeing of the common man.

In the words of Mr. Gary Hamel, author and research fellow
at the Harvard Business School, “The real challenge for leaders is not to seek
perfection in all issues but to set up structures that allow institutions to
thrive with their less than perfect leadership and the key strength of
democratic institutions are the capacity to adapt and evolve peacefully.”

There is no gainsaying the fact that members of the National
Assembly are political leaders in their own right, they represent the interests
of their constituencies whose mandate they carry and it behoves on them to make
justifiable laws for the benefit of the people.

Shortly after the proclamation of the National Assembly, the
issue of leadership structure created some challenges because the ruling
People’s Democratic Party (PDP), was alleged to have zoned major political
offices with the emergence of Dr Goodluck Jonathan as president from the
South-South region.

It was rumoured that the presidency have endorsed Senator
David Mark to continue as Senate President while the exit of former speaker
Oladimeji Bankole left a vacuum. Jonathan was said to have favoured a candidate
from the South-West but the odds weighed against her as majority of House
members preferred the incumbent speaker from the North.

Barrister Innocent Sunday, a political analyst and pundit,
fingered these initial scenarios as the contaminating blood in the political
vein of the house and the  presidency.
“Otherwise how can you fathom the quick alliance with the opposition in a House
dominated by the President’s party members to issue impeachment threat for
below average implementation of the 2012, budget barely five months after its
passage.

Although, the constitution provides that any law passed in
any chambers must have a concurring response from the other and the state House
of Assembly are equally empowered to deliberate on such issues especially on
the impeachment of the commander-in-chief.

Simply put, if the plot was probably to attract the
attention of the president, then they have succeeded, otherwise, the effect was
like water poured on the back of a duck.

In a presidential system of government lobbying of lawmakers
by the executive and other interest groups, is a necessary pastime to either
support or discourage the passage of a bill into law, depending on which side
of the divide.

In America, President Barak Obama’s Health bill generated
controversy among citizens, Republicans and Democrats but it has since been
passed into law because the government utilised the instrument of lobbying.
This process which engages persons with oratory prowess and knowledgeable in
government affairs have been degraded in the Nigerian system misunderstood,
misrepresented and even given the colouration of bribe.

However, there is nothing that demoralises people more
effectively than the belief that other persons are being rewarded or favoured
for reasons that has nothing to do with talent, effort and results.

Without mincing words, President Jonathan and the National
Assembly have enjoyed cordial working relationship particularly for allowing
each arm performs its duties without interference. To this end, several laws
have been passed and assented to, some were inherited proposed laws improved
upon and given the green light like the Freedom of Information Law (FOI).

Worthy of note and rightly too is for the legislature to
discharge its oversight function on the executive arm to ensure that
appropriations approved in the budget for implementation were carried out.
Regrettably, such exercise has attracted misdemeanor consequences on the
lawmakers.

As earlier mention, the motion which was adapted by the
House on the non-implementation of the 2012 budget was sponsored by Chairman
Committee on Business and Rules, Hon. Albert Sam-Tsokwa, and 20 others. Opinion
is divergent on the rational for the hasty impeachment threat on the president
even when the Senate had not peeped into the matter, considering the time
frame.

Perhaps, the achievement of the House radicalism has
necessitated the need for early presentation of the budget and in compliance
with the perceived lapses Dr. Jonathan has concluded arrangements to present
the 2012, appropriation bill to the joint session of the National Assembly soon
to allow ample time for legislative inputs and approval.

Infact, under the current 7th Assembly, the Senate appears
to have demonstrated more maturity in debates, motions and resolutions to
justify their distinguished status as against the House that ventured into
critical sectors of the economy, raised hopes and aspirations of Nigerians
towards sensitizsing the system but unfortunately ended up debasing the very
essence of such endeavour.

The lawmaker began the oversight function journey that
brought dishonour to the honourable members with the Independent Power Project
(IPP) of the federal government, otherwise called Power probe headed by Hon.
Elemelu and the outcome of the engagement ended in scandalous circumstances.

As Speaker, Hon. Aminu Bello Tambuwal puts their duty in
proper perspective when he said “the act of law making is crucial to the
success of our nation in all sphere, however, the legislature does not work in
isolation but places great emphasis on its cooperation with other arms of
government.”

Again, in the spirit of patriotism to the father land, the
House in a motion brought before it resolved and indeed set up a probe panel
for the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), with the intention to redeem
the organisation. Sadly enough, the effort was marred by accusations and
counter accusations of alleged demand of bribe from the SEC boss Ms Arunma
Oteh. The rest of the issues can be confined to our political history as the
rife led to some level of ego and muscle flexing by the stakeholders.

Certainly, not done with controversies, the mother of them
all was unveiled in the now popular Faroukgate scam. Kudos must be given to the
House for its vibrancy and concern for the masses but having probably suffered
credibility questions in previous attempts, went into its arsenal and assigned
the petroleum subsidy probe to the litherto respected Hon. Farouk Lawan as
chairman with other equally ace lawmakers to dive into the hydra headed
downstream sector of the petroleum industry.

Hon. Lawan failed to learn from the mistakes of others and
literally urinated on his trousers. The courageous outburst of an oil merchant,
Chief Michael Otelola to expose corruption has today diminished the flourishing
political fortune of the once vibrant lawmaker.

Nigerian leaders must learn the key skills in achieving
balance in the onerous task of developing the country by engendering the
communality of interest and doing away with personal egocentrism. It has
therefore become pertinent to appreciate that despite individual differences,
the nation’s founding fathers worked together, devoid of rancour, bickering and
acrimony to  secure. Independence.

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Senate Sets Up Seven-Member Conference Committee On Electoral Act Amendment Bill

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The Senate has set up a Conference Committee to harmonize positions on the Electoral Act Amendments Bill.
President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan who announced this Wednesday during plenary, said that the  conference Committee will work with that of the House of Representatives in order to be on the same page on Electronic transmission of results by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
According to Lawan, Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, APC, Kebbi North  will be the leader of the team.
Other members are Senators Kabiru Gaya, APC, Kano South to represent North West; Danjuma Goje, APC, Gombe Central for North East; Uche Ekwunife, PDP, Anambra Central for South East; Sani Mohammed Musa, APC, Niger East for North Central; Ajibola Basiru, APC, Osun Central for South West and  Matthew Urhoghide, PDP, Edo South.
 Recall that of the seven members for the  Conference, while  only Senator Urhoghide voted YES Electronic transmission of election results, Senator Ekwunife was absent during the voting time and the other five members who are of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC voted NO for electronic transmission of election results.
The  Senate was before its annual recess thrown into confusion and uproar  as  Senators considered  the Report of the  Electoral Bill, 2021 which is a Bill for an Act to repeal the Electoral Act No.6, 2010 and enact the Electoral Act 2021, to regulate the conduct of Federal, State and Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory elections.

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PIA: Buhari’s Aide Tasks Southern Govs, Lawmakers On Amendments

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The Senior Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Senator Ita Enang, has asked the Southern Governors Forum (SGF) and members of the National Assembly to take advantage of the proposed amendment to the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) to change the Act on controversial issues of host communities development fund and the frontier basins exploration trust fund.
Mr Enang, a former senator, said members could propose amendments that could be consolidated with those proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He stated this while appearing on “Politics Today” a programme on Channels TV.
Mr Buhari had written the National Assembly on Tuesday seeking an amendment to the PIA on the administrative part of the law.
The letter dated September 16 was read by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives during plenary sessions on Tuesday.
The PIA, which was assented to by the president on August 16, was passed by the National Assembly under controversial circumstances in both chambers of the National Assembly in July.
The president seeks to increase the number of non-executive board members of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority and the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory commission from two to six, to ensure representation of all geopolitical zones.
The Nigerian Governors Forum had in a communique after its 35th teleconference meeting in July expressed dissatisfaction with the ownership of the NNPC Limited and the issues of host communities and the frontier exploration trust fund.
The NGF recommended that given that the corporation is owned by the three tiers of government, the newly incorporated entity (NNPC Limited) should be owned by a vehicle that “holds th.e interest of the three tiers of government” – the institution that is currently positioned to carry out this mandate is the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).
The governors, in the communique, said they will address the issues using appropriate channels including the National Economic Council and the National Assembly.

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Deepening Constitutional Democracy

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One person who seems to be unhappy about the way the country runs its political parties is Mr Dan Nwanyanwu, the Chairman of Zenith Labour Party.
To him, funding of political parties should not be left at the whims and caprices of money bags, the president, governors or other elected officers of political parties.
He said that such would weaken the political system and make members mere spectators in their own affairs.
He recalled his experience when he gate-crashed in a meeting of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN), presided over by the National Chairman, late Adisa Akinloye.
He noted that party supremacy was the in-thing, as the then President Shehu Shagari and his Deputy, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, sat where ordinary members of the party were all seated.
He stated that Akinloye, as the chairman and other party executives sat in a special seat provided for them.
Nwanyanwu said that in those days, there was equal ownership of the party, because members contributed and were unwaveringly committed to the party’s ideology.
The Chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Mr. Leonard Nzenwa, stated that non-payment of party dues by party members, remained the core problem in deepening constitutional democracy in the country.
He said that political parties should be mass-owned, mass-oriented, mass funded and must be people-centred, stressing that it is the only way to ensure equality of members in any political party.
According to him, where it looks like few people put funds together to bankroll or fund any political party, such will remain a major problem to constitutional democracy.
Nzenwa who doubles as the Chairman of Action Alliance (AA), noted that funding of political parties by money-bags or few individuals, is a setback to constitutional democracy.
He observed that Nigeria is the only country where members of political parties would refuse to pay their party dues.
He said that in South Africa, the legendary Nelson Mandela, never claimed ownership of the African National Congress (ANC).
“Even in the days of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello, they never claimed to own their party as members pay their dues as and when due,” he said
The IPAC boss said that if today promoters of political parties are laying claims to ownership of their respective political parties, it showed the sad reality of the time.
“Even in America where we borrowed our democracy, no one claimed to own the party even as rich as former President Donald Trump is, at no time did he claim to own the party unlike what is obtainable in Nigeria,” he said
He said that the idea of certain individuals claiming ownership of political parties should be stopped, adding that such people used it as a vehicle to blackmail others.
Nzenwa noted that such abuse must be addressed through party structure, commitment of members to the party and high sense of responsibility.
“Hardly do members pay party dues, including my political party and this is because of non-chalant attitude of members, so the money-bags hijack the parties.
“Political parties cannot survive if members refuse to pay, because why we have problem in political parties is that members do not want to make commitment and do not want to take responsibility.
“Members are not sincere and that is why we have this issue because people keep jumping from one political party to the other once they see that there are going to get money there, there is no ideology whatsoever,” he stated.
The Publicity Secretary of Young Peoples Party (YPP), Mr. Wale Martins, on his part said that YPP members pay their monthly dues, which according to him, is what has been keeping the party going.
He stated that donations are also welcomed from members and highly spirited Nigerians, but added that, that would not confer undue advantage on them.
“YPP members pay monthly dues which differ from state to state; for instance, in Lagos members pay N1000 monthly, while in some other states, they pay between N500 and N100, while party executives pay N3000,” he said
Martins stressed that payment of dues create a sense of belonging, adding that it would further help to promote accountability.
Martins said that members were reluctant to pay their dues because money-bags had hijacked the political structure and members had given tacit support to those willing to drop money in a bid to control the soul of the party and dictate the pace.
Martins said that vote-buying, manipulation and other shenanigans are fallout of this ugly development, especially during party primaries to elect candidate that would fly the flags of the parties.
He also said that government’s withdrawal of payment of subvention to parties was responsible for hijacking of the political process by powerful individuals.
“The government used to give political parties subvention, but the sudden withdrawal of such subvention eroded their confidence and left members with no choice than to embrace money-bags,’’ he said.
The Executive Director, Adopt A Goal For Development Initiative, Mr. Ariyo-Dare Atoye, said that the country cannot deepen constitutional democracy without political party reformation.
He said that the reformation must guarantee internal party democracy and ensure that party members and officials adhere strictly to rules, guidelines and the constitution.
He noted that the products of political parties become the drivers of the nation’s democracy; hence, the country must focus on the basic foundation of ensuring the process of party membership conforms to best practices.
“We must ensure that few money bags and people in power do not undermine and appropriate the functions of political parties,” he said.
To get the best out of this democracy, Atoye stated that the country needs political parties that are funded by members and the public and not a few political merchants.

Ogunshola writes for News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

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