Reps And Mid-Term Score Card

Members of the House of Representatives, during a plenary in Abuja, recently.

Public affairs analysts note that a mid-term appraisal of the performance of the legislature in the last two years is important to assess the achievements of the government, deal with its challenges and plan for the future.
They note that it also becomes necessary to find out to what extent the legislators have kept faith with their constituents and Nigerians.
While some analysts observe that after two years of inauguration, the House of Representatives has not failed the expectations of many Nigerians, others differ.
Such assessment of the achievements and failures of the House has continued to elicit some pertinent questions among Nigerians.
Many Nigerians appreciate that within two years, the House was able to pass 126 bills as part of number of activities to wriggle the country out of the current socio-economic challenges.
Acknowledging the appreciation, House of Representatives Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, said within the two years, the House introduced some reforms, including a new budget process bill to regulate the timeline for budget activities.
According to him, this will put an end to lingering problem of non-implementation of budgets that has stifled execution of developmental projects.
“Two thirds of committee members currently sign committee budget reports before it can be presented for consideration, making the budget more transparent and accountable,’’ he observed.
Sharing the same view, a public affairs analyst, Mr Usuma Abdul, commended the House for the North East Development Commission Act before the president for assent.
This commendation notwithstanding, he expressed concern about what he described as inability of the House to come up with a legal framework to address the minimum wage issue.
A civil servant, Mr Sampson Ikonne, however, commended the House of Representatives Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila’s efforts in introducing the Minimum Wage Bill which sailed through the second reading on May 30.
He advised the lawmakers to expedite action on the bill, observing that it would attest to the vibrancy of the House in its attempt to legislate on a key area of national life.
He noted that the bill sought to provide for periodic review of the national minimum wage every five years.
Gbajabiamila blamed the continuous clamour for increased minimum wage by workers across the country on inflation.
He said the need to understand salaries as major component of workers welfare vis-a-vis the current economic realities in the country prompted him to sponsor the bill.
“A law that will compel the Federal Government to have a periodic review of the minimum wage will in turn have direct impact on the greater population of Nigerians,’’ Gbajabiamila noted.
Now, as the lawmakers roll out their mid-term achievements, Nigerians remain eager to understand how best the National Assembly has used the legislative authority to expose corruption, inefficiency and waste in government activities.
Some Nigerians note that the Bill for Protection of Whistle Blowers is a vital tool in the war against corruption in Nigeria as it will greatly enhance disclosure of information on corrupt persons when it is passed.
Dogara, while assuring that the House will break the nine year jinx on non-passage of the bill, said that the burden of corruption in Nigeria was peculiar; restraining economic and social development.
In his view, Mr Itua Tom, an analyst, said: “Apart from thinking of how long it took them to pass the 2016 and 2017 budgets, the bill on whistle-blowing ought to have been passed to help the anti-corruption fight.’’
He said the legislature could make a difference in the remaining two years and urged the legislators to be more responsive and make laws that would change the lives of Nigerians.
To make the House more vibrant, Mr Wale Adeniyi, an analyst and resident of Abuja, urged the leadership of the House to apply all the relevant laws against lawmakers who were usually absent from plenary session.
According to Adeniyi, indiscipline among some lawmakers may have accounted for the quality and slow pace in processing bills and motions.
He recalled that on March 21, the House stepped down four out of six motions it had scheduled for deliberation due to absence of the sponsors.
The motions, whose sponsors were absent, included that of Call for Reconstruction of Bauchi-Gombe-Yola Federal Highway and Call to Explore the Use of Cement to Construct Roads.
Others were: Call to Investigate the Disconnection of Electricity to Communities in Akoko Northeast, Northwest of Ondo State and the Need to Investigate the Exorbitant Charges and Refusal of Multichoice Nigeria Plc to adopt Pay As You Go package option.
While moving for the motions to be stepped down, the Chairman, House Committee on Rules and Business, Rep. Emmanuel Orker-Jev, urged members to always give prior notice of their absence.
“If you won’t be able to make it to the plenary, you should always inform the secretariat so as to enable us present other items on the Order Paper,’’ he said.
Earlier in the same month, observers note that five bills scheduled to be debated on the floor of the House was also been stepped down due to absence of lawmakers.
Worried by the development, Rep. Abu Ibrahim (APC, Katsina South) described absenteeism plenary session as “`a great and visible political divide that must be addressed.’’
Uwadileke writes for News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

Ikenna Uwadileke