Open Parly Nigeria seeks improved citizens’ participation in legislative activities
...urges constituents to demand effective representation, not financial favours from lawmakers
As part of its ongoing drive to improve citizens’ participation in governance and bridge the communication gap between state lawmakers and their constituents, Open Parly Nigeria, last week, took its legislative advocacy to Kwara State, with a visit to three grassroots communities across the senatorial districts of the State.
Supported by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Open Parly Nigeria is an initiative of Connected Development (CODE) targeted at sensitizing Nigerians on the workings of the legislature and citizens’ roles in enthroning effective representation and good governance.
While in Kwara, the Open Parly Nigeria team held town hall meetings at Solu in Asa local government area, Edidi in Isin local government area and Jebba in Moro local government area of the State, where they educated the people on the core functions of the legislative arm of government and how they can productively engage their elected representatives in the parliament.
The team also attended a public hearing organised by the Kwara State House of Assembly, and equally had engagements with some members of the Assembly including the Speaker, Yakubu Danladi.
Speaking during his interactions with the people of Solu, Edidi and Jebba, Busayo Morakinyo, the community engagement director of CODE decried the widening communication gap between legislators and their constituents, noting that this was partly responsible for lack of legislative transparency and accountability, and low level of development at the grassroots.
Morakinyo who doubles as the Project Officer for Open Parly Nigeria, emphasised the need for citizens to not only participate in the electoral process but also get involved in governance and decision-making process.
According to him, people must after electing their lawmakers, follow their activities at the parliament and continually engage them to ensure effective representation and delivery of democratic dividends.
“In the interest of the overall development of our communities and states, we all have a role to play in the pursuit of accountability and transparency at all levels of governance. By playing this important role, we will preserve institutions of government from abuse and corruption,” he added.
He also encouraged the electorate to vote for only persons with proven competence and character into the state and federal legislatures.
In his remarks, Shakir Akorede, the content and digital advocacy lead of Open Parly Nigeria, highlighted the various ways constituents can participate in activities of the parliament and contribute to decisions and policies that directly affect their socio-economic lives and development of their communities.
“Citizens can partake in legislative activities in different ways that include attending public hearings, town hall meetings, contributing to review of bills and laws and online engagements with their elected representatives. Constituents can also as well influence their lawmakers to initiate bills or motions on specific issues that affect them,” he added.
The Eledidi of Edidi, Oba Gabriel Aboyeji, appreciated Open Parly Nigeria for its legislative advocacy and efforts to boost citizens’ participation in governance and decision-making. The monarch warned his subjects and all Nigerians against selling their votes during elections, saying that people must vote wisely in next year’s general elections.
Similarly, John Bello,the lawmaker representing Lanwa/Ejidongari State Constituency at the Kwara House of Assembly, John Bello, who attended the Open Parly Nigeria town hall meeting in Jebba, lauded the advocacy group for educating Nigerians on the functions of the legislature, noting that several people have limited or no knowledge about the workings of the parliament.
In a chat with the Open Parly Nigeria team in his office, Speaker of the Kwara Assembly, Yakubu Danladi, decried the lack of understanding of the core duties of the legislature by many Nigerians, lamenting that constituents expect lawmakers to carry out responsibilities that are not constitutionally theirs and also put pressure on them through unnecessary financial demands.
According to him,“When lawmakers visit their constituencies, they are asked for money, roads, hospitals, etc. Constituents do not want to know what bills the Assembly has passed. They ask you for a borehole. Even when they know it’s not your responsibility, they will stone you for not doing it.
“I, therefore, applaud the efforts of Open Parly Nigeria at educating Nigerians on the functions of the legislature through your advocacy initiatives such as town hall meetings, vox pop, radio programmes, and analysis of bills.
“You are doing a great job of letting Nigerians know what our core responsibilities are and what we will do at the parliament”.
The speaker also expressed support for Open Parly Nigeria’s readiness to commence live-streaming of plenary sessions of the Kwara Assembly.