BusinessDay

Mid-term result: poor oversight, unfulfilled promises weaken Rep’s marks

The 9th House of Representatives has received more knocks than kudos as its performance is considered less impressive and impactful midway into its four years tenure which expires in the next two years.

The House was proclaimed on June 11, 2019 and June 11, 2021 marked its mid-term, a period in which the past performance of elected representatives can be judged to determine the remaining period in office.

The present House and indeed the National Assembly came into office with a lot of promises to Nigerians to make laws that seek to address the socio-economic quagmires of the country with particular emphasis on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and the Electoral Act Amendment which hold potential for improving Nigeria’s economy and electoral process.

The promises were captured in a fantastic legislative agenda that was later updated in the wake of the Covid-19 to provide immediate and intermediate legislative interventions to address the challenges imposed pandemic in all sectors.

For instance, in the Updated 9th House Legislative, the Green Chamber promised to intervene in the economy through ensuring passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to improve efficiency, reduce wastage and limit corruption in the petroleum sector, amendment of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA), 2007, to require revenue generating agencies (MDAs) to deposit at least 80percent of their revenue into the Consolidated Revenue Funds (CRF), amongst others.

The Updated Agenda also advocated for Electoral Reforms through the amendment of the Electoral Act and amendment of the Constitution to devolve powers and provide dear delineation of roles between the three tiers of government to improve coordination, reduce conflict and duplication as well as administrative and financial burdens on the Federal government.

However, two years down the line, the agenda of the 9th House of Representatives seems not to have been achieved by half as what many Nigerians consider as most important such as the PIB, Electoral Act, proper oversight and even Constitution review have not received the desired attention.

This is in spite of the fact that the 9th House has scored itself high in the last two years as the Spokesperson, Benjamin Kalu said the present House has performed better than previous assemblies in Bill consideration and passage.

Kalu in an update on the activities of the House said it has within the period under review passed 41 out of the 853 Bills and 66 are awaiting action by the Committee of the Whole, while 105 have passed second reading.

According to him, the House also considered a total of 730 motions out of which 484 were taken in the first session and 246 considered in the second session while it received 163 petitions in the period under review.

He also said the House is set to receive the report of the Ad-hoc Committee on PIB for onward consideration and passage while the report on the Electoral Act (amendment) Bill is currently before the House and awaiting passage.

“Several of the motions considered by the House, were products of diligently conducted needs analysis to reflect the will of the people, exercise its oversight responsibilities as stipulated in Sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution, and address front-burner issues in the nation. Ninety-eight (98) of the resolutions have addressed various challenges in insecurity while others have addressed other socio-economic issues and performance issues by the executive,” Kalu said.

But analysts who spoke with BusinessDay argued that performance of the House of Representatives and the National Financial generally left much to be desired as evident in the non-passage of PIB, Electoral Act and little or no oversight and urged the parliament to do more in the remaining two years.

Idayat Hassan, director, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), said in the firm grip of President Muhammadu Buhari, the current National Assembly has become a rubber stamp doing the bidding of the Executive to the detriment of Nigerians.

She said the National Assembly currently does little oversight on Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), pointing out that, up to date Nigerians are yet to hear anything about the inquiry into the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) since the exercise ended last year.

Hassan said: “The fundamental problem for most citizens is the electoral reform which is currently pending in spite of several promises. In fact, currently, Nigerians are exercising little hope on the Electoral Act let alone the PIB which has been in all National Assembly inclusive of this 9th National Assembly”.

Christian Okeke, a Political Science lecturer at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, said the 9th House has not performed according to the expectations of the people as even the pieces of legislations made have not improved the well-being of the over 83 million extremely poor Nigerians.

The Scholar argued that there is a clear disconnect between what the parliament is doing and the condition of the people as legislative business of the 9th Assembly has not translated into obvious gains for the people.

He said: “It is not much about the number of Bills passed per se. It is about how those laws impacted the people. That is what counts. Now, how do you determine that? The answer is very simple: go to the constituents, get to the streets and feel the impact.

“Any Bill passed by the National Assembly which has not addressed these challenges are only but a pack of cards. Every day, the number of people desirous to leave the country keeps increasing. Insecurity and unemployment still turn against the poor in the country where they make laws”.

Auwal Rafsanjani, executive director Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), said in light of the current economic conditions, alarming insecurity and instability concerns, corruption-riddled public sector, growing inequality, shrinking civic space, national disunity and the grossly inadequate legislative responses, the performance of the House of Representatives of the 9th Assembly, leaves much to be desired.

Rafsanjani said while the House may blame its poor performance largely on paucity of funds, one is left to ask how judiciously they have used the “little” they have been given.

“When weighed against the backdrop of their mandate, no matter how much can be claimed to have been done, the socio-economic and all other relevant indices suggest a significant failure, to say the least.

“It will be grossly insensitive to the many citizens we have lost, the bereaved, those whose livelihoods have been lost to insecurity and environmental conditions, the ever-increasing poverty-stricken population, the unemployed youths and the millions whose enshrined rights and liberties have been stripped with impunity, to even suggest otherwise.

“The general consensus on allegations made against the House ranges from legislative corruption, insensitivity to constituents’ problems, flamboyant lifestyles despite the daunting recession rocking the economy, flagrant disregard for people’s agitations, self-centeredness and dereliction of duties, among others,” he said.

The CISLAC boss however, commended the House for taking steps to initiate the process for the long-attempted Constitutional review and asked the Green Chamber to give legal backing to fight against corruption, step up oversight functions and take other pragmatic steps towards putting smiles on the faces of Nigerians.

He also charged the Parliament to initiate anti-corruption laws such as; Special Crimes Courts Bill for speedy trials of offences including economic and financial crimes, money laundering, corruption offences and other related matters.

“The House of Representatives needs to throw its weight behind calls for the amendment of the FRA towards the promotion of transparency and accountability in fiscal resource management.

“More than seven years after the statutory establishment of the National Council on Public Procurement (NCPP), the body is yet to be constituted. The NCPP is to ensure that the Bureau of Public Procurement carries out its functions based on transparency, competition, integrity, and ensuring best value for money,” he said.

He called on the House of to sustain its pressure on the President to validate the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) by setting up a National Procurement Council, in line with the law.

According to him, “Embedded in the watchdog role of the House of Representatives is the expected over-sight over the operations of all the other arms of government, particularly those of the executive arm in the discharge of their responsibilities; as well as the notion that any infractions in the normal governance processes or deviations from norms of ethical conduct would be identified, exposed and remedied by the legislature in a manner that justifies the collective interest and welfare of the electorate.”

He further said that “Promotion of good governance: the greatest power of a democracy is the emphasis on rule-base.”

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