LEGISLATIVE RASCALITY IN STATES

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Lawmakers should take their job more seriously

It is a big shame that the power tussle in the Anambra State House of Assembly will degenerate into the fracas that last Thursday forced the police to seal off their premises. Unfortunately, there is a growing pattern in which those expected to make laws for the country are increasingly becoming lawbreakers. From Ekiti State where the speaker was removed five days to the end of the tenure of the former Governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose, without the requisite number to Edo State where the deputy speaker lost his position to unproven allegations of corruption and misappropriation of funds, tales from the legislative arm of government in the past one month are not edifying.

Although the frequency of impeachment of speakers of Houses of Assembly may seem like a circus by some unserious political jesters, what it does is to present Nigeria as a country where a constitutional instrument meant to enhance good governance is being abused and desecrated. With very little excuse and sometimes for pecuniary reasons, legislators have no qualms about impeaching their speakers. Yet behind most of the impeachments is either the overbearing disposition of the governors who seek to emasculate the legislative arm of government in their states or the lure of being at the helm as presiding officers by greedy members.

When the speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly, Hon. Martins Azubuike was last year impeached by members, a new speaker, Bishop Kennedy Njoku, representing Osisioma Ngwa North was immediately elected to replace him. However, barely 24 hours later, Njoku also announced his resignation “on personal grounds”, with speculations that he might have been forced out for political reasons by those who control the levers of power in the state. At about the same period, speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Adams Dabotorudima, also resigned from office. His resignation made it the second time occupant of the office would vacate the office within a year.

Speakers, as we have reiterated several times, do not have absolute powers of their own. They remain “executive heads” of the legislative branch by virtue of being elected by their peers; in other words, they are first among equals. But the moment some of them are elevated to the office, they begin to hobnob with the executive branch, sometimes turning themselves into errand boys of their governors at the expense of the legislature. That has led to the undoing of some speakers. But the manner in which many have lost their jobs calls to question the seriousness with which the lawmakers perceive their assignment.

Although there are constitutional provisions for removing speakers and other erring public officers, assembly members most often invoke flimsy excuses for seeking the ouster of the incumbent office holder. Unfortunately, more often than not, at the bottom of the impeachments saga is the trust deficit between a speaker and his colleagues who often suspect that their leader may have been collecting financial inducements from the executive and failing to bring it to the table for fair sharing.

The immediate consequence of this interminable bickering in the legislative houses is its toll on the quality of debate and legislation for good governance in our country. The ultimate victims of this unfortunate state of affairs are people of their states who are denied quality and effective representation. It is therefore time the lawmakers in the states took their job much more seriously. In the meantime, members of the Anambra State House of Assembly must understand the disgrace they have brought upon the people who they claim to represent by the brigandage which led the police to seal the premises of the legislative arm of government in their state.