By Deji Elumoye and Udora Orizu
The President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, on Friday said Nigerians have the democratic right in 2023 to vote out the present crop of federal legislators if they are tired of them.
Lawan, who stated this while declaring open a retreat for top management staff of the National Assembly and National Assembly Service Commission, stated that Nigerians are free to replace the current members of the National Assembly with new members during the next general election in 2023.
He said: “If you don’t like the set of members in the Ninth National Assembly, change all of us in 2023. Get better people and let’s support the system to function.”
Lawan asserted that the value of legislature to the nation is democracy and without it there won’t be democracy.
According to him, ”This maybe a little bit controversial but I will not run away from what the National Assembly, the legislature mean to Nigerians. Can we debate properly what the functions of members of the National Assembly should be, rather than be talking about jumbo pay? Without this National Assembly or the legislature across the country, what we have is not democracy anymore.
“So the value of the legislature to Nigerians is democracy, because take out the legislature, it may not be dictatorship but certainly not democracy. So when we debate on jumbo pay instead of what should be functions and hold us responsible for what we are able to do and what we are not able to do.
“Ask for what you think we should be doing rather than saying close the Senate or National Assembly.”
He berated the clamour by Nigerians seeking for a reduction of the National Assembly budgetary allocation, saying they should rather focus on supporting the system by ensuring that all monies allocated are well utilized.
Lawan also revealed that members of the National Assembly are working assiduously to pass the 2021 budget by the second week of December, and as well ensure passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and constitution review before the end of the second quarter of 2021.
He lamented that in a budget of over N13 trillion, the National Assembly have only N128 billion, and instead of citizens to try to see how the N128 billion will be utilized by the system, rather they argue that the funding to the National Assembly is too much.
The Chairman of the National Assembly also advocated more legislative aides to the lawmakers, saying the current number of aides per lawmaker is inadequate which doesn’t help much as most members of the National Assembly struggle to do most things themselves.
Also speaking, the Director General of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman, said by bringing together the major agencies and actors in the National Assembly to have a frank discussion on major issues of institutional strengthening, the retreat can come up with important recommendation and strategies for improving service delivery and general performance of the National legislature and the legislative bureaucracy.
”The ability of the National Assembly to effectively undertake its core functions effectively depends on a number of key factors which are institutional and legal framework and then strong organizational structures. The relevance of this retreat is even better highlighted in the light of the recurring uncertainties and disagreements about the powers and limits of management and commission.
“Recent events have once again brought into bold relief the need to have an honest discussion on some of the challenges that the legislature faces. Despite the clear definition of roles in the NASC Act 2014, there are grey areas and sticking points that have perennially resulted in conflicts and I hope this retreat will help address some of these challenges and hence reposition the National Assembly to perform better,” the DG said.