•Seek higher educational qualification for N’Assembly members
Udora Orizu in Abuja
The House of Representatives and the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) yesterday blamed the high turnover of lawmakers in each election cycle on what they described as executive ‘rascality of state governors.’
Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and Director General of NILDS, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman made the assertion in Abuja, when they spoke at the 2022 House of Representatives Press Corps week with the theme: “High Turnover of the Lawmakers: Impact and Way Forward.”
Gbajabiamila, represented by the House Deputy Majority Leader, Hon. Peter Akpatason, said the high turnover of legislators was due to inordinate desire of governors to maintain firm grip on political apparatus of their states.
He said the development was sad as it has negatively impacted the legislature which is the bastion of democracy but victim of any undemocratic governance.
He explained: “When you talk about executive rascality, I don’t think a lot of people actually know, it is a very serious issue in this country. We have the situation in which governors want to do everything, want to take everything in this country but it is not in the interest of Nigerians.
“It is not in the interest of democracy when a governor sits down and say XY must not come back, why? You are not looking at experience, competence, it is not about inability to perform. The turnover of legislators is majorly due to the horde of the governors.
“The legislature as the bastion of democracy can do their job very well only when you have a stock of competent and experienced human beings. A federal turnover is a serious problem, serious in the sense that, the older the better, the more experienced the better legislature.
“The best legislators are legislators who have seen it from every angle but you cannot come in and do one term and say you have seen it all. How much have you seen actually? How much would you know in National Assembly in four years?
“When there was military rule, you have the executives, you have the judiciary but the only one that is missing is always the legislature. So, now that we are lucky to have democracy, the best that we can do to ensure that we have an efficient legislative arm is to maintain and sustain the experience already acquired by those who have been in service for quite some time.”
Corroborating the Speaker, Sulaiman, in his keynote address said most of the lawmakers not coming back to the Senate and the House in next legislative session was on account of executive rascality which must stop.
He cautioned that the practice of removing lawmakers after four years or at most eight years was not healthy even for the constituents as only ranking members could become principal and presiding officers of the National Assembly.
Sulaiman lamented that the trend weakened the legislature as greenhorn lawmakers could not sufficiently hold the executive to account, and their quality of debates and legislative outputs were likely to be equally poor.
He opined that the high turnover of lawmakers was a drawback for Nigeria as a country in terms of governance, funding, wasting of resources, and loss of manpower of lawmakers that know the job while disrupting the legislative processes.
The DG also bemoaned the practice by former governors turning the National Assembly to as their retirement homes.
He was of the view that former governors have no business contesting for Senate or House of Representatives.
He also called for the amendment of the constitution to raise the educational qualification required to be a member of parliament in Nigeria.
He said, “In National Assembly or legislature, we talk about ranking. If you are doing rotational, your constituency will never produce principal officers. When I was taking about executive, one of the most vibrant senators today is Yahaya Oloriegbe (Kwara) but he’s not coming back again because the governor doesn’t like his face.
“When you look at senators that have the highest honour of bills, Senator Oloriegbe is one of them in the 9th Assembly but despite that performance, the governor said I don’t like himself so he’s not going back.
“The governor gave it to a lesser person. He is a medical doctor and chairman of senate committee on health and now you are giving it to another person who is an OND holder. So when you look at it critically, where are we heading to?
“It’s a sad development. In term of right to that constituency they have lost, just as we lost in Kwara, they have lost too in the Yobe North because we need experience even when it comes to the issue of intervention funds, in terms of constituency project they have lost.”
In his remarks, the House Spokesman, Hon. Benjamin Kalu urged the media to help advance democracy as intended by letting people know more about the details of the Electoral Act, adding that the intents of the bill was not known to most politicians.