National Assembly and Legislative Hypocrisy

The Advocate By Onikepo Braithwaite

The Advocate By Onikepo Braithwaite

The Advocate

By Onikepo Braithwaite

Hypocrisy of the Legislature 

The height of hypocrisy in this country, sometimes seems unparalleled! And, it’s all the more painful when it comes from Government, especially elected officials who were ‘voted’  into office to represent the interests of the people, but end up representing their own personal interests instead, while the people are left to their own cruel fate. I watched the screening of the new Central Bank Governor (CBN), Olayemi Cardoso and the Deputy Governors, and found it incredulously funny that the Senators, some of whom were members of the 9th Senate, could be “dissing” the former CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele for breaching Section 38 of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act 2007, by unlawfully granting the Buhari administration Ways and Means Advances like running water, contrary to the conditions set out in the aforementioned Section 38, particularly Section 38(2) & (3). Section 38(3)(b) of the CBN Act provides that there shall not be securitisation of Ways and Means advances. Was the 9th Senate not the one, towards the end of their tenure, who then went ahead to assent to President Buhari’s unlawful request that the illegal Ways and Means Advances be securitised? During the aforementioned screening, the 10th Senate also mentioned several interventions undertaken by the immediate past CBN Governor, that were not part of the core mandate of a Central Bank, and hoped that the new Governor would concentrate on implementing sound monetary policy and only that which concerns a Central Bank, instead of descending into the arena as an Industrialist, Trader, Farmer, Herder, Businessman, Politician etc. As if the 9th Senate took any meaningful measures, when Mr Emefiele was ultra vires the CBN mandate.

The Role of the Legislature 

Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended in 2023)(the Constitution) gives the National Assembly (NASS)  and State Houses of Assembly the power to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of the country and States, respectively. See the case of Nwokedi v Anambra State Govt & Anor (2022) LPELR-57033(SC) per Abdu Aboki, JSC. Imagine the 9th Senate ratifying the breach of its own law, Section 38 of the CBN Act, by approving the securitisation of the Ways and Means Advances? How orderly was that? Sections 88 & 89 of the Constitution give NASS oversight and investigative functions over issues that it has the powers to make laws for, that is, all the items on the Exclusive Legislative List and those set out on the Concurrent Legislative List in the first column, Part II of the Second Schedule to the Constitution. Items No. 5, 6, 7, 15 & 24, are some of the related financial issues on the Exclusive Legislative List like Banks, banking, currency, exchange control and Item 50 – Public debt of the Federation, which fall under the purview of NASS for lawmaking, oversight and investigation. 

When the CBN announced its disastrous currency redesign policy in October 2022, knowing that global best practices requires a minimum of six months to implement such a policy, how active was the rubber stamp 9th Senate, in trying to stop its implementation and what did they do when so much suffering was unleashed on their constituents all over Nigeria, those whose interests they were elected to represent and protect? Nigerians really suffered during that time. While some Senators did call for an extension of time on the deadline for the use of the old notes to April 2023, some like Senator Uba Sani (now Governor of Kaduna State) called for the Senate to give the useless currency redesign policy legislative backing, complete with the January 31 irrational deadline. 

The truth of the matter is that, more light is shone upon the Judiciary and Executive and how they carry out their functions, while the Legislature is almost ignored when it comes to its activities, with public focus being mostly on the fact that Legislators are overpaid. 

How well did the National Assembly conduct its oversight functions, with regard to the CBN and all its unlawful activities? At one of the rowdy sessions on the Naira redesign policy, Senator Suswan had stated that the former CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, had always shunned Senate invitations, and urged the Senate to ignore the Policy! How? Why? In a country that the Senate, which is meant to be the highest lawmaking and oversight body representing the people, is up and doing, how can the Governor of the Central Bank ignore its invitations to appear? Either the members have compromised themselves to such an extent to the CBN Governor, that they have become nothing but a toothless bulldog in his eyes, or he only takes instructions from a ‘co-equal’ higher power, the President (Executive arm of Government) or a combination of both. 

My point? With the change in baton on May 29, 2023, Nigerians are not only looking to improvements in the way the other arms of government carry out their functions, they are also looking to the Legislators to start to do their work, part of which is to monitor the daily conduct of the Executive on how it is ruling, and to monitor the activities of other agencies. What are all the various Committees that stand in both Houses of the National Assembly, for? Decoration?

The Legislature, their Constituents & Environmental Pollution 

Last week, we published a news story titled “SERAP: Recognise the Right of the Niger Delta People”, calling for the Federal Government and other key players to “recognise the right of the people in the Niger Delta to a clean and healthy environment”; it goes without saying that the Niger Deltans are entitled to same. See the case of Centre for Oil Pollution Watch v NNPC (2018) LPELR-50830(SC). But, again, it reminded me of how NASS has abdicated its responsibility for protecting the interests of their constituents as far as environmental pollution is concerned, especially NASS members from the oil producing Niger Delta areas; ditto for the Federal Government/Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA)/NOSDRA (National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency) and the National Orientation Agency. Their failure includes not calling community members to order, when the need arises.

We have always had the impression, that the the International Oil Companies (IOCs) are solely responsible for environmental pollution and despoliation. This is not entirely true. While it is true that there will always be mishaps on the part of the IOCs, and they are certainly responsible for a good number of the spillages, some local community members are also culpable, because they damage oil installations in their bid to steal oil for themselves, ending up causing leakages that result in oil spillage. Also, believing that the IOCs have a bottomless pit of funds, community members damage the oil pipelines in order to lay claims against the operating IOC for compensation due to spillage. Some also operate illegal storage facilities and refineries, which also cause environmental pollution. 

Most interestingly, a player in the oil sector explained to me that when there’s a spillage caused by the IOC, and the IOC immediately tries to go in to contain it, the community members sometimes prevent the IOC from reaching the spillage area to stop it. The longer they are prevented from gaining access, the bigger the spillage area expands, and the bigger the spillage area, the higher the amount of compensation to be paid! Why would anyone facilitate the further destruction of their environment, just to make money? False claims ‘nkò’? Communities claiming that there has been a spillage in their area, with no verifiable proof of same; or making bloated claims for compensation. This kind of behaviour is off-putting for any investor, and enough to make them flee. Why would investors be interested in doing business in hostile host communities, where the news of their antics would have spread far and wide? And, honestly, we need their investments. While no one condones negligence on the part of the IOCs, there must be better dispute resolution mechanisms put in place, in the interest of all the parties involved. 

What role has NASS, particularly the Niger Delta NASS members played, in educating their constituents on the dangers of their schemes to get compensation from IOCs, and the negative effect on their immediate environment and health? Or how detrimental the blocking of good CSR Initiatives of the IOCs by community members is, to the development of their communities? Have they educated them on the fact that many of their actions which they may feel they are punishing the IOCs or displaying their strength as host communities, amount to nothing more than cutting off their noses to spite their faces? That because of the unending problems caused in host communities, IOCs have fled offshore and left their onshore assets behind – a repellent to FDI. How do we re-attract the IOCs? How do we attract new FDI, apart from the Chinese?

The Bodo Example

Take for example, the Bodo (Gokana, Rivers State) Oil Spill of 2008. It was an operational spill, which spread because the community denied Shell access to the spillage site. There was a £55 million settlement reached, that Shell agreed to pay to the community members as compensation for the spillage. It is alleged that after Shell had paid about £35 million through the Lawyers out of the agreed £55 million, the community refused them access to clean up the area. Another habit of communities, is to ask for compensation to do the clean up themselves, even if the local contractors may not have the capacity to do same. A Bodo Mediation Initiative had to be established, simply to settle the clean up imbroglio. Up till now, I can’t say the clean up of Bodo has been completed. I stand to be corrected. 

My question is, what have NASS members done, to bridge the gap between community members and IOCs, in order to create a more cordial relationship between them? Hand in hand with the National Orientation Agency, this is part of their role as elective representatives, since they are representatives of the people and they are possibly one of the most primary contacts to the people. Has NASS exercised any oversight functions on NOSDRA, to ensure that the Agency lives up to its mandate as far as oil spillage goes? See the NOSDRA (Establishment) Act 2006, particularly Sections 5 & 6.  What have they done to foster a progressive atmosphere in their communities, so that meaningful CSR projects can be implemented in peace and not in pieces, for the benefit of the people? Au contraire, I understand that NASS members too sometimes create more problems, as they also want to get a piece of the action, reap whatever benefits they can for themselves, and have all their brothers’ and sisters’ companies also do the clean ups from oil spillages, and also get all the local content contracts, whether or not they are qualified to carry out these functions. The infighting between community members, makes matters worse. This is just another example, of NASS failing in their constitutional duties to constituents. 


NASS members, also need to take a leaf from their own book of advice and grilling of nominees. Just as they expect Yemi Cardoso and his team to adhere to the CBN Act (unlike the previous  Emefiele team) and set the CBN back onto the right track, similarly, Nigerians expect NASS to start earning their over-bloated salaries by not only passing good laws, but performing their investigative and oversight functions properly. 

For example, both the Senate and House of Representatives have Committees on Aviation, yet, it is the norm for practically every local Nigerian flight to be delayed, while a good number are cancelled without prior notice – as it is always announced over the airport public address system, due to “operational reasons”! Safety is also an issue, in local air travel. What have those NASS Aviation Committees/NASS done to address this? Nothing. A country where one cannot plan, when it involves local air travel – a necessity for the average working person! 

In July, I had an appointment in Liverpool, UK. I decided to go by train and planned my trip from London to Liverpool from Lagos. Everything worked seamlessly, and at exactly 5.03pm as is stated on the Train Timetable, my return train pulled into London Euston Station and I was able to get to my 5.45pm appointment which had also been scheduled in advance. In contrast, less than two weeks ago, I got to Abuja Airport at 3pm to catch a 4.15pm flight to Lagos; the flight had been delayed till 8.45pm with no prior notice! Another time, I got to the airport at 12 noon to catch at 1.15pm flight; I was still at the airport waiting at 6pm, with no information. Naturally, I missed my appointment in Lagos. Daily, Nigerians are unable to keep up with prior important commitments, because they are stranded at various Nigerian airports. And, NASS hasn’t hauled in the airlines to explain, nor are they concerned that a country that doesn’t adhere to global best practices to produce the best outcomes, will never be an attractive spot for FDI. The fact that IOCs for one, are divesting themselves of their onshore assets, means that they would rather forgo their profit, instead of facing our ‘wahala’. This narrative needs to change now.

We are four months into the Tinubu administration, and it is obvious that for our economy to enjoy any form of ‘Renewed Hope’, we need to attract and re-attract FDI. But, we see that in the last few years, if anything, foreigners have been leaving Nigeria in droves, for many reasons including but not limited to pervasive corruption in Nigeria, poor work ethic, hardship of doing business, inconsistent Government policies, irrational economic policies, insecurity, and problems with host communities. This has caused a major setback, preventing us from achieving the Section 16 Economic Objectives of the Constitution. The National Assembly needs to step up to the plate. 

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