… who have proposed no bill in 16 months
- Recall them, lawyers tell electorate
- 30 Reps are school cert. holders – N/Assembly
In spite of the huge salaries and allowances reportedly drawn by each of the 360 members of the Federal House of Representatives and 109 senators, about half of the lawmakers have presented no bill in their 17-month stay in the 8th Assembly, The Point’s investigations have revealed.
Similarly, about the same population of legislators in both arms of the legislative chambers, have also been relatively inactive in terms of contributions to critical debate on issues brought to the floor for discourse. Specifically, about 205 of the lawmakers, almost 50 per cent of the total population of National Assembly members, are caught in this web of inactivity.
A top source in the Rules and Business Committee of the House told The Point that while 30 out of the 109 senators had yet to propose any bill, 175 of their colleagues in the House had also been dormant.
“Even in terms of contributions and critical engagement on issues on the floor that will help guide the Executive in piloting the affairs of state effectively, most of these lawmakers are still found wanting. Majority only appear, gaily dressed, at the National Assembly just for the purpose of attendance and being seen, while some who sit in are seen dozing off while the day’s business is ongoing. It is sad,” the source said.
The Point’s findings revealed that the long list of legislators who had not been discharging some or all of the legislative duties include such top shots as former governors of Zamfara, Sani Yerima; Kano, Rabiu Kwankwaso; Gombe, Danjuma Goje; Plateau, Jonah Jang; Yobe, Bukar Ibrahim and Akwa Ibom, Godswill Akpabio.
Others are former senate president, David Mark; former aviation minister, Stella Oduah; and a retired General, Jeremiah Useni, among others.
At the House of Representatives, such high profile names as the Deputy Speaker, Yusuf Lasun; Chief Whip, Al-Hassan Doguwa; Minority Whip, Yakubu Barde; Minority Leader, Leonard Ogor; Chanchagi Rufai, Chinedu Nwulu, Bassey Ewah, Yusuf Bala, Raphael Igbokwe and Samuel Akinfolarin, among others, were listed as having not proposed any bill.
Their inactivity, notwithstanding, the affected lawmakers have continued to draw jumbo salaries and allowances every month like the perceived active ones.
According to the National Institute of Legislative Studies, a federal lawmaker in the Senate goes away with a bouquet of allowances, which hike his salary to N12.9 million per annum, while his House of Representatives counterpart goes home with N9.52 million annually. This is exclusive of other sundry allowances not captured that accrue to the lawmakers.
The NILS estimates that over a fouryear tenure, the Nigerian government spends a total of N1.4 billion as basic salary alone (excluding allowances) on the 109 senators and N3.4 billion on their 360 counterparts in the green chamber.
Aside from proposing and legislating on bills that could aid development and turn around the fortunes of the Nigerian masses in the face of current economic woes, the legislators are also to perform oversight functions as empowered by Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
Considering the huge amount expended from tax payers’ money as their remuneration and the inactivity of some of the lawmakers, not a few Nigerians have expressed dissatisfaction with the legislators’ continued failure in their core duty to propose bills that will contribute to national development.
And while a section of the respondents suggested the option of the electorate at their respective constituencies demanding a recall of the idle legislators, in accordance with Section 69 of the 1999 Constitution, some commentators have bemoaned the near impossibility of such recall effort succeeding.
A recall is the process where a validly elected member of the Legislature may be removed from his/her seat. The process, as contained in the Constitution, is a voting exercise where the electorate decide via a referendum (a Yes or No vote) whether or not they want the lawmaker representing them to remain for the rest of his term or not at the National Assembly.
“It Is a concern to nIgerIans that some members of the natIonal assembly do not justIfy the salarIes and allowances they earn. they crItIcIse other arms of government… summon the executIve and probe government agencIes, yet condole Idleness and corruptIon”
No bill, No pay – Concerned Citizens
First to fly the kite of discontent with the ineffectual and dormant lawmakers in the National Assembly was the Executive Director, Enough is Enough, Comrade Yemi Adamolekun, who declared a ‘No bill, No pay’ campaign against the idle members of the Assembly.
To him, there is something fundamentally wrong with how the National Assembly discharges its legislative and oversight duties, especially at a time the Nigerian economy is facing hard times.
He said that the only logical thing was for Nigeria to design a mechanism that would identify the said lawmakers with a view to stopping their remunerations if their work does not complement the pay they collect.
He said, “It is a concern to Nigerians that some members of the National Assembly do not justify the salaries and allowances they earn, yet criticise other arms of government.
While the Assembly summons the Executive and probe government agencies, it condoles idleness and corruption. Even the several reports on allegations of corruption that have been investigated remain shrouded in secrecy. This does nothing for an institution that seeks to be ‘responsive, accessible, representative and accountable’.
“The fact that the House of Representatives and Senate were not reconvened to address these disturbing issues and Nigeria’s weakening economy also speaks volumes of the importance that our lawmakers place on such issues. As far as I am concerned, we are moving for the recall of the dormant members.”
Another concerned citizen and former presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party, Engr. Martin Onovo, while speaking on the matter, said that to whom much is given, much is expected.
He expressed the belief that if the lawmakers earned such fortune aside from some hidden allowances revealed by the former chairman of House Appropriation Committee, Abdulmumin Jubrin, then the legislators, especially the ‘sleeping’ ones, ought to wake up and deliver their campaign promises of quality bills, contribution to debates and other oversight functions.
He also expressed dismay at the minimum academic requirement of Senior School Certificate for federal political office holders. For him, that also affects the quality and exposure of some of the National Assembly members.
“This minimum academic requirement is clearly mediocre and subversive to national development. WASC or the equivalent is the minimum academic requirement, even for presidential candidates, which I believe is a threat to national development,” Onovo said.
Though, Onovo added his voice to the league of concerned Nigerians, considering the recall of the said lawmakers, he is worried about the process of recalling a lawmaker, which he described as very tortuous, cumbersome and expensive.
“Considering the prevalence of rigging in Nigerian elections, a worse candidate can rig himself in after a recall,” he argued.
By their fruits, we shall know them
As observed by one of the respondents, checks by The Point, on the National Assembly website, revealed that about 30 members of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the National Assembly, saddled with the responsibilities of presenting, scrutinising, passing bills and also performing oversight functions over the executive arm of government, only possess the Senior Secondary School Certificate.
Although, the constitution allows for a minimum qualification of SSSC as prerequisite to contest a seat at the National Assembly, some sources in the Presidency hinted that such defect might also be contributing to the draught of bill proposals in the 8th Assembly.
Some of SSSC holders in the House of Representatives include Peoples Democratic Party’s Chinedu Nwulu, (Oshodi/Isolo, Lagos); Goodhead Boma, (Akuku-Toru, Rivers); Michael Etaba, (Obubra, Cross River); All Progressives Congress’ Ahmed Rufai, (Kaduna South, Kaduna); Sabo Garba, (Nangere/Potiskum, Yobe); and Jika Haliru, Darazo, Bauchi).
Recall not tedious as many think – lawyers
While many think that recalling an ineffective lawmaker is a tedious and cumbersome process, Constitutional lawyer, Fred Agbaje, explained that the recall process is not as ‘tortuous’ as many electorate assume.
Agbaje, who also shares the view that some of the lawmakers should be recalled, told The Point that Nigerians should ‘wake up’ and use their electoral rights by assessing the performance of their representatives at all levels.
According to him, all the electorate need to recall any non-performing member is to write a letter to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, signed by more than half of the registered voters in the constituency, indicating a loss of confidence in the affected member.
He said, “INEC is expected to conduct a referendum within 90 days of the receipt of the petition, as approved by the simple majority. Also, they can go to court and drop their petition. The politician cannot resist such move, because he got to the position through the vote of the electorate. Looking at the quality of debates and bills, more than half of the House of Representatives’ members have no reason to be in the legislative chamber meant for intelligent minds.
“For instance, I have not seen the impact of my representative in Lagos West, I don’t want to deceive myself like others, how many things has he done for the voters in his constituency. What have they achieved there rather than warm seats? Nigerians should join forces and let us remove/recall anyone who does not represent us because if that is done, others will sit up.”
Also, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ms. Koyinsola Ajayi, told The Point that it is the right of the electorate to move for the recall of their representatives in any of the legislative chambers of the National Assembly, if they feel they have not represented them as promised or expected.
But like the fears expressed by Onovo, she confirmed that the bane to such development on the part of the electorate was the fear of the unknown, which she described as the clog in the wheel of the progress of having quality bills and debates that should develop the nation.
“It is constitutional that any lawmaker that fails to deliver can be recalled. I believe there is nothing bad if the electorate recall such legislators,” she said.
“The minimum academic requiremenT of Senior School cerTificaTe for federal poliTical office holderS alSo affecTS The qualiTy and expoSure of Some of The naTional aSSembly memberS. iT iS clearly mediocre, SubverSive and a ThreaT To naTional developmenT”
Some former lawmakers in the House of Representatives, who spoke in separate interviews, also confirmed The Point’s findings, as they agreed that some of their colleagues were not contributing to debates on the floor of the House as expected.
One of them, a former lawmaker from Ekiti State, Bimbo Daramola, frowned at the development and tasked the electorate to ensure that they demand the attention of their representatives anytime the House is on recess, “because it is their right.”
According to him, if voters do not engage their representatives on their expectations, there are chances that many things may be taken for granted.
“It is unfair on the part of some lawmakers not to propose or support bills or contribute immensely to debates and such should not be tolerated. I proposed, supported and contributed to scores of debates in the House because I could not afford to disappoint my people, because to whom much is given, much is expected,” he said.