Democracy for the Fishes: A Tale of the Nigerian Legislative Arm!

Would it not be “okay” if the Nigeria National Assembly have 36 members in the upper and lower house, while it coordinates with the State house of Assembly members? and if you are still wondering where Nigeria stands amongst the league of democratic government, the #presidentialmediachat that President Muhammadu Buhari kickstarted on Wednesday, December 30, 2015, just a day before the end of the year, sums it all up, and not just that, it gave directions on the functions of the pillars of democracy. The 2 hours chat left me imagining the number of sacrifices the citizens will have to make before the 170 million Nigerians can achieve the USD 82,763 GDP (Purchasing Power Parity) that Singapore currently enjoys.

 

So if citizens are ready to sacrifice, what sacrifice will the legislative arm make? With 115 billion Naira appropriated for the legislative arm in 2016, and in it, was a purported 4.7 billion Naira car purchase that was justified by the Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume! Might be ridiculous, I guess?Certainly, we would not need a prophet to tell us Nigeria doesn’t need this expensive legislative arm, however it has been argued that the Nigerian legislative arm enjoys the least salary and allowances amongst the league of countries like Tanzania, Kenya, Philippines and Singapore.This argument would have been justified if the Human Development Index of Nigeria is well better than these countries.

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Truth be told, we cannot measure up to them, and our GDP (Purchasing Power Parity) cannot substantiate such argument, so why would it not be right that we should run a part -time legislative arm and use the amount saved to invest in teacher training, or provide befitting living environment for health attendants that has turned ghost workers in Northern Nigeria health facilities, and we can look at more alternatives as described by Premium Times here.

 

When an agent of the state foot drags to become open, just like the National Assembly of Nigeria has been doing, even with at BudgIT’s campaign around #OpenNASS, it is indeed shying away from being democratically accountable. So what can or should happen? Ngozi Anyaegbulam of Media Watch International asked the President, if the Budget of the legislative arm passed through his table, and if he approved it after seeing the lump sum of 115 billion Naira (USD 577 million). His response was not convincing, and he clearly stated that you can only use the judiciary to actualize a reversal, and that it is still feasible to revisit the budget with the legislators. But there is the other pillar of democracy – the civil societies that needs to intervene and help the president.

 

As 2015 rolls by, we have seen #OpenNASS keeping the legislatures on their toes to make – not only their budget open, but also open how they spend Nigeria tax payers money, likewise the #SayNoToSocialMediaBill which hopes to put a halt to the Bill (To prohibit frivolous petitions, and other matters therewith) that is about to gag free speech via radio, text messages, and the social media. 2016 kicks in with more challenges for the citizen, just as fishes feeds under the seas, so also the legislative arm will continue to do, except organizations like BudgIT, Premium Times, CODEEnough Is Enough, Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), Policy and Legacy Advocacy Center (PLAC) strengthen their collaboration, seek judicial implications for starting a campaign like #StopSenatorsCar to stop the exegesis of the legislatures, initiate civic – legislative engagements and demand responsiveness from the government, then – we can say we have #SackedtheSenate. Sack who? Yes, and the 35 state house of representatives that seem elusive. As we connect in 2016, like Phyno’s connect that am listening to right now – We might #NeverSettle until that fish seller (on the featured image) at Utako Market enjoys the real “dividends of democracy”