The 33-year old Simi Fajemirokun is a consultant and researcher. In this interview with KINGSLEY OPURUM, she explains the reason why Nigerian lawmakers should not earn as high as they are earning now, and other sundry issues. Excerpts.
One of the issues of contention at the National Assembly is the call by Nigerians that Constituency Project shouldn’t be handled by NASS members. What is your position on this call?
I think that transparency is key. While the intention behind constituency project is noble, we cannot pretend that it has not been hijacked by some lawmakers as an avenue for siphoning funds that are supposed to be used to make life better for Nigerians. As a lawmaker, I will push for an institutional and legal framework to guide the allocation and implementation of constituency project. This framework will be guided by the principle of transparency, accountability and inclusion.
National Assembly members in Nigeria are the highest paid in the world, as many reports indicate. What is your opinion on budget for the National Assembly?
I believe that the budget for the National Assembly should be lean and that budgeting for certain areas, like funds allocated to constituency projects, should be participatory. I also think that NASS budget should be publicly accessible to Nigerians.
The 8th National Assembly as you know has been at logger-head with the Executive. Would you say this is good for the nation’s democracy?
The three arms of government are designed to work independently, albeit collaboratively, in delivering good governance to Nigerians. The role of each of arm of government is important and should not be undermined by any one arm. Any personal and political conflict between any of the arms of government that prevents or delays their delivery on the promise to the Nigerian people is antithetical to democratic principles.
Given recent scandals in which many public office holders have been involved in, such as certificate forgery among others, would you tell Nigerians that you are clean enough to be a federal lawmaker?
All my life I have been guided by the principle of integrity. I have lived all my life in preparation for this moment. I believe that public office is a trust, and I do not take lightly the responsibility that comes with serving the people of Nigeria, our most precious treasure as a nation. All the documentation that I submitted while applying for this position, to the best of my knowledge, are genuine.
As a patriotic citizen and as a professional I have modelled integrity because I believe that change begins with me.
What impacts have you made in your constituency?
In my community I have worked across several sectors both individually and as part of a collective group of young change makers. In 2011, I was selected by the World Economic Forum to serve as the curator of Abuja Global Shapers, a community of young professionals committed to positively shaping the city of Abuja. The extent of my efforts in building that community from the scratch is evidenced by the plethora of high-impact projects they have implemented and continue to implement, at no cost to the beneficiaries, both within and outside of the city.
The NGO that I started, ReadtoSucceed Africa, has reached more than 2500 school children through the schools that we have adopted across FCT. The community centered classrooms we have implemented using African design thinking has led to increased academic outcomes for our students. I’ve have also worked and paid tax in this constituency in the last decade.
As has been widely assumed and reported, do you agree that the National Assembly is corrupt?
Yes, I agree to a certain extent that, as is with many institutions in Nigeria, there is widespread corruption at the National Assembly but incompetence is a greater problem.
If yes, what will be your contributions towards stopping the menace?
One of the biggest criticisms against NASS is lack of transparency. This is evident both in budgeting and service delivery. As the arm of government that is supposed to be the closest to the people, NASS has done a poor job of staying accountable to Nigerians. As a federal lawmaker, in addition to pushing for people-centered bills, I will champion specific deliverables that will make the National Assembly more transparent, efficient, and bring us closer to the people. Some of these ideas are very low hanging fruits like, making sure that we publish legislative engagements and bills proceedings on the website; removing barriers that prevent people from directly reaching their representatives and enforcing the use of electronic voting for all bills.
How would you appraise the current National Assembly, especially the House of Representatives?
The reputation of the legislative arm of government has deteriorated and needs to be restored. Nigerians deserve better than the low level of productivity, lack of transparency, lack of accountability and inefficient service delivery that is the bedrock of NASS as presently constituted. That said, I think the House of Representatives deserves some accolade for initiating one of the most important bills to guarantee youth political participation in Nigeria. I’m referring to “Not Too Young to Run Bill” which has opened up the space for more young Nigerians to aspire to political leadership. I look forward to joining the National Assembly to promote more progressive bills that will promote opportunities for every Nigerian.
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