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NASS And The Real Issues

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At last, the National Assembly has reconvened after months of legislative recess. The break generated unhealthy controversy that gave the impression that the polity was in turmoil and needed to be brought under control by the wave of a magic wand by the lawmakers.

Preceding the break was a series of activities on the floor of the Assembly akin to the fabled ‘You Tarka me, I Daboh You’ as senators and House of Representatives’ members moved around in search of new alliances. The political parties, in particular, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), made an issue of the development as if their survival as political groups depended on it. There were talks about change in the leadership of both Houses as the incumbents dumped the platforms that sponsored them for another. There were actually speculations that the recess was part of a plan by the lawmakers to arm-twist their parties to grant them automatic tickets for 2019 as a trade-off for bringing about the change of leadership reportedly as demanded by the ruling party, APC.

While that was going on, less attention was paid to real issues that are urgently needed to be addressed and which are germane to good governance. The political gerrymandering dove-tailed into the party primaries. As those are done and over with, the lawmakers are expected to play less of politics and concentrate on their main assignment, which is law-making. Matters related to the 2019 elections and the budget of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), among others, were believed to be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency, while the musical chairs were being rearranged.

Now that the members of the legislative body are back on their beats, it is important to remind them that having rested sufficiently, they must get on with the real business of making laws for good governance. We are aware of several letters on sundry matters to them from the Presidency that required immediate attention. There is also the Supplementary Budget to provide for INEC as it grapples with the exigencies of the 2019 elections. The Electoral Amendment Bill that will ensure the proper mode and method of conducting the 2019 elections is also pending. It is important to note that funding alone for INEC is equally as important as setting the proper law that is acceptable to all to guide the election.

As is statutorily required, the President has put before the lawmakers a request for borrowing to fund the 2018 Budget from the various windows. The provision for borrowing can only be effected when the National Assembly approves. The legislators need not be reminded that their actions and inactions can provide defining moments as the Buhari administration rounds off the last year of its first term. Furthermore, this is an election year, packed full with activities that have the potential to make or mar the democratic process. The Executive arm of government is evidently going into a frenzy as the November date for the official commencement of electioneering draws near. It expects to put things in order before attention is shifted to matters of campaign and re-election.

It is pertinent, in the opinion of this newspaper, to point out that Nigerians will be going to the polls in February to elect new leaders for the country. While they are waiting with baited breathe for the period to arrive, they also do not expect that all matters of state must come to a halt. What this entails is that, both the Presidency and the National Assembly must do the needful to get their acts together in a manner that will address issues of great importance to the welfare of the people.

The National Assembly must be made to realise that this Eighth Session has a record of non-performance made worse by a notoriety to be profligate, even as the rest of the country strives to grasp with a harsh economic environment.

On the part of the political parties, especially the ruling APC, they must be humble enough to accept that it is time to put an end to the anti- Bukola Saraki and anti- Yakubu Dogara tendencies that started at the inception of this administration, especially given the circumstance under which they emerged as leaders of NASS.  In our view, efforts to humiliate the Senate President through various seemingly unwholesome tactics only had negative effect on the party in particular and governance in general. The party must admit that they were out-flanked by a more sagacious Senate President and Speaker of the House and reserve their energy for next year if they are lucky to be re-elected. Then, the party will have all the time to act on the lessons learnt from losing control of a legislature in which it has a majority of members. For Now, Nigerians want the leaders to focus attention on their welfare till Election Day. They can start by resolving the minimum wage imbroglio.



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