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Absentee Lawmakers



Since the end of party primaries in October, the National Assembly has become a shadow of itself.

Lawmakers at both chambers have taken to campaigns for re-election in their various constituencies, thus abandoning their primary national assignments for which they were elected and for which they are drawing humongous salaries and other perks.

There had been complaints from constituents that many of the lawmakers had abandoned them since after their last campaigns.

Both the online and conventional media have also been awash with complaints that many of the lawmakers are docile at the National Assembly. Many of them have neither sponsored a bill nor moved any motion since they assumed office in June 2015. Now they have suddenly found reason to return to base to canvass for votes at the expense of national assignment.

Sometime last month, Senate president Bukola Saraki was forced to adjourn plenary in the Red Chamber because the lawmakers in attendance could not form a quorum.

The Senate needs a minimum of 38 Senators to conduct plenary but only 20 members were seated at the commencement of plenary on Tuesday. Senate Minority Whip, Senator Phillip Aduda, moved the motion for adjournment, citing order 10 (3) of the Senate rules.

He further explained that most of the members were not at plenary, as they were on various oversight functions.

Since their resumption on Tuesday November 20, only few lawmakers have been attending sessions at both the Upper and Lower legislative chambers.

Immediately after their resumption, the Senate also hurriedly adjourned its plenary to Tuesday, November 27, 2018 on the excuse of the alleged killing of 44 soldiers in a recent Boko Haram attack.

In view of the significant volume of pending legislative assignments before the lawmakers as the 2019 general elections approach, the many adjournments show a lack of commitment to duty.

It is obvious that the lawmakers are rather taking out time to engage in visits and campaigns.

It is regrettable that the Senate is playing to the gallery, allowing national assignments to suffer while lawmakers engage in campaigns for re-election in their various constituencies.

While the suspension of sitting to honour fallen heroes who died in the service of fatherland may not be condemnable in its totality, this newspaper is of the stand that the action of the Senate is belated.

There have been series of pleas by the federal government in time past for the lawmakers to approve funds for arms, which they declined.

The Senate has persistently refused to extend legislative support and encouragement to President Muhammadu Buhari in his effort to totally wipe out the activities of Boko Haram insurgents and other security challenges in the nation.

In spite of the sensitive nature of security matters, the Senate has often engaged in blame  games with the executive and often shut down the chambers for unjustifiable long breaks.

Hence, it is ironical that the same Senate which never deemed it necessary to deliberate and approve the  president’s anticipatory approval of $496 million drawn from the Excess Crude Account  for  the purchase of Tucano fighter jets  to battle Boko Haram insurgency now appears very concerned that soldiers were killed by terrorists to the extent of adjourning plenary.

Perhaps, the war against insurgency would have been long won and lives of the  soldiers lost last month saved had the current Senate found it necessary to increase defence budgets in the Appropriation Act.

They would rather slash defence budgets and increase figures for National Assembly expenditure.

This newspaper recalls that before the aforementioned suspension of sittings, senators also late October suspended plenary for two weeks to probe the implementation of budget.

The wave of suspensions of plenary has been recurrent in the Senate. Towards the end of last month the lawmakers also suspended plenary to allow the members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) among them to attend the party’s National Executive Council (NEC) meeting.

It is our opinion that considering the number of times the lawmakers at the National Assembly have suspended sittings and gone on vacations, they should face their National Assembly assignment at this time in the interest of the nation. Their personal interest should not override that of the country.