The 8th Senate under the leadership of Dr Bukola Saraki is winding down its activities after what was an engaging session. Within that period, the upper chamber, as ought to be expected, had its fair share of knocks and kudos. To many of its critics, it was part of the problem of the country and some even called for its scrapping altogether, arguing that the cost of keeping the legislative body was becoming prohibitive in a developing country such as Nigeria trying to stabilise her nascent democracy. Rightly or wrongly, that perception is there for posterity to assess.
However, this newspaper is of the opinion that being a human institution, it is susceptible to the shortcomings to be found in such a gathering of politically charged individuals. Even at that, it will be fair to accept that within the period it was in session, it introduced some innovations that benchmarked the practice of democracy and the peoples understanding of its tenets.
It deserves to be noted, in our opinion, that the 8th Senate made the use of social media relevant in the public space and, in the process, took interactivity to a whole new level by televising every Senate Plenary Session and live tweeting every activity on the floor using twitter and Youtube as platforms. With a daily viewership of approximately 20,000 Nigerians on Youtube and constant interaction on the Nigerian Senate twitter handles with millions of Nigerians commenting on each tweet, this Senate was able to break a new record for the most interaction with Nigerians.
Similarly, the Upper Legislative chamber must have come to the conclusion that part of its not- too- favourable public image was as a result of the hitherto lack of openness in the deliberations of the sessions before it. And due to the communication gap that resulted in its relations with the Nigerian public, there was a deficiency in the governing of the nation. The 8th Senate may have, in our view, recognised this issue and made a decision to promote transparency and accountability on their part by launching the Open NASS campaign which aided in strengthening democracy in Nigeria by giving citizens a platform to come forward and voice their opinions to those they selected to represent them. This has also been used as an avenue to provide for better oversight from these constituents.
The legislation on electronic voting (Electoral Act No. 6, 2010 (Amendment) Bill 2017), which was dogged by controversy following its passage on April, 2017, would have redefined democratic practice in the country if it was accented to by the President. Still, the Bill, one of the innovations of the 8th senate is still relevant as one of the most pivotal laws in the history of the election process in Nigeria. The electronic voting method was set in place to eradicate electoral malpractices and make for an easier, more transparent and faster electoral process across the nation. The advent of electronic voting would have been an improvement in the electoral system of the nation that would have lived with Nigerians as one of the best contributions the 8th Senate provided to the nation.
It is important to point out that the senate intervention roundtables on drugs, education, human trafficking, and employment were designed to make positive impact in the lives of Nigerians. The session under review, in staying true to its resolve to promote interactivity between the Senate and Nigerians, organised a host of roundtables and hearings on these topics bearing in mind their positive impact in the society.
In 2016, the 8th Senate announced its first public hearing on the Budget for the year 2016. The hearing was a novel addition to the legislative procedure of the upper chamber and, indeed, the entire National Assembly. The hearing, which was highly successful because it offered Nigerians the rare opportunity of participating in budget making continued to hold in years that followed up until 2019.
The Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educational Institutions (Prohibition) Bill passed into law in 2018 by the 8th Senate, proposed a jail-term of up to five years but not less than two years for perpetrators. Also, the Not-Too-Young-To-Run bill passed by the 8th Senate had the primary focus of empowering youths and giving them the chance to run for office at leadership levels. These two bills, in particular, touch on issues that had to do with youth of the nation. The latter made it possible for the age barrier that stood against the political aspiration of the young to be dismantled.
The point being made in this editorial is that the 8th Senate in spite of the controversies that visited its deliberations within the four years it was in session made some innovations that added value to law making in the country.
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