Democracy is all about ensuring popular participation and control of the process of government. Since all the people cannot participate and individually control their government at the same time, they entrust these rights and duties to an elected few among them those who function as lawmakers. Together, they constitute what is known as the legislative arm of government. The legislature is one of the basic structures of any political system.
The 9th Senate introduced 742 bills in the last two years, but only passed 58. Worse, out of the number, only three bills introduced by the lawmakers were signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari within this period under review. This raises the big question, “What are lawmakers doing there at the National Assembly, especially the Senate?”
Unfortunately, going by its scorecard and self-assessment, the 9th Senate thinks that it has done well through legislations that have improved the lives of Nigerians. But that is for the Nigerian populace to judge.
Speaking during their special session recently, the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan, said a total of 742 bills were introduced by the ninth Senate in the last two years. He also admitted that out of the total number of bills introduced during the two sessions of the Assembly, 58 were passed, while 355 bills had gone through first reading. He said 175 bills had also gone through second reading and had been referred to the relevant committee for further legislative business; with 11 bills referred by the House of Representatives for concurrence all passed.
As a newspaper, in our opinion, the Senate has performed poorly by passing only 58 out of 742 bills in two years. Also the ninth Senate seem to be comfortable with the perception of it as a rubber stamp legislature of the executive. The Senate President argued that it has chosen a path of harmonious relationship with the executive for the overall benefit of the masses even as questions continue to be asked regarding the benefits derivable by the masses from this cordiality with the executive.
With the Senate failing to fulfill its role as a check on government by scrutinising bills, its policies and programmes and holding the government to account, it would not be out of place to suggest a unicameral legislature for Nigeria. The Ninth Senate has always approved every request by the Executive without scrutinizing such. It has simply failed to check the excesses of the Executive. This is why we think that the current National Assembly system should be scrapped because of its wastefulness.
The argument that only bicameral legislature can address Nigeria’s diversity and ethnic composition to ensure Justice, equity and fair play, does not really hold water. We have 109 senators in the Senators whose salaries and allowances run into billions of naira drawn from tax payers’ money. And all that Nigerians get in return is 58 bills that have little no impact on their wellbeing in two years.
In every nation, the legislators as the representatives of the people have the duty of promoting national development through its chain of activities. The legislature has the mandate and is under obligation to initiate debate and show concern on matters affecting the generality of Nigerians. But has this been the case with the Ninth National Assembly? Again, the judgement is Nigerian people to pass. Expectedly, such activities should be directed toward reversing declining economy, stabilising the polity and integrating society with overall aim of enhancing national development.
In spite of the criticality of the legislature to national development, it is clear from our assessment of the lawmaking body and based on experience over time that some legislatures failed to play such role with expected level of success.
Comments, observations, and experiences have proved that Nigerian legislature have failed to live up to its constitutional responsibility of being a harbinger of national development.
Candidly, it is our opinion that Nigerian senators have a lot to do to redeem themselves from the self-inflicted image crisis. It is pertinent to stress the importance of the legislature as the symbol of democracy everywhere. That explains this newspaper‘s reservations about the near lackadaisical disposition of the lawmakers. For most of them being a senator has become a mere status symbol, a meal ticket of sorts lacking the respect and dignity their peers elsewhere command. Activities in the chamber come alive mostly when the debate, otherwise pedestrian, has to do with issues of personal interest to them.
Regardless, we still hold them in high esteem in the hope that they feel challenged enough to take themselves a little more seriously. In our opinion, 58 bills in two years leaves much to be desired.