Senate President, Ahmed Lawan has debunked the public perception of the 9th National Assembly as a rubber-stamp of the executive.
Lawan said this at the Distinguished Parliamentarians Lecture in Abuja on Monday.
He spoke at a lecture he tagged, “The Legislature, Legislative Mandate and The People- The Reality and The Public Perception,” organised by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS).
According to him, Nigeria has three arms of government that are constitutionally equal but the people are heavily represented at the legislature than in the other arms.
He said that for the peace and development of the nation, the three arms of government must work together as the failure and success of one arm of government will be attributed to all.
According to him, the legislature, being the first arm of government constitutionally, the closest and as well the most accessible by the people, easily lends itself to public scrutiny and sometimes take the blame even for government decisions that fall outside its legislative competence.
He explained that the three arms of government have a responsibility to each other and an obligation to Nigerians, thus must have a cordial relationship based on mutual respect for constitutional rights and mandate to succeed.
He emphasised that the cooperation of the 9th Assembly with the executive had improved efficiency in law-making; as at November 2021, about 2,500 Bills had been introduced; 769 in the Senate and 1,634 in the House of Representatives.
The number of Acts gazetted increased as compared with different regimes since 1999; Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2006) 82 Acts; Umar Musa Yar’Adua (2007¬-2009) 38 Acts; Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (2010-2015) 40 Acts and Muhammdu Buhari(2015-date) 84 Acts.
Senator Lawan tried to clear several misconceptions around the National Assembly and its operations, stating that the salaries of the members of the National Assembly as approved by the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) which is included in the budget allocated to the National Assembly.
The total salary of a senator is about 1.5 million naira and 1.3 million naira for a member House of Representatives.
The average office cost running cost for a senator and a member House of Representatives is N13 million and N8 million, respectively.
He pointed out that the budget of the National Assembly since 1999 have never gone above N150 billion, which accounts for about 3% of the annual budget.
On the issue of constituency projects and zonal intervention projects, he stated that the system allows legislators to nominate projects for implementation in their constituencies but they do not implement them.
“In line with their legislative mandate, they exercise oversight over the process.
Corruption in Nigeria is a complex issue.
“Though corruption in any arm of government is not acceptable and must be condemned, to, however, single out one arm of government without any hard evidence is to undermine the authority of that institution.
“The purchase of operational vehicles for members of the National Assembly has received extensive media attention,” Sen Lawan noted.
He established that if civil servants from rank of assistant director and above are entitled to official vehicles and some ministers have a convoy of cars, he doesn’t see why the allocation of a Toyota Camry and a Land Cruiser to members would be such a hideous proposition.
He further stated that the major factor that contributed to the negative perception of the legislature was political apathy, arising the school of thought that politics is a ‘dirty game’ and politicians are ‘dirty.’
He concluded by promising that the 9th Assembly would continue to improve public perception on the legislature, stating that they’re not a “rubber stamp” Assembly but they only provide a safe atmosphere for national development through cooperative and collaborative efforts with the executive.