Senate President Ahmad Lawan has challenged Nigerians to vote out the members of the ninth National Assembly in 2023 “if you don’t like us”.
Lawan stated this on Friday at a retreat for top management of the National Assembly Service Commission and National Assembly in Abuja.
He urged Nigerians to engage in debate as to what the National Assembly means to them rather than dissipate energy on jumbo salaries and allowance of the federal lawmakers.
He said: What does the legislature mean to Nigerians. Can we debate properly what the functions of members of the National Assembly and indeed the legislature should be rather than be talking about jumbo pay?
“We should be looking for value for money. Without the National Assembly or the legislature across the country, we won’t have democracy anymore.
“We need to understand what the National Assembly or the legislature means to Nigerians.”
He said the N128 billion budgeted for National Assembly is one percent of N13.08 trillion 2021 national budget.
Lawan said Nigerians should instead demand value for money rather than engage in discussion on jumbo pay or closure of the National Assembly.
“Instead of trying to see how N128 billion will be utilized by the National Assembly, what will be the outputs and how useful they are to the Nigerian public, Nigerians only argue that the budget should be cut, it is too much.
“I’m not defending the National Assembly, but I’m here to encourage debate on what the National Assembly or the legislature means to us as a country and as people.
“If you don’t like the set of members of the ninth National Assembly, change all of us in 2023. Get better people but help support the system to function,” he said.
The Senate President also lamented inadequacy of legislative aides.
Daily Trust reports that each federal lawmaker, aside the presiding officers, is entitled to five legislative aides.
“I’m not advocating for more than necessary but what we have today is inadequate.
He said the inadequacy of legislative aides placed additional burden on the staff of National Assembly as lawmakers have to rely on them the kind of services they cannot get from their assistants.
Meanwhile, Lawan disclosed that the 2021 budget proposal would be passed by the National Assembly in second week of December.
He also said the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) will be passed in the second quarter of next year, while amendments to the constitution and the electoral Act will be passed before the end of next year.
N/Assembly to introduce e-hansard in 2021 Q1
The Clerk to the National Assembly, Arc. Ojo Olatunde Amos, said the nation’s apex legislative body will introduce e-hansard in first quarter of next year.
E-hansard is official records of debates in verbatim form.
He said though he inherited an analogue system, where legislators do not have prompt access to hansards, the management would not relent in pursuing the provision of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) materials to digitize the National Assembly.
“To reduce papers flying around in the National Assembly, we will introduce e-hansard in first quarter of next year. You will agree with me that e-hansard is the most veritable tool in parliamentary process and practice,” he added.
The leadership of National Assembly, he said, was committed to build the capacity of relevant staff, so that its legislative business would be at par with what is obtainable in other part of the world.
He expressed optimism that the retreat would impact positively on parliamentary democracy in Nigeria, which, he said, would be meaningless without adequate training and retraining of parliamentary staff.
The Director-General, National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), Prof Abubakar Sulaiman, said the retreat would provide fresh ideas on how to reposition the National Assembly to be more accountable and efficient in delivering its mandates.