The Nigerian parliament remains a misunderstood institution because many Nigerians, especially the youth, have little knowledge about it, a former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has said.
Mr Saraki made this revelation during a virtual meeting to celebrate the International Day of Parliamentarianism on Tuesday, Daily Trust Newspaper reports.
The ex-lawmaker, who headed the eight assembly for four years, noted that the ordinary role of the parliament is still not appreciated by the public, and, that is why people’s expectation and judgment of the efficiency of parliament is falsely premised. The false premises may be because the parliament is the youngest among the three arms of government in Nigeria, he explained.
Mr Saraki emphasised that the parliament existed to pass laws to guarantee the welfare of the people but many people “expect parliamentarians to construct roads, drainage and other infrastructures when they are clearly the job of the executive.”
He recalled that from day one when he took over as the senate president and chairman of the Eighth National Assembly, he and his colleagues knew that their law-making responsibility “must be devoted to using the law to bring change, the type that promotes and ensures our people’s welfare and security.”
Mr Saraki said developed countries like the U.S. were made by the quality of their laws and that the senate under him did just that.
The former senate president’s comment comes amid daily criticism of the legislature by Nigerians, majorly for “not doing their job.”
Controversies Over Role
Over the years, there have been controversies surrounding the main roles of the parliament. One major controversial role performed by Nigerian lawmakers is the insertion of constituency projects in the annual budget.
Lawmakers have, on different occasions, come out to explain that beside making laws, such role clearly belongs to the executive and the job of the national assembly is to carry out oversight functions and ensure that they are implemented.
However, besides lawmaking and oversight functions, some more specific functions of the national assembly includes resolution of conflict through petitions, confirmation of the president’s nomination of senior diplomats, members of the federal cabinet, federal judicial appointments and independent federal commissions etc.
Also included is the impeachment of judges and other high officials of the executive including the Federal Auditor-General and the members of the electoral and revenue commissions which are subject to the request of the president.
Rubber Stamp Legislature
The present Senate has been accused of being a ‘rubber stamp’ legislature.
An organisation acts as a rubber stamp when it approves the decisions of others without proper consideration. In a democracy, the legislature is expected to check the executive while maintaining its independence.
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, in December, however, asked Nigerians to chide the National Assembly if it behaves as an appendage of the executive arm of government.
“I will like to appeal… judge us by what we do, judge us by our actions. We have undertaken so many actions so far and the press has been on this journey with us. Please judge us on what we do and what we don’t,” he said.
Mr Lawan said the National Assembly would do everything possible to ensure that “they legislate on what will make life better for Nigerians.”
Some actions taken by the lawmakers that triggered criticisms include the “bow and go” tradition that dominated the ministerial screening last year, as well as the screening of the nominees of the Niger Delta Development Commission, amongst others.