Mind the gap: How inept are Nigerian lawmakers?

by Alexander O. Onukwue

At a time when the United States Senate is being grilled in the media and by the Congressional Budget Office over the numbers involved in replacing the Affordable Care Act (alias Obamacare) with the American HealthCare Act, the Nigerian Senate is facing questions as to the rationale behind replacing mega road projects with boreholes.

Fashola, Nigeria’s Minster of Power, Works and Housing, had questioned the authority of the Nigerian parliament to unilaterally alter the projects articulated by the Executive in the 2017 Appropriation Bill, citing that it was inappropriate and beyond their duty.  In its response, the National Assembly, through the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Abdullahi Usman and the House of Representatives spokesperson, Abdulrazak Namdas, accused the minister of spreading half-truths and making fallacious statements.

The former Lagos State Governor has produced a brutal point-by-point rebuttal of the claims made by the National Assembly which explains away the so-called half-truths. As is been reported across various platforms, Fashola has questioned the aptitude of the Nigerian legislators in differentiating between basic terms, concepts and processes, as they relate to the budgetary process.

Fashola’s response, made in a statement through his adviser on media Hakeem Bello, was a deliberate thump to the intellect and wisdom of the Nigerian legislators, aimed at revealing the depth of its knowledge, if any.

The National Assembly has become one of the main targets of frustration for many Nigerians for a while now. While the previous cloud that surrounded its budget has now been lifted, the concerns over the manner with which they conduct their core mandates have drawn the ire of many. Civil society groups believe the National Assembly’s budget remains over and above what Nigeria should afford, with some clamours that the house should be trimmed to a single chamber.

But Fashola’s stinging jabs on the matter of the capacity of the red and green chambers to understand black and white procedures of governance strike at the problem of the quality of representation available, a problem that will still persist even in a reduced legislature. The episodes involving Kogi West Senator, Dino Melaye, from his tertiary results to his temperamental competence, appear to have been in Fashola’s mind while he stressed the matter of intellectual capacity.

The intellectual criticism would not be fair on those in both chambers who have earned their places of honor due to their antecedents in previous professional practices and in their contributions to the house. The heads of both chambers are good examples here, while Senators like Shehu Sani and Mr Murray-Bruce also stand out. However, that the National Assembly has earned the reputation of being a retirement home for senators, and the House a den of club wielders and whistlers is entirely the making of the collective.

If they want Nigerians to pay be on their side when other persons say what Fashola said, they would have to give evidence. For now, the man who has stung them with jabs has a point.

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