by Ibironke Oluwatobi
The NASS continues to feign pro-democratic ethos. The lawmakers would rather have us believe that they represent the interest of the masses, while in fact, they prioritise their interests. The NASS has a long history of corruption, fraud and other criminal acts, recall the Farouk Lawan case, the Mania pension case, the Stella Oduah case, the Abba Moro Immigration scandal and many more of the previous assemblies, the 8th Assembly appears not to have a different character with the trend of fraud, corrupt insertions to national budget etc. The legislative arm of government continues to fail Nigeria despite the public outcry against the grand scheme of corrupt practices going on in the NASS. The media, the judiciary are some of the tools employed to combat the corruption of our lawmakers but the corruption power house has remained unrepentant.
The executive arm of government has made emphatic attempts at facing corruption, which is apt, considering that corruption is one of the major problems that has plagued governance in Nigeria. But the anti-corruption crusade has continued to be stifled by power holding individuals and groups involved in corrupt acts. One of the tools used by public office holders in suppressing anti-corruption is immunity. Just recently reports from the NASS about the removal of immunity bill brought excitement to the Nigerian populace, the bill was sponsored by Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, representing Delta- Central constituency and forwarded to the Senate Committee on Constitution Review in December. The bill sought to amend Section 308 of the Nigerian constitution which provides that no civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted against the office of the President, VP, Governor or Deputy Governor, though a civil action maybe instituted against such public office holder in connection with his or her official duties.
The success of this bill would have jolted public office holders out of their realm of being unquestionable and the bill would have helped to increase the demand for accountability and transparency from public office holders. The bill is exactly the kind of support law that President Buhari’s anti-corruption campaign needs but the lawmakers do not share this belief against corruption, so they shot it down. Although it is the presidency, the VP, governors and their deputy that the bill affects, on the surface the lawmakers do not stand to benefit from the failure of bill, but considering that the lawmakers are known to work together with their friends in the executive arm of government all in the name of politics, the failure of bill would serve their political interests. More so, considering that some of the lawmakers are ex-governors and some others are still having their eyes on future governorship reign, it can be established that the failure of bill serves the diabolic interests of the lawmakers.
Also, the level of corruption circulating in the political space of the country has raised a loud cry from the masses for corrupt public office holders to be met with the penalty of death. This is due to the fact that civil anti-corruption approaches have failed to kerb corruption among public officials. Unsurprisingly, the lawmakers do not share the perspective of the populace that justifies punishment by death for corrupt public office holders, since it threatens their abused position. The big excuse is that death penalty is not enough to measure to kerb corruption. They would rather settle for long prison terms for guilty public officials. This shifts my attention to the efficacy of the justice system in tackling corruption and other criminal cases against public office holders. Has the judiciary not failed to indict the public office holders in their books? Looking at the records of the judiciary, without serious approach change, the judiciary system would remain a ‘scarecrow.’
Our lawmakers do not believe in the efficacy of death penalty, yet they agree to see kidnappers suffer the same death punishment. Not that death penalty is the grand answer but if kidnappers would face the death penalty, then corrupt public office holders should face same. The lawmakers would initiate death penalty calls for kidnappers since they form good targets for the hooded men. This only confirms the fears of the average Nigerian that the NASS serves the interest of its members against the interest of the citizens. It makes me draw a conclusion that the House of Assembly is only a structure where the interest of lawmakers is prioritised over national interest, where individual interest is prioritised over populist interests. The assembly is comprised of the House of Self-serving Senators and the House of ‘Misrepresentation’. In fact, what we have is not a national structure but the personal assembly of Nigeria.
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