Temie Giwa: A silent National Assembly (YNaija FrontPage)

How can a multi millionaire understand the pressing plight of the average Nigerian when his or her life is so far removed from their reality?

The uselessness of the federal legislative body is best explained by the fact that most people don’t even bother to write about it. It enjoys the incredible gift of being completely ignored by most Nigerians albeit with the random interest when one of its members inevitably finds him or herself in disgrace.  It seems that the purpose of the billion committees that make up the National Assembly (NASS) is to titillate and entertain Nigerians and its press with their erratic interest in the lives of the people they represent.

Our representatives and senators were elected to create rules and regulations to make life easier for the Nigerian people; instead they spend their time creating toothless committees and ridiculously incompetent and corrupt probes. They sit, get salaries, create committees, run fake probes and call it a day.

What did they make of the fuel subsidy probe? What about the Dana Air crash? What about the mounting evidence against the Minister of Petroleum resources and others like her? Are they not the branch of government that approved the appointments of the legions of incompetents that the President chose to lead our public institutions? While this comic relief duty is important, the price that the Nigerian people pay for this is far too large for comfort.

Recent reports show that a junior legislator may collect an estimate of N100 million each quarter as salary and other remunerations. A senior legislator earns even more. With 468 legislators at the Nigerian National Assembly, it means each quarter, the Nigerian people probably spend about N47 billion to pay the salary of their lawmakers.

While its important to pay the members of the National Assembly enough to inoculate them against all the special interest seeking to buy influence, N100 million for each legislator in a country where 61% live on N160 a day is simply mind boggling unfair and obviously inefficient. How can a multi millionaire understand the pressing plight of the average Nigerian when his or her life is so far removed from their reality? How can a country with the second highest maternal mortality rate make sense of investing billions on a toothless legislature? The most infuriating of all of these is that we are not even particularly sure how much we pay to keep up the National Assembly and herein lays the rub.

The Nigerian democracy is fashioned after that of the United States. The idea of a system of government where each branch checks and balances the others was first introduced by the 17th century political philosopher, Baron Montesquieu, and implemented imperfectly by the founders of the United States. The role of each branch of government is to check the hubris of the other two branches. In such a system, it is extremely important that all branches play their part rigorously for the system to work.

Recently the Judiciary branch of the Nigerian government seems to be the only system that functions. A ruling of a Federal High Court in Abuja stated categorically that the National Assembly must release how much the Nigerian people pay them. The members of the National Assembly have since ignored the rule spending their time on a seemingly permanent recess. The injustice constantly propagated by the Nigerian National Assembly must stop and it all starts with telling the truth. Our senators and representatives must tell the truth of how much they have been funneling out of the Nigerian coffer.

So what will work?

You. The hero of this story is you, reader. A democracy only works if the people are as interested in creating a system of accountability for those they have chosen to represent them. We must force the National Assembly to come clean and tell the truth. It starts with social media, with each person writing to their senators and representatives to honor the law they passed. We must force their hands because this is the only way.

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

 

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