The National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a bicameral legislature established under section 4 of the Nigerian Constitution. It consists of a Senate and a 360-member House of Representatives. The body, modelled after the federal Congress of the United States, is supposed to guarantee equal representation of the 36 states irrespective of size in the Senate and proportional representation of population in the House. The National Assembly, like many other organs of the Nigerian government, is based in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
The Senate is chaired by the President of the Nigerian Senate, the first of whom was Nnamdi Azikiwe, who stepped down from the job to become the country’s first Head of State. The House is chaired by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. At any joint session of the Assembly, the President of the Senate presides and in his absence the Speaker of the House presides.
The Assembly has broad oversight functions and is empowered to establish committees of its members to scrutinise bills and the conduct of government officials. Since the restoration of democratic rule in 1999, the Assembly has been said to be a “learning process” that has witnessed the election and removal of several Presidents of the Senate, allegations of corruption, slow passage of private member’s bills and the creation of ineffective committees to satisfy numerous interests.
The Senate has the unique power of impeachment of judges and other high officials of the executive including the Federal Auditor-General and the members of the electoral and revenue commissions. This power is, however, subject to prior request by the President. The Senate also confirms the President’s nomination of senior diplomats, members of the federal cabinet, federal judicial appointments and independent federal commissions.
Before any bill may become law, it must be agreed to by both the House and the Senate, and receive the President’s assent. Should the President delay or refuse assent (veto) the bill, the Assembly may pass the law by two-thirds of both chambers and overrule the veto and the President’s consent will not be required. The present Assembly has not hidden its preparedness to overrule the executive where they disagree.
The National Assembly is an orderly assembly of Nigerians from the north to the south and from the east to the west; hence, the National Assembly is a ‘mini-Nigeria’ as it were. That is, a few Nigerians, stepping forward or being pushed forward to represent the collective interest of all Nigerians. It then means that the National Assembly can only function to the proportion of the legitimacy of their constitution (composition and morality).
However, the reality has gone very far from the ideal in Nigeria. Many NASS members now see themselves as citizens of a new nation inside Nigeria-nation. The voices of their people are no longer in sync with their own voices. They now represent their own interest instead of the interest of the people that voted them into their various seats. While all these are going on; I quickly remember the experience of the Governor of Nasarawa state – Governor Tanko Al Makura; how he was almost impeached by the lawmakers of the state (who were supposed to be the voice of their people at the State House of Assembly). The people came out in their thousands to speak against the move for his impeachment; the Assembly members tried all they could; but eventually bowed to the wishes of their people.
The lesson is simple, the people own the nation; and the sovereignty lies with the people. Every time the voice of the people is silenced by greedy politicians; the people become boldened to demand retribution of their loaned authority – for authority is the people’s!
A statement credited to a member of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria clearly show massive ignorance of the Federal lawmaker on the identity and the authority of the National Assembly, which is sourced in their people and rests ultimately with their people.
To Hon. Peter Akpatason Representing Akoko Edo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Nigerians are not fair to the lawmakers over their outcry on the planned purchase of utility vehicles by the lawmakers saying buying it or not would not solve the country’s problem. In this interview with MATHEW DADIYA of Daily Times, he, however conceded that in the National Assembly, personal interest supersedes community and people’s interest while the level of administrative efficiency in the NASS is also very worrisome.
The National Assembly has been accused of being insensitive and reckless in management of funds following a plan to purchase utility vehicles with outrageous prices, how valid is that?
Reckless and insensitive? No! We are rather frugal. The National Assembly is very frugal, we have managed our resources very well and we have applied resources in such a way that public interest is of concern to us. So I don’t think that there is a problem in the plan by National Assembly to purchase cars, however, whether we should buy car or not I think that a lot of people are not fair to us. Some of these noise makers out there use multiple cars. You have heads of agencies who do not contest election and are not representing anybody but merely appointed by some elected people, enjoying what you call monetization policy and in addition to that, they have multiple cars. Their children use official cars to school and you say that the lawmakers should not use car to work? I don’t think there is any sense in it as far as I am concerned. I happened to have worked both in private and public sector and I understand how thinks work, if I take a car loan for instance, I will pay back the entire car loan, it is therefore, not the business of the public to begin to dictate to me what to use my car loan for because I am going to pay back the loan myself. It is a loan and they too take loan, do we dictate to them what to do with their loan or how to spend it? I cannot use my money to buy a car and use it for public service. Operational vehicles must be provided by the organization and I don’t know if people are saying that if you are elected you are not entitled to operational vehicles? We should look at this issue carefully and critically before we begin to criticize. I was told that some people were at the gate yesterday shouting about car loans and I know the leaders of these groups, they use more exotic cars than the ones we are talking about. I challenge them to an open debate on this issue, we all know ourselves. Some of us were using better operational cars before we got to the Assembly and we are still entitled to car loan at the time. So I don’t think that it is buying or not buying cars for the legislators that will solve the problems of the country.
If the Federal Lawmakers have good appreciation of the level of impoverishment and inequality of income of their people; I believe that the purchase of exotic cars will not be their priority for now. And that really comes to say that Nigerians have not done the best jobs in recruiting their representatives – For representatives cannot but be a mirror of their people; we also need to ask ourselves some serious value and moral questions. I rest my case for now!