The New National Assembly In The Next Level Era

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With the election of the leadership of the National Assembly, which sees APC taking full control of both chambers, there are these tall expectations that governance in the next four years will proceed at a faster pace than in the last four years where the National Assembly leadership operated as the defacto opposition to the Buhari government. This expectation is driven by the fact that the executive arm of government will do better and faster in governance delivery when the legislature is on the same page with it than when the legislature constitutes a stumbling block to the policies and activities of the executive.

The last four years saw a situation where the legislature worked at cross purposes with the executive and constituted sustained roadblocks to the executive and its desires to mend a wrecked and shattered nation and chart a new route to ways of doing things in a storm-battered country. The erstwhile leaders of the National Assembly, while superficially belonging to the APC, were, body and soul, PDP and did everything to frustrate the policies of the APC executive. Through budgetary mutilations and sustained distraction to the executive, the Saraki and Dogara National Assembly did everything humanly possible to frustrate the executive and ensure it failed in its desire to rebuild a nation battered to the bones by internecine corruption, impunity and cluelessness. The Buhari government was able to achieve tremendously in its first four years by the sheer will of the government and its supporters to break from a sordid past, fix decrepit infrastructures, cap the wellheads of rampaging corruption, arrest the fratricidal security crises, create new frontiers of economic growth, hew an ambitious social intervention programme that addresses the plights of the most vulnerable, the poorest and the most neglected segments of the Nigerian society.

With the election of Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila as the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives however, there is no doubt that the APC government is placed on the right footing to achieve its programmes, dreams and aspirations for the nation. Nigerians are therefore expecting a marked improvement in its delivery in the next four years. If the government was able to strike such remarkable achievements as it did in the last four years, with a hostile legislature, there is little doubt that it will achieve much more in the next four years with a legislature that operates on the same page with it and reflects the party’s control of the National Assembly. There is an expectation that the era of mischievously shredding national budgets to smithereens so as to ensure the government fails in its plans for the people, is over and so also is the era of deliberate delay of budgets to ensure that the government doesn’t achieve much. The expectations of Nigerians are bolstered by the fact that they expect the era of diverting budgetary provisions for critical and regenerative capital projects to fund corrupt, immaterial constituency projects to be over with the new National Assembly.

With the above scenario, Nigerians therefore expect the Buhari government to complete the many important and critical capital projects it started in its first term. Nigerians expect that the many infrastructural rehabilitation projects the Buhari government started in its first four years would be given added fillip and most of them completed in the next four years to place the country soundly on the paths of growth. With a new National Assembly that doesn’t see its commission in frustrating the executive and its policies, Nigerians are looking forward to a fast-paced Next Level era where the expansive developmental polices of the Buhari government aimed at recreating a nation ran aground by intense corruption, would be achieved at a faster speed. Nigerians expect the new National Assembly to complement the government’s policies to tame the scourge of unemployment by expanding the productive capacity of the economy, intensify the development of the agricultural sector, diversify the fonts of revenue generation, expand the frontiers of the social investment programme and rein in the rampaging decibels of insecurity in the next four years. There is this desire amongst Nigerians that the new National Assembly should hit the ground running and work very hard to recover the lost ground of the last four years when a hostile National Assembly saw its mandate from frustrating the policies and programmes of the government.

The new National Assembly needs to do two critical things that will speed up the progress of the country. The first is to cut down on the huge emoluments of the members of the National Assembly and the second is to legislate into being a Special Court on Corruption to fast track the Buhari regime’s frenzied war against corruption. On the first, the new National Assembly must see the folly in continuing the regime where members of the legislature go home with humongous salaries and allowances in a country with such scarce means as Nigeria. There is a huge expectation that this NASS will shorn the indifference of past National Assemblies and cut down drastically on the huge overheads that oil a huge corruption complex in the National Assembly. Nigerians expect the present NASS to re-visit the huge salaries and allowances that members of NASS take home each month and follow best practices in legislative remunerations in other parts of the world so as to free the huge amount NASS members take home to attend to many pressing problems afflicting Nigeria. Also, the controversial bogey of constituency projects should be scraped and the executives allowed to implement projects as the needs of the nation dictate.

Given the commitment of the Buhari government to arrest the rampaging ennui of corruption and its debilitating effect on governance in Nigeria, it is not too tall an expectation that the new National Assembly should work with the executive to draft and pass a bill for the setting up of a special court on corruption, which will give the fight against corruption the needed judicial teeth to achieve better results. The monumental filth in the judiciary would also be addressed by this court, which is expected to be peopled by men and women of impeccable character for the purpose of fumigating the institutional corruption that has eaten into the inner fabrics of the Nigerian society and which constitutes serious impediments to the commendable efforts of the Buhari government to tame this monster. A special court on corruption will ensure that the regular courts are freed of the burdens of adjudicating on corruption cases, which itself, has made the war of corruption so unwinnable. Because corruption threatens the growth and development of the country, the new National Assembly should see the need to firm up the present government’s huge effort to tame the monster with this institutional backup so that the war will survive the regime when it finishes its tenure in 2023.

It is unarguable that should the new NASS follow this simple template, it would succeed in re-investing the confidence of the Nigerian people in the National Assembly, as this confidence is at its lowest possible rungs at present given the entrenched misdemeanors of the National Assembly. Again, if the new NASS follows this template, it will not only bolster governance and delivery but would have entrenched indelible imprimaturs in the art of legislating, which had suffered serious gashes over the past years in Nigeria.

Peter Claver Oparah.

Ikeja, Lagos.

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