ABUJA/Nigeria: A group of 39 social advocates had chided the National Assembly for sitting for only 149 days out of a total number of 181 days that the rules and regulation allows for effective legislative activities in a legislative year.
In a Press Release made available to this medium, titled “Suspension of Legislative and Oversight Responsibilities by the National Assembly and matters Arising”, the group frowned at the action of the national Assembly, including the suspension of oversight functions, which would had complimented the work of the executive, and at the same time check the excesses to avoid Executive overreach.
It pointed out that despite the numerous holidays that are within the said period, the legislative arm did not deem it fit to find means to extend its legislative functions, but rather reduced the period further with any little excuse.
“The legislative year is June 2019 to July 2020, two months’ vacation, 56 days public holiday, 6-week Yuletide vocation, 42 days, 7-week coronavirus break, 49 days in addition to 62 days for Saturdays and Sunday this means 216 days out of 365 days in a year. Therefore, the National Assembly sat for only 149 days instead of the 181 days prescribed by the constitution.”
“Many had thought that owing to the intermittent closure of the parliament in the wake of the pandemic and given the critical issues requiring legislative attention, that the lawmakers could have devised means of extending its plenary sittings and meeting the constitutionally-mandated 181 sitting days in a legislative year given the disruptions of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“Furthermore, prior to and during the ongoing vacation, the lawmakers were conducting very important investigative hearings into the mismanagement of public funds by various ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government as well as into the huge Chinese loans and their terms, among others. Citizens who were rattled by the revelations coming out of those hearings were waiting with keen interest for their logical conclusions and outcomes. Hence it was good to see these activities continue even into the vacation of the lawmakers.”
‘It was therefore shocking to wake up to the August 19th directive by the leadership of the House of Representatives suspending all legislative activities including those investigative hearings that had captivated the nation. The House leadership relied on established global practice of suspending legislative activities while the institution of the legislature is on break.
“However, given the importance of the hearings and the limited time available for the National Assembly to conduct reforms in nation’s electoral laws, review the Constitution, consider the 2021 Appropriation Bill, and attend to numerous other pending legislative assignments, there was no justification or reason given for the illogical step taken by the House of Representatives to suspend committee activities.”
“We dare say that even if this decision was taken with good intentions, it is ill-advised, ill-timed and unhelpful as it fuels all forms of conspiracy theories and interpretation of collusion and attempt to cover up fraud, especially given that the National Assembly is already plagued by a lack of credibility or public trust. The National Assembly cannot afford another bad press given its already negative image and perception by citizens.”
“We therefore urge the House leadership to treat these as matters of urgent national and public importance, rescind this decision and allow various committees to carry on with legislative and oversight activities, including concluding the suspended investigative hearings.”
“We also call on the House to ensure that the reports and outcomes of these investigative hearings are made publicly available and that all those who are found to be culpable should be brought to justice.”
“We call on all anti-corruption agencies to live up to their responsibilities by following up on these investigative hearings to gather actionable evidence to prosecute those who have violated various anti-corruptions laws and regulations. There is already an enormous amount of information in the public domain and it baffles the imagination that anti-corruption agencies are sitting helplessly and tight-lipped at a time like this when they should be busy filling criminal charges against those already indicted by the evidence that emanated from the legislative hearings.”