‘Frequent Recess Doesn’t Affect NASS Functions’
As a result of the consistent outcry by Nigerians, who have been taking critical exception to the funding of the National Assembly, the House has decided to review the holistic funding of its activities. This review will also result in right sizing the funding of the various aspects of our activities. We have already put a mechanism in motion to achieve that. It may also result in the drastic cut of our finances be they salaries, allowances and running cost. We are conscious of our integrity; we will lead by example.
What I can assure you is that we are submitting to the will of the people as a responsive and responsible legislative institution. We can no longer ignore the popular wishes of the Nigerian people who elected us in the first place. Even if the measures that we will consider will inconvenience us, we will rather make that sacrifice and respect the views of the Nigerian people once and for all.
So, we have adopted, under the leadership of Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, the Speaker, a Legislative Agenda, which is the road map that will guide the conduct and activities of the House of Representatives. I can assure you that in the two weeks that we have debated on it, all members who made inputs into the debate contributed greatly into enriching it. Now, what we did at the end of it to address this issue is that the Speaker empanelled a technical committee purely made up of civil society organisations to blueprint the funding of the activities of members of the House of Representatives from the purchase of newspapers to the conduct of public hearings and other oversight functions. The committee, led by Clement Nwankwo, is expected to debate the running cost of these activities among themselves and right size the funding of the House. At the end of the exercise, when they submit their report to the House, we will respect it in its entirety and ask the bureaucracy of the National Assembly to implement it.
What about the Senate?
I don’t know about the Senate. What I know is that we as members of the House of Representatives have decided to respect the wishes of Nigerians. It is now left for the Senate, the executive or the judicial arm to chart their course.
But don’t you think it would have been better for this review to involve both Chambers of the National Assembly?
You are asking about an opinion but I am telling you what we have done already in the House of Reps. I am sure if the Senate has a plan, they will communicate the House.
We have had several technical committees in the past and nothing came out of them. How are we sure that this is not another case of playing to the gallery?
I can assure that this House of Representatives is a change champion. We believe that Nigeria needs change very urgently. So, we are all committed to change for good.
What is your take on the frequent recess of the House. Is the committee also going to look at it because that is another issue
Nigerians are not comfortable with?
Most of the criticisms on this issue is actually as a result of lack of understanding of the workings of the National Assembly. But we respect the views of Nigerians. However, in all jurisdictions, parliamentary procedure is different from that of the executive and judicial arms of government. The judiciary, for instance, shuts down the courts for three months every year when the judges go on vacation. In the case of the executive arm and its bureaucracy, they work between Mondays and Fridays for eight hours each day.
For the legislature, we sit in plenary for three days in a week — Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays only and for three hours. But that plenary session that is beamed to people’s homes on television and reported in all channels of the media constitute only 20 per cent of the work of the National Assembly. Eighty per cent of the work is in committees and oversight. This is what Nigerians don’t know. So, if Nigerians have had that knowledge, they wouldn’t have been critical of the National Assembly over the matter.