‘What is weighing down Nigeria’s economy is not salaries of legislators or executives’
Yes I will, depending on what you mean by pay cut, but there has been drastic cut down by everybody. The legislatures budget has been slashed considerably. We also hear the executive bill has been slashed. Mr president also announced forfeiting half of their salaries. That is a good thing. But I think that we should look at the area of expenditure and not just salary. I advise that they get their full salary for the benefit of their families and look at the paraphernalia and all that. What is weighing down Nigeria’s economy is not salaries of legislatures or executives, it is the leakages, the bottlenecks and corruption that Mr president is trying to fight now.
It is the monumental corruption that bedeviled Nigeria that is causing our problem, and not salaries and allowances of the public office holders. Therefore, I suggest that we should look elsewhere and not just relying on oil revenues alone. This kind of one revenue system will really hurt us. That is why I am in support of Mr presidents Agricultural policy. We must embrace agriculture holistically. The alternative to oil is agriculture. Oil is oil! From my investigation, I found out that Palm oil is more expensive than crude oil. A drum of crude oil sales for less than $100 which if translated is about N30,000. A drum of Palm oil, you can’t get for N100,000.
What actually happened to the petroleum Industry bill?
Petroleum Industry bill is very topical. To my mind, that is what will heal all the ills in the industry. I always apologise to Nigerians for failure of the Assembly to pass the PIB. I have argued at several places that refusal to pass the bill will not give us the moral courage to fight corruption. I always apologize to Nigerians for the failure of the National Assembly to pass the PIB. I argue in several fora that our failure to pass that bill makes us lack the moral courage to discuss the issue of mismanagement in the oil sector because we had the opportunity through the PIB to correct the ills and block the leakages but we refused deliberately. I don’t know why we did not consider it important to put it in the front burner until towards the end when we started to struggle to pass it to no avail. Now it will start again de novo because it was not concluded and was not sent for concurrent and was not sent to Mr president for assent. Therefore, I want to advise that in line with our legislative agenda and promise of speaker Dogara, we should as a matter of fact begin to look at the PIB with a view of passing it in the shortest possible time, otherwise, Nigerians may begin to loose faith in us. And Mr. President in cleaning the oil sector should also see to the passage of the PIB so that we have a wholistic arrangement in the oil sector.
There is an allegation is that lawmakers took money from the international oil companies to block the passage of that bill. What’s
your reaction to that?
I have no way of knowing whether money passed hands or not. I did not get and I have no idea of anybody who got. But I know that oil politics must have played out. Otherwise we have no reason not to have passed it. We have kept it in the front burner until when we could no longer pursue it. I also think that the political situation in the country then – you see a lot of legislators defecting and so on; speaker Tambuwal then concentrating more on his new platform – caught in-between whether to run for presidency or governor. The attention really shifted to survival rather than doing the business of legislation. That is why it is not good for us to have serious crack in the National Assembly. It caused so much confusion. Be that as it may, Police reform bill has been there since 2003. That is not to say that a bill must stay that long, but PIB has no reason not to have been passed quickly, giving the fact that our economy is based on oil. Therefore, anything that would block the leakages in the oil sector should have been properly handled. So crying now that a lot of fraudulent practices are going on in the sector should not have come from us.
We had opportunity to have blocked that. I pray that the 8th assembly will realize that.
The 7th assembly passed the disability bill and the president did not assent to it. The National Assembly did nothing about it. Did you get response from Mr. President on why he sat on the bill?
Let me also make some clarifications. When you pass a bill, the clerk of the National Assembly is now duty bound to pick the vote and proceedings of both chambers as harmonized and then compile them words by words, clause by clause and produce a clean copy and transmit. Until it is transmitted to the Mr president, time won’t begin to count. It is 30 days from the day it was sent to him. If he fails, the House then can reconvene on it and override his refusal. If no such thing was transmitted to him, the House cannot act. It is his refusal to assent and communicating so to the House that would initiate whether to override that or not. But if the clerk for whatever reasons refuses to transmit to him, Mr president would do no magic to say I am assenting or not assenting because it must before him. And the House will not do anything until that process is initiated.
Do you have any mechanism to check the transmission process?
I will say that we should now put in the rules that from the day that the bill was passed, there should be a time frame within which clerk must transmit, say 30 days. I do not think that there is a time frame as it is now, he is just enjoined to transmit. As long as I am concerned, there’s nothing wrong with the 46 laws that were passed together. Those laws were distilled, they went through the process of law making. Some of them, the senate in their wisdom said since we have passed and the House did, let us adopt the House version. The fact that they were passed the same day does not make the bills invalid, the important thing is that the whole process and procedures were adopted. So it was a doctrine of necessity to group all together and pass them.
To the best of your knowledge, out of those bills that were passed the same day, is there any of them that has been assented to?
Honestly, I cannot say of any but I hear that one or two have been assented to. The one or two honestly, I do not even know, until we are told.
So what is likely to be the fate of those that have not been assented to?
Is it something that you are going to re-initiate again?
That is why I said that NBA is now trying to see that those that affect the criminal justice reform system are reinitiated at the earliest possible time.
Is it going to be re-initiated as private bills?
Some of them are private bills, while others are executive bills. The important thing is that it gets to the House. NBA can also on their own bring a bill through a member. And the house also, in its own effort will look for a window not to also commence de novo. For example, the public hearing was done, collated, sieved and analyses; the facts are there, the files are there. Are there no longer institutional memory? That is why I’m saying that the turn around of legislators is not too good for our democracy. A situation whereby less than 15 percent of member return, it affects the institutional memory of the parliament, it affects the working ability and capacity of the parliament. Can you imagine that parliament will spend tax-payers money to train a legislator in the act of lawmaking and drafting and he is not returned. The new legislator will now begin to learn the act of lawmaking and the procedure again. In effect, it will not give us deep democracy. It will not! If you go to the UK, you see legislators that will spend over 25 years. They will become authority in specific areas. I met a lawmaker who is the chairman of banking in UK, the woman talks with authority. No central bank governor or exchequer can tell her what she doesn’t understand because she has learnt the rudiments of banking for years. But here, you may be a chairman of banking committee, and you may not be opportuned to serve in that committee again if you are fortunate to return.
It is even worst if you don’t return at all. So we should seek a way and means to preserve our institutional memory for continuity. Now, what happens to members who will be looking at the 46 bills that were not assented to with fresh minds? So that may also bring a compelling reason to start de novo. Or members may not appreciate what has been put in before. But I think that the House will be able to surmount it by making use of the window that is in our rules, which says that bills that were passed by previous assembly, that was concluded, transmitted for concurrent, for which concurrent did not come or transmitted to Mr.President for assent, for which assent did not come can be, rather than starting de novo committed to the committee of the whole House for consideration. And once it is in the committee of the whole House, what it means is that at that point in time, rather than going through first reading, second reading, third reading and go back for public hearing again, the committee of the whole House will now bring out all the files and all the documents during the public hearing and begin to look at the documents clause by clause. At that point, you can also subtract or add to it. So we are going to make use of that window to fastback the process instead of starting de novo.