The shame of a Senate
IN a manner that was sufficiently self-indicting and far from being evocative of a painstaking commitment to the business of lawmaking, members of the last Senate hurriedly passed 46 bills on a day before the end of the Seventh National Assembly.
These were bills that had long been passed by the House of Representatives and were pending at the Senate.
To say the best, that Seventh Senate was an embarrassment not only to Nigeria, but to democracy as a form of government.
In the reckoning of the citizens whose taxes sustained the senators at the National Assembly for four years, that action of the lawmakers is a stark illustration of how much they shirked their responsibility of making laws for the society.
The bills were not debated for the lawmakers to know their contents and clarify details. Yet, they suspended their Order 79 (1) of the Senate Standing Orders which requires that a bill passes through the first, second and third readings before being passed into law.
The senators were definitely wrong if they expected Nigerians to hail their passage of the 46 bills in about 10 minutes as a hallmark of legislative genius.
Rather, Nigerians consider their action as rank irresponsibility that should not have been allowed in the hallowed chamber of the last National Assembly.
To the credit of the House of Representatives, these are bills that have immense potential to improve the lot of the citizens. The Sexual Offences Bill, Witness Protection Programme Bill, Whistle-blower Protection Bill, Anti-torture Bill and Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Act Amendment Bill are great legislations to reaffirm the dignity of the citizens and generally improve their well-being.
However, the long delay and their eventual hurried passage rather distracted from the merit of each of these bills. For instance, because the bills were not subjected to a thorough debate, the senators did not consider the fact that some of the sanctions for violating some of these bills which are now laws may be too harsh.
Sadly, the senators kept the bills unattended to almost till the end of their tenure because they were never available to do their duties.
They were preoccupied with their selfish pursuits and jostling over positions and perks at the expense of effective lawmaking. And this was at a time when the country was hemmed in on all sides by threats to its development.
On the elastic list were a wobbly economy, rampaging terrorists, failing infrastructure and a rapidly declining standard of living for the average citizen.
The senators have indeed failed to justify their huge remunerations. And they have lent credence to the advocacy by this newspaper that the nation’s lawmakers should be engaged on a part-time basis; and should be paid per sitting.
For it is clear that the lawmakers of the Seventh National Assembly barely spent any remarkable time on legislative matters. When the Senate added these 46 bills to what it had passed earlier, it claimed to have passed 100 bills in its four years of existence.
This is an embarrassment. For the sad fact remains that they could have done much more if they had devoted their time to the business of lawmaking for which they were elected into the National Assembly.
For Nigerians, the attitude of the senators is a sad reminder of the need for them to be more careful about those they elect to represent them. For them to have effective representation that would better their lot, Nigerians must choose those with the right qualities, those who understand and have the capacity for the rigour of lawmaking that would redound to national development and bring an improvement in the lives of the citizens.
The current set of lawmakers should see the attitude of their predecessors as a shame that should never be brought upon Nigerians again. The country’s dire situation requires lawmakers who are genuinely committed to finding solution to problems and making life worth living for the citizens. The new lawmakers in both chambers of the National Assembly must be true agents of change for good.