National Assembly spineless, a rubber stamp, says ex-PGF DG Lukman

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• NASS spokesman dismisses hollow submissions by ‘irreverent political pontiffs’ • Insists legislature advancing interest of Nigerian masses • Reps introduces 1,351 bills, passes 89 in one year The former Director General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), Salihu Lukman, has alleged that the National Assembly is a rubber stamp unable to stand up for Nigerians at the receiving end of injurious policies. In a piece, titled ‘Importance of Legislature to a Democracy’, made available to The Guardian yesterday, he expressed concern over the absence of courageous individual voices able to speak up in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. He condemned what he described as a complete failure on the part of the two chambers to serve as a check on the President and members of the executive. Lukman argued that over the last 25 years, the leadership of both chambers had systematically been downgraded to the status of appointees of the President. According to him, this was largely made possible by the fact that party organs, which were supposed to serve as platforms for negotiations, had become weakened and subordinated to the President. Lukman showcased “the impulsive” declaration by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to end petroleum subsidy without any clear plan, followed by the decision to float the naira exchange rate against other international currencies with hardly any plan, as instances of policies without the input of the National Assembly. He said the consequence of this reality is a rock-bottom crash in living conditions in the country as a result of unimaginable decimation of the value of incomes. According to him, more than one year after, there doesn’t appear to be any logical response from the government, and hardly any dedicated debate in any of the two chambers in the National Assembly around these issues that affect the wellbeing of Nigerians. Lukman noted: “It is no secret that Nigerians are in shock and highly disappointed by the performances of the 10th National Assembly that, so far, hold the most expeditious record of passage of executive bills, including the scandalous reversal to an old National Anthem that hardly makes any sense without any public hearing. “As it is now, thanks to the 10th National Assembly, the Tinubu government is operating three budgets concurrently: 2023, 2023 supplementary and 2024 budgets. There are speculations that a fourth, 2024 supplementary budget, is on its way, which, if that happens, will be expressly passed and accordingly make it the fourth concurrent budget running. “Punitive policy decisions of successive Nigerian governments, including the current one, are taking precedence over the life of citizens. Fifteen trillion naira is being expended on a coastal road from Lagos to Calabar. Billions have been spent on a presidential yacht, vice president’s accommodation, purchase of luxury vehicles for elected and appointed government officials, including members of the National Assembly, and a new presidential aircraft is about to be procured, etc. The list is almost endless and keeps growing, and the cost is simply punitive.” Lukman deplored the current reality where the National Assembly, its leadership and members have lost the moral authority to regulate the conduct of the executive arm of government. According to him, they function practically at the mercy of the President and members of the executive arm, almost as if they were employees of the executive. He added: “The President and members of the executive arm seamlessly turned on the ‘gaslight’, which leaves members with no option but to believe and approve every proposal submitted, even when they are injurious to public interests. Having served as the machinery that hurt the people, they become liabilities and therefore eventually get discarded. “There are certainly many credible, experienced and very patriotic members in the two chambers of the National Assembly. The question must be asked: when can such members regain or recover their human and democratic souls and begin to show up and promote national debates on the floor of the Nigerian parliament, capable of reawakening the confidence of Nigerians about our democracy?” THE Senate, however, described Lukman’s submission as “meretricious”, suggesting it is apparently attractive but has no real value. The Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Yemi Adaramodu (APC, Ekiti South), said Lukman had lost touch with developments at the National Assembly. He said the legislative voice of lawmakers deployed to advance the interest of the Nigerian masses, who brought them to the parliament, would not be turned into “sordid cacophony to fight a ghost battle with other arms of the Nigeria government.” He said: “That’s a meretricious outburst. The voice of the National Assembly has always been on a very high pitch when issues of Nigerians are in discourse and in need of attention. “Apart from our sacred constitutional duty of lawmaking and sectoral oversight functions, we have put our hands on socio-economic and political issues as they affect Nigerian citizens. “The National Assembly has always been a loud voice, legislating and advocating for popular national benefits. Some irreverent political pontiffs expect the National Assembly to call the executive to duels, before they can give kudos to legislators. ” MEANWHILE, one year after the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly, the House of Representatives, yesterday, disclosed that it introduced 1,351 bills and 679 motions within the period under review. “Out of this impressive number, 89 bills were passed, reflecting the House’s commitment to legislative efficiency and effectiveness,” it said. Deputy Speaker, Benjamin Kalu, who spoke on behalf of his principal, said with 1,351 bills, the 10th House had surpassed the previous ones, since the return of democracy in 1999. He spoke against the backdrop of the commencement of the second session of the legislative year. He said: “On June 13, 2023, we were inaugurated into this House with a shared commitment to be the strong voice and champions of our constituents. We made a solemn pledge to uphold the principles of democracy, justice, and progress. Today, as we reflect on our first session, I am proud to say that we have not only honoured that pledge but have exceeded all expectations. “Together, we have faced national challenges head-on, debated passionately, legislated wisely, and upheld the values that define us as a democratic society. At the heart of this democratic journey has been the legislature, an institution that epitomises the participatory character of our democracy. “The National Assembly, comprising the Senate and the House of Representatives, has played a pivotal role in ensuring that the aspirations and interests of Nigerians are represented, laws are made for the peace and progress of the country, and the executive is held accountable.” Kalu added: “The 10th House, in its first session, has continued to uphold these tenets and the legacy of previous sessions before us. Throughout our first session, each one of you demonstrated unwavering dedication and integrity in carrying out our duties. “We have engaged in robust debates, passed crucial legislation, conducted thorough oversight, and stood firm in representing the diverse voices of our nation. Together, we have shown what true public service looks like: selfless, principled, and committed to the common good.” Relatedly, the Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Fiscal and Tax Reform, Taiwo Oyedele, said his committee had submitted approximately 10 tax reform bills to the National Assembly for constitutional amendments. Oyedele made the disclosure yesterday, during the Sunrise Daily programme on Channels TV. The chairman also said the committee drafted entirely new versions of major tax laws in Nigeria, noting that most of the existing laws date back to the colonial era. He said some of the issues identified by the committee necessitated legislative amendments, not just executive orders. He added: “As we speak, we have about five draft executive orders. We have a withholding tax regulation that has just been signed by the honourable minister. It’s currently with the Minister of Justice for formatting, gazetting and publishing. “We also have draft laws. For all our major tax laws, we’ve drafted brand new ones because we took the view that we shouldn’t be amending laws that date back to colonial masters. There is no need to try to amend those. We’ve drafted new ones.” The post National Assembly spineless, a rubber stamp, says ex-PGF DG Lukman appeared first on Guardian Nigeria News.

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