The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules with Amendments 2011 in Chapter 1, Part 2 declared the ‘Powers of the federal Republic of Nigeria’ with its section 4, subsections 1-3 saying that:
(1):- The legislative powers of the federal Republic of Nigeria shall be vested in a national assembly for the Federation which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.
(2):- The National Assembly shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation or any part thereof with respect to any matter included in the Exclusive Legislative List set out in Part 1 of the Second Schedule to this Constitution.
(3):- The power of the National Assembly to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation with respect to any matter included in the Exclusive Legislative List shall, save as otherwise provided in this constitution, be to the exclusion of the House of Assembly of States.
With the contents of this section 4 of the constitution it should be glaringly clear to anyone that the Nigerian state is either doomed or privileged under any existing National Assembly in that it is the constitution, which is the exclusive formulations of the NASS, that dictates the pace of development for the country.
At present, Nigeria is grieving and groaning under the 9th NASS inaugurated on 11th of June 2019 with the first tinkering duty of leadership selection aided by politics of manipulations, party interests (rather than the interest of the nation and her citizens), division and hatred. Not long after their inauguration that the ruling APC along with other lawmakers with vested interests began to lobby for key positions in the NASS with the same strategy of zoning which both the PDP and the APC have used, over the years, to present many incompetent candidates for offices of the President and the Vice President, as well as other party inclined offices. Although, the battle for the leadership of the National Assembly was fiercest during the 8th Assembly, however, party politics infused into the selection of the 9th Assembly’s leadership only makes the current NASS a toothless bulldog.
It should be recalled that the NASS and the Presidency are to serve as a method of checks and balances on each other due to the clause of separation of power, unfortunately, the present NASS is not checking on the executive, instead, the present legislature is a serving errand boy, cohort of rubber stamp lawmakers in that the Senate President, Sen. Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan on August 28, 2019 pledged at a town hall meeting in Yobe that 9th NASS would not fail the President (instead of the people).
Little wonder the ministerial nominees from the President were, during what should be their confirmations through scrutiny (for competencies) merely asked to ‘just take a bow’ – a pointer to compensation for the support granted to some key lawmakers in their ascension to the leadership of the 9th National Assembly.
Then in a clap back the 9th NASS was rewarded with a whooping N5 billion for the purchase of 400 pieces of 2020 Toyota Camry (bypassing the made-in-Nigerian brand, Innoson Vehicle’s SUV) at the time that inflation and poverty was ravaging the Nigerian populace. The NASS also did not consider it necessary to reduce their annual allocation from the National Budget but, instead increased it from N125 billion to N128 billion.
Little did Nigerians know that the worst was to follow. Now, there is little or no freedom of expressions and the rights for peaceful protest (as anyone or groups which dare to protest are either arrested on/before date of the planned protest or they are accosted personally and told to halt their protest) but who would not choose life over untimely death? Thus, many who protested during the administration of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan will understand the true meaning of democracy when compared to this regime.
The 9th NASS, instead of serving the interests of the Nigerian citizens are only up and doing on issues bothering their self interests and those of the presidency. Early in 2019 members of the National Assembly passed the Finance Bill to increase value-added tax from 5% to 7.5% which has contributed to increased inflation and job-loss, against experts’ warnings; the 9th NASS has also been caught in the web of plagiarism on the Social Media Bill, and the Infectious Diseases Bill (originally from Singapore) as well as the intended, Generator bill, that sought to ban the importation of generator (without solution to epileptic power supply in the country).
In addition to their many woeful performances, the 9th NASS has sought to prevent citizens from initiating criminal proceedings against any of them by seeking to extend the immunity clause on the executive offices to themselves. Moreover, there is the Boko Haram bill sponsored to grant amnesty to so-called repentant Boko Haram fighters and the NGO bill that sought to regiment NGOs, civil society groups among others which is now incorporated and executed under the Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA 2020).
The many irregularities of the 9th Assembly, notwithstanding, the question to ask is ‘how did all these meaningless legislations find their ways into the history of Nigeria?’ The answer is simple when one looks critically into the statistics released by the National Electoral Commission, INEC, on 2019 General Elections.
Out of the over 84 million registered voters, according to INEC, only 28,614,190 people (representing 34.75% of the total registered voters) cast their votes during the Presidential election according to the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN – this shows a poor turnout and a state of apathy of the Nigerian citizens to election, perhaps, due to perceived moral bankruptcy of INEC in the 2015 General Elections.
Although, there was something that could be called a doctored-effort to, systematically, disenfranchise eligible voters by the ruling APC in 2019 due to the enforcement of ‘vote in your registered ward policy’ that caught many voters out of their states of origins. The final blow was struck when, after many people have travelled to their states in hopes of casting their votes, election was postponed in the early hours of the day of election, forcing many employees to return to their states of residence where they also have their sources of livelihoods.
Another bad element in the 2019 General Elections (which has existed since years back in Nigeria) was vote buying. With as low as N10,000 many impoverished electorates were eager to cast their votes in favour of incompetent candidates, but months after, they have suffered a thousand times the sum of money they sold their votes. Here is where citizens are culprits in the emergence of lawmakers who have nothing to offer toward the development of Nigeria.
Several interest groups had warned the citizenry of the danger involved in vote selling and vote buying but gullible individuals still sell their votes, and now, majority of the masses are suffering for it only that we cannot rub it in their faces because we are in it together, as such, there must be deliberate enlightenment toward the 2023 General Elections so that the electorates, offered money or any type of inducement, would collect such offers but still vote for credible, enlightened and competent candidates.
Nigeria does not need any saviour, its citizens only have to take their lives into their own hands to deliver a functional society to the up and coming generations: that starts now, not until 2023!