9th National Assembly:Expectations Of Nigerians
Nigeria’s democracy has come of age, having endured for twenty years, without any rude interruption.
Section 4 of the Constitution empowers the National Assembly to primarily make laws for the good governance of the state.
Apart from this primary function, there is a huge range of oversight functions, performed by the National Assembly to check the executive organ of government in the spirit of checks and balances.
The eighth National Assembly performed creditably in all its ramifications. However, that was not without inflicting injuries on her credibility. This is due largely to the contending partisan interests among members and the struggle for naked powers in the polity.
Arising from the plethora of challenges was the number of bills not assented to by Mr. President. The most buffeting was the effort of the National Assembly to review the Electoral Act. The Electoral Act was not assented to before the conduct of the two thousand and nineteen general elections.
So much work was done, but the President withheld assent, others are the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, State Police and Revenue Allocation.
The stalemating of these bills by the Presidency did not make for understanding between the legislature and executive. Most often this leads to cross-carpeting in an otherwise volatile political environment, driven by political parties that were plagued by ideological void.
The eighth Assembly was also crisis-ridden as the Code of Conduct Bureau harassed the leadership of the Senate. Ultimately, the NASS can be said to have been muzzled by the Presidency in order to protect the party at the centre and some vested interest.
While the supremacy battle lasted insecurity walked on four legs, whereas the economic indices of growth produced negative statistics. Even the Boko Haram insurgency has assumed the dimension of a full scale terrorist outfit with its security implications.
Unemployment rate quadrupled, the Gross Domestic Product, GDP has plummeted, industrialization also took a back-seat mainly because the environment was not investor-friendly. Verily, the investment draught is as a result of lack of political will and dearth of basic infrastructure.
The foreign exchange regime ran amok, while the naira was devalued over two hundred times. Most economic policies are not pro-poor in nature, hence, the poverty index has continued to rise astronomically.
This is against the backdrop of the fact that government has not fulfilled its campaign promises. For example, in the aviation sector, Nigeria has no national carrier. The social security system promised the electorate has not seen the light of day. Not much has been done to improve the funding of tertiary institutions. This is an indication that our leaders are not thinking strategically.
Nigeria has been left behind by other nations like Ethiopia, United Arab Emirates, South Africa and even Ghana which has less natural endowments.
In twenty-eighteen, Nigeria became the poverty capital of the world taking over from India. This is not a stigma but a definition of the economic realities on ground.
This is amidst the rising scourge of corruption and other vices that have stagnated the economy. Nigerians expect that laws verging on transparency and accountability will be given prominence at the ninth NASS.
The Ninth National Assembly is expected to make laws to grow the economy especially concerning employment, wealth creation and poverty reduction.
Nigerians hope that over-dependence on crude oil can be cured by diversifying the economy. Over the past decades, Nigerians have paid lip-service to divestment but no concrete achievement has been recorded.
Other areas of the economy that have been left untapped include tourism, the solid mineral sector, aviation, agriculture and the agro-allied industries.
Put together, these areas are capable of serving as catalyst for economic growth and rapid economic development.
Budgetary provisions can be made to develop the education sector, including science and technology education. Again, the expectation of Nigerians in reforming governance culture has become imperative in the light of missed opportunities in the past.
Against this background, implementation of reforms in our electoral system, establishment of state police, providing for local government autonomy and fiscal federalism is necessary.
There is a need to fix the power sector to encourage investors in the real sectors of the economy. Power and road infrastructure are essential for every industrialized nation.
As Nigeria’s population increases, it has become imperative for the state to introduce safety-nets such as social welfare system, award of scholarships and other empowerment programmes.
Lawmaking at the NASS should be tilted in favour of economic growth, building of industries, youth empowerment and strengthening the institutions of states for effective delivery of essential social services.
The downstream of the petroleum sector should also accommodate the private sector stakeholders and investors in the hydrocarbon-industry.
It is against this backdrop that stakeholders in host communities should play a role in surveillance of oil facilities, protection of host communities against environmental hazards such as oil pollution, gas flaring, discharge of industrial effluent and other activities that can destroy the environment.
Of critical importance is the need to strengthen existing institutions so they can perform optimally. The NASS should make laws reinforcing the need to establish safeguards to strengthen the institutions to deliver on the public good.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC and other anti-graft agencies should be strengthened to fight high-level corruption and monies so recovered should be ploughed back to the economy.
In the last analysis, Nigerians have high hopes on the Ninth National Assembly, especially in making laws to alleviate poverty and to place the nation on the orbit of economic prosperity and social progress.