By Christiana Ekpa
The Speaker of the House of Representatives Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila has said that Nigerians need more enlightenment on the core functions of members of the National Assembly.
The Speaker said a situation where majority of Nigerians assess lawmakers based on criteria separate from their core constitutional functions was not good for the country’s democracy.
Speaking when he received the leadership of the Centre for Legislative Engagement headed by Prof Attahiru Jega, the Speaker said apart from the constitutional roles of lawmaking, representation and oversight that lawmakers have, Nigerians expect other things from them.
Against the backdrop of the findings of a research that the centre carried out about the performance of the 8th National Assembly, Gbajabiamila said it was imperative to always asses the lawmakers based on their constitutional responsibilities.
”Generally, there’s a lot to be done to improve the perception of the legislature. What you’ve done will go a long way in helping us. But if we don’t get the fundamentals right, there’s a problem.
“Do Nigerians understand the work of the legislature? The work of the legislature isn’t visible. We’re meant to make laws, but the average man on the street doesn’t see that.
“So, I believe there’s need for a lot of enlightenment. You should help us to do that too so that Nigerians will understand the real functions of the legislature.
“Some people try to compare legislators with the Executive, but the constitutional roles are completely different. Ours is to make laws. You don’t have to impose the functions of one on the other,” the Speaker said.
Earlier, Jega told the Speaker that the research conducted by the centre took samples from 12 states and that it was the first of its kind in the country, saying it would provide a framework for further works on the activities of the Nigerian legislature.
He said the research found out that there was a significant increase in the number of bills passed by the 8th Assembly, compared to previous assemblies, but that the overall efficiency performance was less than 30 per cent.
Thus, Jega said, the centre recommended that there should be pre-legislative scrutiny before any bill is presented and that the National Assembly should create a legislative standard committee to oversee the quality of bills being presented.
Another recommendation, he said, was the use of electronic voting on bills and critical motions, which he noted that the Speaker has already commenced the process of ensuring that.
The study also recommended that there should be an improvement in the quality of legislative oversight of committees by establishing a minimum benchmark and standard.