The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has said Nigerians need more enlightenment on the core functions of members of the National Assembly.
A former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Attahiru Jega, also said the overall performance of bills passed by the National Assembly was 30 per cent despite passing more pieces of legislation that the previous assemblies.
The Speaker, who received the leadership of the Centre for Legislative Engagement headed by Jega, said a situation where a majority of Nigerians assess lawmakers based on criteria separate from their core constitutional functions was not good for the country’s democracy.
Gbajabiamila stated that apart from the constitutional roles of law-making, representation and oversight that lawmakers have, Nigerians expect other things from them.
While speaking against the backdrop of the findings of a research conducted by the centre on the performance of the eighth National Assembly, Gbajabiamila said it was necessary to always assess the lawmakers based on their constitutional responsibilities.
He said, “Generally, there is 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 is not visible. We are meant to make laws, but the average man on the street doesn’t see that.
“So, I believe there is a 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.”
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. The research would provide a framework for further works on the activities of the Nigerian legislature, Jega said.
The former INEC boss added that the research found out that there was a significant increase in the number of bills passed by the eighth Assembly, compared to previous assemblies, but that the overall efficiency performance was less than 30 per cent.
Jega, therefore, 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, Jega said, was the use of electronic voting on bills and critical motions, which he noted that the Speaker had already commenced the process.
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.