Against the background of the recent clamour for legislators to work on part time basis, AUWAL Ibrahim, the executive director of the Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, one of the nonprofit agencies actively involved in nurturing the country’s legislatures, drew questions on the desirability or otherwise of the proposal.
Given your advocacy in the National Assembly and the state Houses of Assembly, do you think it is advisable for legislators to serve on part time basis?
There has been persistent calls by some Nigerians to make legislative duties, part-time, on the basis of high cost of running both National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly , coupled with a perception about the mediocre performance of the legislators in the face of the dwindling economic crisis in Nigeria as well as constant scandals and corruption allegedly by some legislators which tarnishes their image and renders their work as non-appreciative one despite their important role in consolidating and expanding democratic space.
However as good as these concerns are, given the enormous legislative responsibilities expected of the legislature to carry out under our constitution in Nigeria’s democracy, it is not realistic to make the legislature a part-time affair otherwise the legislature would be again undermined.
The Legislature in Nigeria suffers from a poor understanding of their challenges and attempt by some people to run away from an open governance accountability which our legislature promotes.
Do you think military rule affected the psyche of Nigerians?
It is clear that some people are not comfortable with the roles of the legislature given the way things were done under the military regime without any public participation and check.
Under democracy, our legislature carries out very important functions which expand and consolidates democracy like Lawmaking, oversight, representation, constituency engagement, ratification of treaties, approval of budget and control over the public fund, approval of appointments, amendment of the Constitution as well as investigations. These are the issues that some people don’t want this organ of government to perform as an independent body, but when you remove these functions, there is no democracy.
Therefore if we expect our legislature to perform well in the context of Nigeria’s environment, it is not advisable to have a part-time legislature, given the time required to do proper work. In my view what is more important is to have responsible, patriotic, committed, knowledgeable and experienced people to be our legislators both at national and states levels.
This means that our political parties must work very well to ensure that political recruitment and candidates have the credentials required for a serious legislative work. Also, the general public i.e. electorate must ensure that they vote people with integrity, capacity, experience and morals who will also account for their representation.
When you examine other countries within Africa and other places with similar structural and functional governance system especially those that suffered from military regimes where democracy and democratic institutions were absent for a very long time, part-time legislative duty is not encouraged.
This is because legislative work is too important to be done on part time for such countries since democratic institutions are being built.
How do you address the problem of the high cost of maintaining the legislature?
The issue of the high cost of governance can be addressed in all three arms of government without also starving them to carry their work. It is because of our poor institutional system that is why looting, corruption, diversion of public funds are mainstreamed and motivate some people to vie for public offices using all sorts of means including electoral violence to rig themselves against voters’ will.
If we can strengthen our political system, ensure the rule of law and compliance, with strong sanctions for violators, deal with political corruption, then we will value the importance of our legislature and appreciate its relevance.