The media is our problem

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The Speaker of Nigria's House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole yesterday accused the media of favouring the executive arm of government over the legislature.

Speaking at a press briefing to mark his second anniversary as Speaker, Mr. Bankole said the media publishes "embarrassing reports about the legislature more than (it does) the executive arm of government.

According to him, the House has been blamed unduly under his leadership, even though it has accorded the "quickest attention in history" to the electoral reform process which is part of the Constitution amendment process being carried out by the national assembly.

The House has concluded the initial plenary readings and the public hearings on the amendments and the Speaker said consideration of the reports from the individual committees handling the final collation will begin before the end of the year and the electoral reform law may be ready in seven months time.

"The present pace is the fastest such bills have ever recorded in the history of any arm of the National Assembly," Mr. Bankole said. "Don't forget the President sent them this year and sometimes such amendments are supposed to take even two years." The speaker said all these and other efforts by the lawmakers, awere deliberately ignored by the Press. "Many members here work till 12 am in their offices, and you are not talking about that, you want to make reports that will embarrass the National Assembly," he said.

Freedom of Information Bill
Mr. Bankole said that the controversial Freedom of Information bill was suspended in the house like "many other bills that had problems." According to him, "Over 80% of the members were new and when the bill was introduced a year ago, they didn't understand it." He however said that the bill will soon be re-introduced for a second reading in the House. The Speaker was not happy when he was asked how the huge travel expenditure of the Senate and the House has impacted on the lives of Nigerians. "I do not know your intentions," Mr.

Bankole answered. "Whipping the National Assembly all the time, I will tell you, will only weaken the National Assembly; and weakening the National Assembly will allow absolute power to the executive, and corruption will be absolute," he said. "Report the bad things and then report the positives; and then weigh them."

The Speaker also said that capital expenditures in both chambers declined in 2009 compared to the past years.

For 2009, the House of Representatives received N2 billion while the Senate got N1 billion for capital expenditures. In 2008, the House of Representatives and the Senate received were N9 billion and N5 billion respectively. The reductions, NEXT learnt, were only because most of the projects were deemed to have been executed in 2008.

By Ini Ekott