Challenges Of Legislative Intellectualism Before The Eight National Assembly Of Nigeria
(Legislative Accountability, Onitsha Nigeria, 20th May 2015)-Summation: This part (three) concludes the extensively researched appraisal of the parliamentary stewardship of the outgoing Seventh National Assembly of Nigeria. The appraisal was extended to the State Houses of Assembly for the purpose of setting the records straight and putting in public domain and consciousness of Nigerians the fundamental standard of measuring the modern public lawmaking functions in Nigeria. In the course of the referenced extensive research by ours ( International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law- Intersociety), it was indisputably established that parliamentary quackery and mercantilism have steadily remained the bane of the lawmaking processes in Nigeria since the arrival of the Fourth Republic National Assembly (1999-2003).
Through parliamentary quackery, status quo or lazy lawmaking became the order of the day and characterized the National Assembly of Nigeria. Legislative intellectualism was nowhere to be seen. This resulted to abandonment of numerous laws of the Federation needing attention and begging to be upgraded or repealed including archaic provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999. Several legislative items that ought to be legislated into law including numerous treaties and conventions were left abandoned. Through parliamentary mercantilism,the lawmaking processes in Nigeria became grossly commercialized and compromised. Most, if not all public interest legislative items and issues, which are usually inducement and bribery free, were abandoned or relegated for subsidiary legislative functions like legislative probes, constituency projects, budgetary legislation, etc, which took precedence over the former. The State Houses of Assembly, within the referenced period became and still remain the appendages of the State Executive Councils. The five main bribery induced areas that have dominated the legislative businesses of the State Houses of Assembly in Nigeria till date are budget defense/passage, approval of commissioners/office appointments, consideration of executive borrowings, approval of security votes and legislative probes.
Fundamental Challenges Before The Eight Republic National Assembly: It remains an indisputable fact that Nigeria as a multi cultural democratic country can never make any meaningful progress unless its presentpolitico-legal system is surgically operated and re-arranged. The present system under reference created and bequeathed to the country by the Fourth Republic National Assembly (1999-2003) is anti democratic and enemy of development. A politico-legal system that promotes primordialism and signs away 80% of the country’s commonwealth into the pockets of a ruling political class of 17,500 citizens who constitute only 0.010% of the country’s 170 million people; urgently requires radical re-visitation and re-distribution; else Nigeria will chronically continue to crawl in its all socio-political ramifications. For Nigeria to face realities of modern time and wriggle itself of present socio-political doldrums there must be radical re-distribution of the country’s commonwealth so as to aggregate and congregate enough funds for the general and optimum development of the country. To do this, the country’s fiscal laws and policies particularly on wage allowances and government overheads in all its arms and tiers of government must be cut down by 50% across board.
Radical Review Of Allowances & Overheads: Our study into the present state of public workers’ salaries and pensions of the pensioners in Nigeria clearly shows that workers’ salaries and pensioners’ pensions are not responsible for the present situation whereby government and governance are totally premised on recurrent and overheads criminal governance. The Eight Republic National Assembly of Nigeria and their States counterparts must also repeal all existing Special Life Pension Laws and Schemes for all categories of executive and legislative public office holders both at the Federal and States level. The most criminal part of the official misapplication and misappropriation of public funds called “security votes and service-wide votes” and their likes must be cut down by 60% across board in the case of the President and the Governors and total abolition in the case of other top public office holders including the Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Reps and Speakers of the State Houses of Assembly; likewise drastic downward review of their overheads. Allocation of a whopping sum of N231 billion ($1.15 billion) to the so called “service-wide votes” in the 2015 federal budget; for instance, is a height of presidential criminality. This is more so when only N557 billion ($2.75 billion) was allocated to the capital expenditures in 2015, while an alarming sum of N2.6 trillion ($10.3 billion) was allocated to recurrent expenditures.
The allowances component of the personnel costs as well as the overheads component of the recurrent expenditures is fully responsible for paucity of funds for capital development in Nigeria. And if nothing radical is done to reverse the dangerous trend, then Nigeria will chronically remain empty and nothing in terms of real growth and development. Our study also shows clearly that if the above referenced overheads including security votes as well as public allowances are reviewed downwards, over N1 trillion ($5 billion) will be saved yearly from Federal, States and LGAs and channeled into capital expenditures for the development of Nigeria and Nigerians. For instance, a 50% cut in the N550.8 billion ($2.75 billion) spent yearly in the allowances of the country’s 11,788 Local Government officials automatically saves and recovers N275 billion ($1.37 billion) for Nigerians. Another major task before the incoming Federal and States legislatures in Nigeria lies on the need to quarantine public loans/borrowings particularly from local sources. If the borrowings must be granted, then they must be for productive use including job creation and government revenue yielding. As a matter of fact, there is need for a national moratorium on public borrowings in Nigeria.
Archaic Constitutional & Statutory Provisions/Policies: In addition to the foregoing, the Eight Republic National Assembly must review the country’s state of 33 solid mineral deposits as well as the continuous power epilepsy in the country for the purpose of their mechanization or industrialization. This can be done by the referenced Federal legislatures by re-visiting the country’s trade and investment policies and laws including the Land Use Act, industrial, environmental, import and export laws. The privatization of power in the country must be reviewed and possibly revoked.
On the age-long ethno-religious violence afflicting the country, the Eight Republic National Assembly must re-visit Section 10 of the 1999 Constitution for the purpose of re-phrasing it to literally suit the country’s secular and multi-religious status. Promotion and encouragement of any form of State religion must be prohibited and criminalized. The right to the freedom of religion in Section 38 of the Chapter Four of the Constitution must be strengthened. In the case of existing socio-religious criminal laws like Shariah Laws of the Northern States which existence threatens the 1999 Constitution and the secular status of Nigeria; there is need to return to the status quo. This means returning to the Penal Code (operational in Northern Nigeria). The Penal Code is a combination of Islamic and non Islamic Criminal laws, borrowed from Sudan. The Penal Code under reference is also overdue for amendment and upgrading.
There is also need for the incoming National Assembly to create Ethno-Religious Violence & Related Offenses Commission so as to manage the country’s age-long religious and ethnicity violence and related disturbances including arrest and trial of the perpetrators and their sponsors. The victims and their families should also be entitled to adequate compensations from the government. Dates should be set aside for National Sorry & Remembrance Day for dead victims of the referenced violence and related disturbances. Creation ofElectoral Violence & Related Offenses Commission is also long overdue in Nigeria. In the area of non domestication of various international treaties and conventions highlighted in the part two of the report, the incoming Eight Republic National Assembly must identify them and pass them into law as urgently as possible.
Another important task facing the incoming Eight National Assembly and their States counterparts is the need to legislatively correct the monumental imbalances in the number and geopolitical allocation of States, Local Government Areas (LGAs), Senatorial Districts and Federal Constituencies in Nigeria. It is extremely important to inform that the country’s commonwealth and public office personnel are distributed in accordance with Section 14 (3) of the Constitution according to number of States, LGAs, Senatorial Districts and Federal Constituencies allocated to each federating unit (State) or geopolitical zone. In the world over, population, not landmass is a pivotal criterion for allocation of resources and demographic dividends. It is, therefore, shocking and disheartening to observe the present gross lopsidedness in the allocation of LGAs in a democratic Nigeria per geopolitical zone, which is as follows: Northwest (186), Northeast (112), North-central (115), Southwest (138), South-south (123) and Southeast (95). Kano and Jigawa States (formerly one State) alone have 77 LGAs.
In the area of Federal Constituencies, which are designed in such a way that the transfer of national resources and distribution of public office personnel are anchored on proportionality; the referenced lopsidedness is very pronounced as follows: Northwest (92), Northeast (48), North-central (49), Southwest (71), South-south (55) and Southeast (43). The allocation of Senatorial Districts and States is also proactively lopsided. While the Southeast zone is the least with 15 Senatorial Districts; Southwest, South-south, North-central and Northeast have 18 districts each, whereas the Northwest zone has 21. In the number of States, the Southeast is the least with 5 States, while North-central, Northeast, South-south and the Southwest zones are allocated with 6 States each. The Northwest zone has the highest number of States with 7 States. We demand firmly that the monumental imbalances above highlighted be legislatively re-visited and corrected. There should be balanced number of LGAs per geopolitical zone; else let the LGA system be removed from the Constitution and handed over to the States.
Further to the foregoing is the need for the incoming Eight National Assembly of Nigeria to amend and upgrade the Criminal Code (operational in the Southern Nigeria) and the Penal Code (operational in Northern Nigeria) to bring them in conformity with the new Criminal Procedural Act (ACJ 2015) and the Evidence Act (amended in 2011) as well as to factor them into modern electronic criminal investigation, evidence, prosecution and sentencing management. To this effect too, the ouster clauses under the right to personal liberty provisions in Section 35 of the 1999 Constitution in the Chapter Four or the Fundamental Human Rights should be thoroughly reviewed and streamlined. For instance, there must be an end to criminal investigations and trials in Nigeria. Specifically, Section 35 (4) (5) (6) (7) must be revisited; otherwise the aim of passing into law the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015 will be defeated.
Other provisions of the 1999 Constitution requiring attention of public importance are Section 18 (3) (free education) and Section 6 (6) (c) (non justiciablity of the Chapter Two). The phrase “when practicable” should be deleted as it concerns free primary and secondary education with their adult literacy programs. Also paragraph “c” in Section 6 (6) should be deleted to judicially empower Nigerians to hold the political office holders accountable at all times with respect to the Fundamental Objectives & Directive Principles of the State Policy of the Constitution(Sections 13-23). Section 12 (3) of the same 1999 Constitution requiring a majority of the Houses of Assembly passage of a national law before a treaty or convention can be domesticated; should be done away with. The passage of the domesticating law should be restricted to the National Assembly and the Presidency.
Intellectualizing The Lawmaking Processes In Nigeria: It is indisputable to assert that lawmaking processes in Nigeria since 1999 have failed woefully and fallen below the international standards. For the country to catch up with its peers regionally and internationally, it must have vibrant and cerebral Federal and State Legislatures. To this effect, members of the Eight Republic National Assembly and their States counterparts must purge themselves of mercantile dispositions and brace up forhumanist and selfless national and State legislative assignments. These involve use of local contents or constant consultations with, and visits to their constituencies/constituents so as to stay in tune with their socio-economic realities and challenges with a view to addressing them legislatively.
There is also need for them to embrace modern within the border and across the border legislative data mining. In other words, there are three intellectual dimensions to modern legislative functions across the world. The first is local/constituency intellectual legislative dimension, which involves harnessing relevant constituency legislative challenges for upright legislative attention. The within the border intellectual legislative dimension involves exploring and exploiting national social legislative realities for the purpose of harnessing and addressing them legislatively. The third is across the border intellectual legislative dimension, which involves realization that the world is a global village and an aggregation and congregation of ideas including legislative ideas for the purpose of selling to others the best you have and buying from them the best they haveincluding their legislative best. The totality of this is called legislative intellectualism.
To achieve the foregoing, the incoming Federal and State Legislatures and their members must de-mercantilize and demystify lawmaking processes in Nigeria and collectively and individually create rooms for parliamentary amicus curiae for the purpose of ensuring truly public oriented legislative functions including passage of human rights and public interest and development friendly bills. To ensure legislative intellectualism, in-depth and extensive researches are needed as well as robust relationships with expert-institutions, bodies and personnel. In this era of cheap information technology provided by internet, every constituency office of a Federal or State legislator must be computerized and electronically connected and stocked with all relevant open-source information pertaining to key legislative decisions including bills passed and oversight findings made as per executive activities of relevant ministries, agencies, departments and parastatals as well as their non government counterparts like multinational corporations and key educational and health institutions. Every Nigerian citizen must be able to access and assess all legislative information in Nigeria or any part thereof.
A modern legislative chamber that disconnects itself from robust and constant interface with rights based Civil Society Organizations and scholars and experts footed in natural and social science disciplines including those in the Bench, Bar, Juridical, Criminology, Security Studies, Medicine, Pharmacy, Sociology, Theology, Politics, Diplomacy, Economics, Environmental Safety and Human Rights, is obviously a legislative chamber of pre-Athenian age. On the other hand, modern lawmaking membership requires being a thinker, a nimble, and a virile agent of social change and a graduate of legislative studentship.
Finally, ideology is found lacking in Nigerian politics and legislative chambers. Average Nigerian politician or lawmaker is a political trader and harlot. Lack of political ideology also leads to absence of political and economic think tanks in the country. In the USA, there are the National Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute. There are various security and safety think tanks affiliated or sympathetic to either Republican Party or Democratic Party. There must be sound political ideology in Nigeria. The National Assembly of Nigeria is also deeply parasitic and consumptive. Owing to its quackery and mercantilist composition, it lacks the capacity to attract funds from development and donor agencies.
The oversight committees that ought to attract local and international corporate funding are busy chasing their executive oversight bodies around looking for little loopholes for the purpose of enriching their pockets at the expense of their constituencies/constituents and generality of Nigerians. To succeed, the Eight Republic National Assembly and their States counterparts must depart from the referenced mercantilist, primordial and parochial legislative direction and embrace humanist, selfless and intellectual dimensions to lawmaking.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, B.Sc. (Hons) Criminology & Security Studies
Board Chairman, International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Uzochukwu Oguejiofor, Esq., (LLB, BL), Head, Campaign & Publicity Department
Chiugo Onwuatuegwu, Esq., (LLB, BL), Head, Democracy & Good Governance Program