By Sanni Onogu, Abuja
But don’t scrap Senate
NASS to pass 2021 budget in December
Senate President Ahmad Lawan on Friday faulted calls for the scrapping of the Senate by some Nigerians who believe that such a move will help in reducing the cost of running government.
Lawan said scrapping the Senate would have undesirable consequences for the country.
He said the best critics of the present set of senators could do was to vote them out in the 2023 general elections.
The Senate President spoke in Abuja while declaring open a retreat for top management staff of the National Assembly and the National Assembly Service Commission.
The three-day event was jointly put together by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) and the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO).
The Senate President described the Red Chamber as a leveler which ensures that all parts of the country are equally represented, unlike the House of Representatives where states with higher population produce highest number of lawmakers.
He also disagreed with critics of the perceived jumbo pay of federal legislators, saying the annual budget of the National Assembly is less than one per cent of the nation’s 2021 budget.
Lawan said: “Without the National Assembly and the legislature across the country, what you have is not democracy anymore.
“So the value of the legislature and National Assembly to Nigerians is democracy. If you take out the legislature, it might not be a dictatorship but certainly not a democracy.
“So when we always debate on jumbo pay and not the functions of the National Assembly – what we are able to do and what we are not able to do.
“As for what you think we should be doing rather than saying close down the Senate or the National Assembly, do you understand the implications of what would happen if we close the Senate? I am not saying that because I am in the Senate.
“The Senate is a leveler because in the House of Representatives, population is major; that is why some states will have five, six members and others have up to 20.
“So if you say close down the Senate, there will be a day when people will cry foul.
“In the Senate, what Kano produces is what Bayelsa will produce. Three senators in Kano and three senators in Bayelsa, that stabilises the system.
“In a budget of N13 trillion, the National Assembly will get about N125 billion to N128 billion. That is less than 1 percent. So where is the remaining 99 per cent?
“I am not here to defend the National Assembly, but I’m here to encourage the debate on what it means to us as country.
“If you don’t like the set of members in the Ninth National Assembly, change all of us in 2023. Get better people. Let’s support the system to function.”
Lawan assured Nigerians that the 2021 budget would be passed in the second week of December while the Petroleum Industry Bill and the amendments to the 1999 Constitution would be ready in 2021.
On his part, the Clerk to the National Assembly, Ojo Olatunde Amos, said the event was meant to create opportunity for sober reflection on how to change the narratives and make the bureaucracy of the National Assembly more effective and efficient.
Also speaking; the Director General, National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), Professor Abubakar Sulaiman, emphasised the need for greater partnership among the various agencies of the National Assembly.
He said his institute would continue to provide the much required technical know-how to strengthen the legal and institutional capacity of the National Assembly.