The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, yesterday warned those clamouring for the scrapping of the Senate that the country runs the risk of falling into anarchy if it happens.
Lawan spoke while declaring open a retreat for top management staff of the National Assembly and National Assembly Service Commission in Abuja.
Rather than clamour for the scrapping of the upper chamber, the Senate President challenged those not comfortable with the senators in the current Ninth Senate to vote them out in 2023.
“If you don’t like the set of members in the Ninth National Assembly, change all of us in 2023. Get better people and let’s support the system to function,” Lawan said.
He described the Senate as a leveller which ensured that all parts of the country are equally represented “unlike the House of Representatives where states with higher population produce the highest number of lawmakers.”
Lawan said: “Ask 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 so because I am in the Senate.
“The Senate is a leveller 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. There are three senators in Kano and three senators in Bayelsa, so that stabilises the system.
“Without the National Assembly and the legislature across the country, what you have is not democracy anymore. So, the value of the legislature and the National Assembly to Nigerians is democracy. If you take out the legislature, it might not be a dictatorship but certainly not a democracy.”
The Senate President also faulted the argument of those clamouring for the scrapping of the Senate because of the perceived jumbo pay being earned by the senators, urging critics to focus on supporting the system by ensuring that all monies allocated are well utilised.
He said the annual budget of the National Assembly was less than one per cent of the nation’s 2021 budget, adding that in a budget of over N13 trillion, the National Assembly got only N128 billion.
Lawan asserted that the value of legislature to the nation is democracy and without it there won’t be democracy.
He said: ”This maybe a little bit controversial but I will not run away from it. What does the National Assembly, the legislature mean to Nigerians? Can we debate properly what the functions of members of the National Assembly should be, rather than talking about jumbo pay?
Lawan also revealed that members of the National Assembly were working assiduously to pass the 2021 budget by the second week of next month, ensure passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and undertake constitution review before the end of second quarter of 2021.
The Chairman of the National Assembly also advocated for more legislative aides to the lawmakers, saying the current number of aides per lawmaker is inadequate and that the situation makes most members of the National Assembly to struggle to do most things themselves.
Also speaking, the Director General of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman said by bringing together the major agencies and actors in the National Assembly to have a frank discussion on major issues of institutional strengthening, the retreat can come up with important recommendations and strategies for improving service delivery and general performance of the national legislature and the legislative bureaucracy.
”The ability of the National Assembly to effectively undertake its core functions effectively depends on a number of key factors which are institutional and legal framework and then strong organisational structures. The relevance of this retreat is even better highlighted in the light of the recurring uncertainties and disagreements about the powers and limits of management and commission.
“Recent events have once again brought into bold relief the need to have an honest discussion on some of the challenges that the legislature faces. Despite the clear definition of roles in the NASC Act 2014, there are grey areas and sticking points that have perennially resulted in conflicts and I hope this retreat will help address some of these challenges and hence reposition the National Assembly to perform better,” the director general said.