Human rights’ lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, has berated the federal lawmakers in Nigeria for failing to approve bills or make laws that will benefit Nigerians.
Adegboruwa scolded the National Assembly members for their usual scampering to sign borrowings presented before them by President Muhammadu Buhari, but implementing constituency projects for masses had become a burden to them.
The SAN said these in his essay titled, ‘Nigeria and the Legislative Misfortune’ written to react to the failure of Buhari to sign the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021, and reluctance of the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives to act in the interest of Nigerians.
He said, “This National Assembly cannot but toe the line of the executive; that is the plain truth, which is why the so-called signature collection amounted to nothing.
“The Senators would then hurriedly proceed to grant approval to the President for more loans and also pass the much inflated budget wherein constituency projects have been sufficiently padded to empower the legislators to slug it out with their governors for the 2023 campaigns.
“It has now been suggested that it was all a plot by the ruling party to hoodwink Nigerians and that the section on direct primary election was only a booby trap inserted deliberately to truncate the desire of Nigerians for electronic transmission of results.
“Well, whatever it is, history will not be kind to those who have the golden opportunity to advance our democratic credentials but choose to bungle it.”
He added, “The 8th National Assembly under Senator Bukola Saraki had all the opportunity to restructure Nigeria and save us from this present experience of moving towards a failed State.
“Conferences were held in all the geo-political zones across Nigeria and the people spoke with one voice about the kind of reforms that they wanted the National Assembly to implement in the areas of resource control, state police, local government autonomy, affirmative action for women, devolution of powers through a drastic decongestion of the Exclusive Legislative List, youth participation in governance and electoral reforms.
“The hopes were very high indeed and all was set for the historic day when the harmonized Bills would be tabled on the floors of both Houses of the National Assembly. One after the other, Senator Saraki and Right Honourable Dogara manipulated the process to strike down the major reforms being proposed, thinking then that they were being smart.
“Not long thereafter, many of them could not return to the Chambers that they failed to utilize, with some of them ending up with comic Nollywood videos whilst others scampered to register for their law degrees, hoping to graduate someday to continue the gimmickry. Good enough, history is always the best teacher of mankind. We are all watching, and waiting.
“Now, all the reasons advanced by the President in his letter to the National Assembly for withholding his assent to the Bill relate to national security, legal matters, economic capacity and fundamental right of choice.
“The problem with this fencing mechanism is that these reasons will also plague the general elections in 2023, if not frontally addressed now through the passage of the Bill on electoral reforms. Whatever security challenges there are that would not allow primary elections to be held would certainly be more devastating for the general elections.
“Indeed, this would have been the best time to test the potency of our soldiers and law enforcement agencies. Was the President really serious when he talked about direct primary elections being anti-democratic? Section 228 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) provides as follows:
“The National Assembly may by law provide –
(a) guidelines and rules to ensure internal democracy within political parties, including making laws for the conduct of party primaries, party congresses and party conventions;
(b) the conferment on the Independent National Electoral Commission of powers as may appear to the National Assembly to be necessary or desirable for the purpose of enabling the Commission more effectively to ensure that political parties observe the practices of internal democracy, including the fair and transparent conduct of party primaries party congresses and party conventions;
(d) for the conferment on the Commission of other powers as may appear to the National Assembly to be necessary or desirable for the purpose of enabling the Commission more effectively to ensure that political parties observe the provisions of this part of this chapter.”
Adegboruwa said further that, “From the point of view of the Constitution therefore, the National Assembly was within the due exercise of its legislative powers in making provisions for the conduct of direct party primaries to determine the choice of candidates of the political parties.
“Nothing can be more democratic than giving people a direct opportunity to choose their own leaders, as opposed to an indirect system of control, manipulation and dictation, which is the stock in trade of most political parties.
“So I then began to wonder what the President meant when he talked about the need to give room for democratic choices in the conduct of primary elections. What about security?
“The primary election is local to the grassroots, wherein at the ward level, the people themselves take control of the entire process. Thus, if the primary election cannot be held because of fear of insecurity, then we should as well say goodbye to the general election, which will be more volatile because a lot more will be at stake at that level.
“Talking about economic reasons, if by now, INEC is not sufficiently empowered and funded to undertake the supervision of a simple primary election, how then will it monitor the party congresses and conventions and thereafter prepare for the general elections? This must be some kind of joke from the President, to say that political parties cannot conduct direct primary elections because INEC has no funds to monitor them.”