#BounceExclusive: Nigerian Senate Is Still Shamelessly Analogue
When some of the presidential aspirants and candidates talk about digitalizing governance, Nigerians underrate the importance of this idea and laugh it off.
Recent findings by Bounce News have, however, shown that the management of affairs in the country is indeed archaic and needs urgent intervention.
Three years after it was inaugurated, the Eighth Senate still operates on analogue system in the conduct of legislative activities in the 21st century.
The development is a source of worry for many and brings to the front burner the jumbo salary of lawmakers and the inability of their legislative practices to conform with global best practices.
In March this year, the Chairman Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, Senator Shehu Sani, spilled the beans on federal legislators’ salary secrecy when he revealed that each senator receives N13.5 million monthly as 'running cost'.
Investigation showed that the Bukola Saraki-led Senate may have reneged on its promise to deploy Information Communication Technology (ICT) in the regular conduct of legislative activities.
"The only appreciable improvement in this regard is that plenary is now streamed live on the Internet. And they also provide a beleaguered Wi-Fi service," a source who did not want his name mentioned, told Bounce News.
Ironically, the same Saraki was the one who earned the ‘digital president’ nickname for himself after several calls on Nigerians to vote out an analogue president in Muhammadu Buhari.
Launched in 2015, the Eighth Senate Legislative Agenda, which outlined priorities of the Senate from 2015 to 2019, promised to ensure best legislative practices.
"The concept of e-parliament will be made to operate such that modern information communication tools will be used across the activities of the National Assembly," the document seen by Bounce News stated.
Findings revealed that if this had been fully implemented, this would have involved a situation whereby senators would receive Order Paper, motions, reports of committees and other legislative materials through soft copies, prior to their presentation and consideration on the floor of the chamber.
This would allow legislators carry out proper research on the information therein and enrich their contributions when debates arise.
Further findings also showed that rather than soft copies, senators mostly receive such documents in hard copies when the documents are being considered.
Sergeant-at-arms are usually seen distributing hard copies of materials to lawmakers on the floor of the chamber at legislative sittings.
The consequence is lack of quality bills, as senators are not given sufficient time to assimilate such documents.
The wider implication is the President's refusal to assent to some of the bills passed by both chambers of the National Assembly.
For instance, in the first seven months of 2018, President Buhari declined assent to 15 bills passed by the National Assembly. The proposed legislations are the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, Stamp Duties (Amendment) Bill, National Research and Innovation Council Bill; National Institute of Hospitality and Tourism Bill, National Agricultural Seeds Council and Subsidiary Legislation (Legislative Scrutiny) Bill.
Others rejected are Chattered Institute of Entrepreneurship (Est.) Bill; Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (Amendment) Bill; Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) (Amendment) Bill; Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences (Amendment) Bill and five constitutional amendment bills.
Expressing his frustration on the matter, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi (representing Kebbi North Senatorial District), expressed dismay that the apex legislative chamber was operating analogue system in the 21st century.
Senator Abdullahi lamented that some serious national issues were often presented for debate without the prior knowledge of lawmakers.
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He said: "We are still operating analogue system of (conducting) Senate plenaries in a digital age.
“It is when one gets to the Chambers that you see serious issues. Issues that are so weighty that one needs to see and research before getting to plenary.
“It is when we get to chamber that we are given papers without opportunity of seeing it before hands. How then can we carry out quality debate?”
The senator, who is also a member of the Committee to look into bills rejected by the President, explained that it was a normal parliamentary practice, the world over, for lawmakers to see motions in advance.
He backed President Buhari for declining assent to the bills, stressing that they were not diligently worked on by the legislators.
“The Senate was not diligent in passing some bills into law," he declared.
Meanwhile, Senate President Bukola Saraki has told anyone who cares to listen that the Eighth Senate has surpassed the achievements of its predecessors, having passed the highest number of bills since 1999.
Abdullahi opined that it is not how far but how well. "We are only interested in the number of bills passed. It is not the number of bills passed, but the quality of bills passed," he said.
All said and done, Nigerians should be asking themselves in all honesty, can you give what you don’t have?
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