The 9th National Assembly, which was inaugurated on June 11, kicked off on a good note following the successful conduct of the election of the Principal Officers of both the Red House (Senate) and the Green House (House of Representatives), with Sen. Ahmed Lawan and Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege, emerging the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President respectively, while Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and Idris Wase, emerged Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively, through bipartisan votes.
It is interesting that members of both houses tow the path of honour in deciding those that will lead them on the conviction of conscience, rather than on individual or party interest ta the detriment of the country.
We congratulate them, but at the same time, we wish to remind them of the tasks ahead, which we believe are enormous. The good news is that with understanding, selflessness and grounded political will, they are surmountable.
Following the violence that characterized the 2019 general elections, which led to the death of more than 50 persons, it is necessary that the National Assembly as a matter of urgent national importance, revisit the 2018 Electoral Act Amendment Bill, which President Muhammadu Buhari declined to assent to, with a view to passing the bill into law.
The passage of the bill will save the country resources, time, including lives of its citizens during elections. So long as the political actors have room to manipulate the system, because of the loopholes in the current 2010 Electoral Act; vote buying, ballot box snatching, thuggery, intimidation and harassment of voters as witnessed in the last election will not cease.
We cannot talk about deepening democracy without talking about electoral process. The electors must be able to choose their leaders and in a situation whereby they cannot freely choose their leaders, which is the situation the country is into currently, then, democracy is in danger.
The reports of various civil society organizations, including regional bodies like the European Union, on the the general election, is a call for concern and as the giant of Africa, Nigeria must get her electoral process right just like other countries on the continent have done.
Currently, there are about 1, 689 litigations in various courts on the 2019 general elections, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). This resorts to waste of the nation’s resources and could have been avoided if only the electoral act was effective and efficient.
On security, the country has not had it good in the last six years. The National Assembly must come up with a bill in support of state police. The Federal police have been overstretched and it will be self-deception if the country doesn’t come to reality with the need for an alternative.
Based on the reality on ground now, state police are long overdue and there is no better time to have it than now. Just as in other federal structures around the world, the country must adopt it to put to an end the numerous security challenges the country is facing.
Also, we encourage them to look into the recommendations of the 2014 CONFAB report and see how some of the recommendations can be incorporated into the Constitution of the country. The issue of resource control as recommended by the Conference, will help states to be viable and create wealth for the country.
As it is today, most states are contributing little or nothing to the Federal purse and at the end of the month, they get huge allocation from the Federal Government. The country cannot continue like this for too long. Our dependence on crude oil hinders growth in other sectors of the economy. With a restructured system that allows states to control their resources within their dormains and pay tribute to the Federal Government, the country will have more than enough to cater for its citizens, create jobs and take out about 91 million extremely poor citizens from the poverty line.
Furthermore, the education sector is haemorraghaging as a result of paucity of fund. Based on the recommendation of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), that at least 26 per cent of a country’s annual budget should be channelled to education, we urge the 9th Assembly to make a law which will ensure that at least 26 per cent of the country’s budget goes into education. This will help the country to build capacity that will champion its course in political, economic and social development.
Nigeria cannot afford to slip again, which is why the leadership and members of the 9th Assembly must do all they can to put the country on the right path through sound legislation targeted at proffering solutions to the plethora of challenges confronting the country.
The leaders at both Chambers must unite their members in carrying out this national assignment, for the love of the country. They must eschew division among members and bridge any gap that may pose a challenge to them achieving these tasks. Nigerians are looking up to them.