Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, has lamented that the National Assembly is the most maligned arm of government in Nigeria.
A statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media & Public Affairs, Turaki Hassan, said the speaker made the remark on Friday at a roundtable conference on Civil Societies and Development Partners organised by the House Committee on Civil Societies and Development Partners in collaboration with Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) and Department for International Development (DFID) in Abuja.
“Permit me to observe that this Conference, with the theme: “Bridging the Gap Between The Elected Representatives and Their Constituents” is timely and apt. It comes at a period when constituents of parliamentarians are increasing interest in the activities of public officials, especially the performance of their elected representatives. It is also coming at a time in our nation when there is a genuine misunderstanding of the duties, responsibilities and activities of elected representatives and their desire to attract projects and services back to their constituencies, by way of constituency intervention projects.”
“There can be no effective representation if an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion exists as to the intentions and rationale for the actions of elected persons. The desire of elected representatives to make an impact in their constituencies is borne out of the need for service. No elected person worth his salt would be satisfied if he is unable to point out at the end of the day, what he has been able to accomplish within the period of his mandate.”
“This Roundtable is particularly important because there is a yawning gap between the activities of representatives and the recipients of his services. To bridge this gap, greater effort should be made in communicating effectively the activities of elected Representatives. We should have regular town hall meetings, regular consultative processes, and regular media engagement, if this problem is to be solved. Time has also come for democratic institution like the National Assembly, to communicate better, its processes and activities to the public. Time has come for the National Assembly to publicly answer any questions relating to its activities and funding.”
“It seems to us that over the years the legislature has adopted the policy of non-response when its activities are called to question. Most often a simple explanation is what is required. But when none is forthcoming, mischief makers, ignorant and misinformed pundits are left to fill the public space with lies, falsehood and misinformation.”
“This roundtable should therefore discuss and recommend the ways and means of bridging the gap between, especially parliament and the citizenry. The legislature is the most maligned arm of government even though it works very hard to fulfill its constitutional mandate.”
“The legislature is often misunderstood because its role is unappreciated. The work of the legislature is mainly intangible but the public hunger and measure of performance relates to tangible things. If a legislator works on a bill and gets it passed, the constituent may not take note, if a legislator speaks “big grammar” and makes meaningful contributions in Plenary or Committee, it is hardly noticed by his constituent. It therefore behooves on the media and Civil Society Organisations to step up its work of information dissemination and informed appraisal of activities of elected representatives.”
“Elected representatives, like the National Assembly must also institutionalise co-operation, consultation and involvement of CSO’s in parliamentary activities such as oversight, public hearings, constituency activities and Committee functions.”
“The House of Representatives in its Legislative Agenda, committed itself to institutionalizing mechanisms that will facilitate more effective engagement with various stakeholders including constituents and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs). It is time to activate this commitment.”