By Peter Usman://
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan has urged members of the public who have access to the media to help democracy to prosper in Nigeria by saying the truth.
Lawan made the appeal in his keynote address at the Conference of Presiding Officers of the Nigerian Legislature which began in Abuja late Friday.
The theme of the conference which is yet ongoing is public perception of the role of Legislature: Post Legislative Scrutiny and Independence of the Legislature.
Lawan spoke against the backdrop of attack on Federal lawmakers and misinformation that followed the recent leakage of the roof of the National Assembly complex.
The Senate President said it was unfair to assume that the N37 billion that was initially budgeted for the rehabilitation of the National Assembly complex that was later slashed to N9.2 billion had been embezzled by members of the National Assembly when the money was actually domiciled in the Federal Capital Territory budget.
“This is one demonstration and testimony of misperception of the legislature. As I speak, this is still going through the procurement process.
“But you know what, when there was leakage, some of these critics and haters and traducers of the National Assembly said the National Assembly had spent the money. They have finished the rehabilitation. Look at what is happening. They didn’t even care to find out what really happened. So they went to town.
“Without this legislature, there is no democracy. The National Assembly and legislature across the country are people’s institutions. Not members of the National Assembly’s institution or State Assembly members’ institution. It’s the public. It’s the people.
“So, I will always advise that members of the public, especially those minorities, who have access to media, should please help our democracy prosper. Tell the true story. Inform correctly. Publicise rightly. We welcome criticisms,” Lawan said.
The Senate President also advised the outspoken members of the public to give credit to the legislature when there are evidences of good performance.
“When it comes to given the National Assembly or the legislature credit, those who have access to media are either too economical with their ratings or even too blind to see very good performances by the National Assembly and the legislature across the country.
“This is one National Assembly that has broken so many jinxes. Last year, when we had to pass an amendment on the Deep Offshore Production Sharing Contract Act, Nigeria was earning only 216 million dollars before the amendment.
“With that singular amendment, Nigeria will earn two billion dollars. And that is something that could have been done twenty years ago but each time it came to the National Assembly, something happened.
“It is only in this ninth National Assembly that we defeated the demons last year and we defeated them yesterday (Thursday). These demons are people but majority of Nigerians who are not hard are happy with what their legislatures across the country are doing,” Lawan said.
The Senate President said the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) that was passed on Thursday is so central to the Nigerian economy and the lives of the people particularly the host community in the oil producing states.
He said the Assembly was able to pass the Bill through Legislative and Executive cooperation and partnership.
“I dare say that the legislature in Nigeria, both the National Assembly and across the states, are the ones that maintain and sustain the polity in Nigeria – I’m going to marry, somebody will call you. My wife is pregnant, he will look for you. Either state Assembly member or National Assembly. My son is sick. My son is going to school.
“Everything is about the legislator. This is the role that the legislator performs informally because these are not supposed to be our roles but we do them so well and more than anybody else. I believe it’s something that we have to live with but it’s something that we need to continue to enlighten the people.
“There are many Nigerians who are honest but they are misled into believing that the National Assembly, for example, every month the National Assembly members are given N150 million. A Senator take N300 million.
“Those of us in the legislature have this misfortune of been misunderstood, misrepresented but for the sake of our people, we must continue to bear everything and anything anybody will say.
“As we all know, the legislature in constitutional democracy ensures the survival of democracy by fulfilling the responsibilities of representation, lawmaking and oversight.
“The legislature has been alive to these onerous responsibilities inspite of the enormous challenges confronting it particularly at the state level,” Lawan said.