Yakubu Dogara, the speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, has said that it high time the National Assembly publicly answered questions about its activities and funding.
A statement signed by his spokesperson, Turaki Hassan, said the speaker made the remark on Friday, December 2, 2016 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 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,” Dogara said.
“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 institutions 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 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 constituents.
“It therefore behooves on the media and Civil Society Organisations to step up the work of information dissemination and informed appraisal of activities of elected representatives.
“Elected representatives like those in 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,” he said.