The National Assembly has resolved to engender public empathy about its activities through the creation of platforms where information directly emanates from its domain.
Top management and staff of the National Assembly past and present, unanimously agree that one major setback the legislative arm of government in Nigeria faces, is gross misinterpretation of its roles and functionality.
This consensus was made in Abuja on Thursday, in an event to mark the one year Anniversary of the re-launch of National Assembly legislative digest.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who was represented at the anniversary celebration by the deputy majority leader, Senator Bala ibn Naallah explained some of the misconceptions trailing activities of the legislature.
He insisted that Nigerians only read about how much members of legislature are paid, and are often in the dark about the sacrifices lawmakers make for the good of the country.
“Few know how many corrupt officials that have been exposed by the National Assembly through its oversight function in line with the constitution.
“For instance uninformed persons ascribe the functions of the executive to the legislature, leading them to appraise the tenure of their representatives by the number of infrastructural development influenced but not executed by them,” he stated.
“The National Assembly has been an object of public scorn, due to negative news about the legislature from the media.
“Whenever the legislative attempts to do its work properly and diligently it is accused of delaying or truncating the system,” he stressed.
However, he expressed confidence that with the revival of the Legislative digest and other information media, the anomalies can be corrected.
He stated that depending on the quality of reporting, Nigeria’s democracy can either be enhanced or destroyed by the media.
Also, the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Publicity, Abdurrazak Nandas, in his remarks, said budget passage is one of the causes of present bad image of the National Assembly.
He said some people believe that the budget is meant for only the 469 members of the National Assembly, adding that the National Assembly has staff that are not lawmakers, affiliated organs of the National Assembly, like the National Assembly Commission and NILDS that are also on the payroll of the National Assembly.
To further clear the air about empty seats during plenary sessions, he emphasized that it is not out of place and it doesn’t mean the absent lawmakers are not working.
“National Assembly members have oversight duties that warrant their absence during plenary; for instance, lawmakers at this event, their seats will be empty in the chambers.
“We risk life to make laws, to the extent that our chambers can be invaded too by hoodlums,” he said.
In recent time, the National Assembly has intensified efforts in telling their own side of the story.
Just a month ago, the Nigerian Institute for Legislative Studies (NILDS), organised training workshop for state assemblies clerks, tasking them to facilitate access to information by the public, creating websites with up to date information about the activities of the state legislature.
With the revival of the moribund Legislative Digest, that was established in 2010, with the aim of closing the information gap between the lawmakers and the public, there is the fear that it may become a propaganda tool, just like every other government owned media organisations.