DO WE REALLY NEED THE NIGERIAN SENATE? BY ABDULLAHI MALUMFASHI
About last month or so,the senate has been embroiled in a lot of news. This started with the non-confirmation of Ibrahim Magu, the EFCC Boss, to the summoning of Hameed Ali over the uniform issue, Dino Melaye certificate scandal, the Chairman senate committee on Customs’ letter to the Customs boss, Andy Uba’s forged results, Saraki’s 290 million car, to the suspension of Ali Ndume and so on.The list is just continuous. Even though they have been on the good side with the recent amendment of the INEC, the Senate has frequently found itself in the limelight for all the bad reasons. Looking at the issue of Dino Melaye for example, which generated a lot of uproar in the media, and later culminated into the suspension of Senator Ali Ndume for 181 legislative sittings (a minimum of a year’s sittings). It has been blown out of proportion, and many people have had their say on it.Even though the issue is somewhat controversial, politically themed and complicated, I didn’t expect the so-called Ethics and privileges Committee (which coincidentally, Dino happens to be part of, even though Sahara reporters claimed he failed a Moral Philosophy course in his undergraduate days) to recommend the sacking of the Senator who appealed that the matter be investigated! When an Online source reported that Ali Ndume would be suspended by the Senate, I didn’t expect it to be so soon. Even though I am not in support of him, because he reaped what he sowed, I am simply amazed at the level of ineptitudes those charged with making laws are. Even the constitution mandated INEC to conduct elections in case of vacancy in less than a month! One may wonder the relevance of this institution to our country, apart from perhaps sentencing the country to a lot of ridicule.
As far as I am concerned,I view the issue of Dino Melaye’s certificate issue from another level. To me whether Dino Melaye graduated from ABU or not is no big deal,(even though he showed evidence of his 3rd class degree last week). After all, it is normal to be in the Senate with just a Secondary School certificate. You heard me right, currently 5 Senators parade O-level as their highest qualification in the red Chamber,including the Chairman on Customs and excise, while many others are involved in certificate case forgery.
The main idea of a bicameral legislature is to have lesser people with much experience and also to provide internal checks to one another. In the United States and other bicameral States, the Senate consists of sound people who love their countries and work hard to serve them diligently. Most are also Professionals who intend to let the Country benefit from their vast knowledge of experience, while the reverse is the case in Nigeria. The senate is a den of former Governors, former party Chairmen, retired Army Generals, former Ministers, Drug baron(s), corrupt individuals and others who are simply there to remain politically relevant, at the same time benefitting from the country’s treasury. As if that isn’t enough,almost all the former Governors and others including the Senate President and his Deputy are being trialled in court for criminal offences. I never cease to wonder if this is a Senate or “a bunch of old Criminals”.
According to an analysis conducted by the Economist magazine in 2013, the Nigerian legislature is one of the highest paid legislatures around the world. Apart from that,they also receive numerous allowances including those not covered under the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission, in addition to the constituency allowances, which the constituencies have nothing to show of it. Approximately,the Senate is said to gulp a whooping sum of N60 billion a year! The Senate has”only 109 members”. As I write today, the Senate is yet to approve the 2017 budget submitted to them by the President since December,2016, even when the current budget shall expire by May 5th. Other important bills like the PIB and the anti- corruption bills were also shoved under the carpet. These and so many other reasons led to calls for their sack, as they have not imparted the life of the ordinary Nigerian.
Unicameralism is not a new thing. As of 2016, almost half of the World’s States are unicameral : having one House of legislature only. Countries like Egypt, Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Ghana in Africa all practice unicameralism. Some countries have even sacked their Senate chamber before. Since the current Senators have clearly shown that it does not have the interest of the nation at heart, and only bothered with furthering their politics or after the lucrative sum they get, maybe it’s time to abolish them. After all, it would save us at least N50 billion annually that can be used on more important projects. A stumbling block however,is that for the bill to be abolished,it is required to pass through the Senate itself and the State House of Assembly. I doubt if they will ever pass such bill. But who knows? Maybe we should expect a miraculous referendum from the President calling for its sack. The people would have no problem in accepting, having called for its sack and held numerous protests before. One thing is clear, that most of the Senators would be voted out,come 2019, if not sooner as some Constituencies have already initiated processes to recall theirs.
The question however still remains; do we really need the Senate?
Abdullahi Malumfashi can be contacted via [email protected]_