Coalition faults National Assembly for meeting less than 181 days in legislative year

A coalition of not-for-profit groups has called out the National Assembly for failing to meet for 181 days in its first legislative year as stipulated by the Nigerian constitution.

The legislative period for the current national assembly reached its first year in July with a series of holidays and a two-month annual vacation punctuating it along the way.

Under section 63 of the Nigerian constitution, both chambers are mandated to meet at least 181 days in a year, but the groups said, “the National Assembly sat for only 149 days.”

“They have had two months vacation, 56 days public holiday, 42 day Yuletide, 49 days coronavirus break, in addition to 62 days for Saturdays and Sunday. This means 216 days out of 365 days in a year,” the groups said in a joint statement, Sunday.

In a year schedule that was altered by the coronavirus pandemic, the National Assembly went on a seven-week break to help it put measures in place to avoid the spread of the disease.

But the groups questioned why the National Assembly was unable to perfect those measures during the nationwide lockdown, thereby devising “means of extending its plenary sittings and meeting the constitutionally-mandated 181 sitting days in a legislative year given the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The joint statement also raised questions over why the legislative hearings of the parliament were abruptly suspended at a time when “citizens who were rattled by the revelations coming out of those hearings were waiting with keen interest for their logical conclusions and outcomes.”

“It was good to see these activities continue even into the vacation of the lawmakers,” they wrote adding that August 19th hearing suspension was “ill-advised, ill-timed and unhelpful as it fuels all forms of conspiracy theories and interpretation of collusion and attempt to cover up fraud, especially given that the National Assembly is already plagued by a lack of credibility or public trust.”

“The National Assembly cannot afford another bad press given its already negative image and perception by citizens.

“We therefore urge the House leadership to treat these as matters of urgent national and public importance, rescind this decision and allow various committees to carry on with legislative and oversight activities, including concluding the suspended investigative hearings,” the statement said.

The groups called on the House of Representatives to ensure that the reports and outcomes of their investigative hearings are made available to the public and that all culpable officials are brought to book.

“We call on all anti-corruption agencies to live up to their responsibilities by following up on these investigative hearings to gather actionable evidence to prosecute those who have violated various anti-corruptions laws and regulations.

“There is already an enormous amount of information in the public domain and it baffles the imagination that anti-corruption agencies are sitting helplessly and tight-lipped at a time like this when they should be busy filling criminal charges against those already indicted by the evidence that emanated from the legislative hearings,” the coalition said.

Joined in the statement are Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Centre for Democratic Research and Training (CRDDERT), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project (SERAP), Zero-Corruption Coalition (ZCC).

Also are: Accountability Maternal New-born and Child Health in Nigeria (AMHiN), Partners on Electoral Reform Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, PLAC, African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), National Procurement Watch Platform, Say NO Campaign—Nigeria, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civil Education (CHRICED), Social Action, Community Action for Popular Participation.

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Others are: Borno Coalition for Democracy and Progress (BOCODEP), Global Rights, Alliance for Credible Elections (ACE), Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA). Tax Justice and Governance Platform, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria, Women In Nigeria, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD), Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC).

The remaining are: Women Advocate Research And Documentation Centre, Community Life Project, Nigerian Feminist Forum, Alliances for Africa Spaces for Change, Nigerian Women Trust Fund, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa, BudgiT Foundation, State of the Union (SOTU), Order Paper, Femi Falana Chamber, HEDA Resource Centre, Conscience for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution.

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