Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has said that the National Assembly is the most misunderstood arm of government in Nigeria.
He attributed the misconception to the role of the legislature in stabilizing democracy and ensuring accountability in governance.
Saraki spoke on Monday at the first ever National Assembly Open Week (NASSOW).
He said: “We in the 8th National Assembly are directed by the voice of the people, in the full knowledge that governance is the collective responsibility of all arms of Government. The onus is on those who have been elected to be accountable, while the governed should also play their part by continuously engaging representatives, in order to put across their desires and get clarity on how legislators are working to help actualise these yearnings.
“However, it remains a concern that, because the legislature is the youngest arm of government in Nigeria, it is the most misunderstood. This is largely due to an abiding misconception as to the role of the legislature and the work we are doing to stabilise democracy and ensure accountability in governance. It is my expectation that this programme will go a long way towards helping to deepen the public understanding of the very real, indispensable work done by lawmakers, in line with our constitutional mandate.
“One evidence of the negative perception is the lack of understanding of the budget process and the role of the National Assembly, which is seen, unfairly, as holding up the passing of the budget. Nothing could be further from the truth. We promised and were the first Nigerian legislature to make the civil society part of the budget process through the institutionalisation of the Public Hearing process as part of the Budget process. For the first time, civil society has a voice at the table, with regard to the Budget. Public Hearing on the Budget as part of the enactment process has come to stay.
“Our Legislative Agenda includes core points including extensive oversight, core fiscal policy, budget scrutiny and passage – as well as transparency in the Budget of the National Assembly itself. I am happy to note that we have recorded many achievements in our oversight role; and in terms of budget transparency, we led by example; in a historic first, we opened up the National Assembly Budget for public inspection.
“In addition, electronic voting commenced in 2006 in this 8th National Assembly. We have a fully functional website where citizens can find information on their representatives in the Senate and the House. We also instituted live streams of plenary online, to enable citizens to follow proceedings in order to engage with and participate in the law-making process.
“The 8th Senate has passed more bills than any before it, and has resolved disputes in 138 petitions – this performance is unprecedented. We are working for Nigerians and by this Open Week, we are opening up even wider avenues for the people to get a better understanding of what we do, and to engage with us and make their views known, so we can serve them better.
“It is popularly said about democracy that it is of the people, by the people and for the people. This can only be so if the people are provided with the information they need to more actively participate in governance. We recognise that it is our job as lawmakers to ensure that Nigerians are carried along in the law-making process. It is our mandate to drive public policy that will improve the well-being of Nigerians. Staying in touch with our constituents will allow us to track the performance of these policies, and this feedback can be used to fine-tune or amend these policies.”