State police tops Nigerians’ wish list for 10th NASS

• Warn Lawmakers Against Rubber Stamp Tag
• Seek Local Council Reforms, Merger Of Agencies
• Amendments PIA To Address Concerns Of Host Communities, PANDEF Demands

When the 10th National Assembly kicks off the business of lawmaking, Nigerians expect it to enact pronto, laws that would curb insecurity, ensure judicious use of revenue, uplift the living standards of citizens, and strengthen the federating units.

Baring their minds on what they consider the country’s most pressing challenges vis-à-vis their expectations from the current crop of lawmakers, they specifically urged the parliamentarians to revisit the issue of state police, reflate the economy, and reunite the nation, noting that doing so could halt the worsening insecurity, stem drift into anomie and engender national cohesion.

They also called for the reform of the local council system through legislative means to ensure that governance at the grassroots is elevated for the benefit of Nigerians.
Without word mincing, the Director General of the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission, Seye Oyeleye, said the new National Assembly should focus on making proper legislation that would guide Nigeria’s monetary policy.

To improve security, he stated that the 10th NASS should revisit the issue of state police.
“We keep suspending the issue of state police, which is bad. Nigeria is a federation; we need state police urgently because it will guarantee greater efficiency in our security network. A single national police formation cannot do the job alone.

“The 10th National Assembly must also legislate to ensure that every state has its police. There is also the Oransanye Report that was submitted. Some of the contents of the report need to be backed up by legislation.

“Furthermore, the present National Assembly should take a deep look into the gaps that are crying out for legislation in our monetary policy so that investors could be attracted to Nigeria,” he told The Guardian in an interview adding: “The 10th Assembly also needs to look at areas that it can enact laws to merge some of the multiple government agencies existing. Statutory laws back some of these agencies, which are duplicated. There should be a legislative proposal to merge a few of these agencies. The president himself cannot unilaterally merge some of the agencies. This 10th Assembly must focus on this particular area.”

Oyeleye also said that a critical issue facing the country is how to revive the economy, noting that, “one of the ways to achieve this is to ensure that your revenue generation is very active.”

For the spokesman of Afenifere, Jare Ajayi, insecurity is a major problem in various parts of Nigeria currently, adding that the state of the economy is also very depressing.

The Afenifere chieftain urged the lawmakers to revisit the issue of state police, saying:

“Afenifere is known to be an advocate of restructuring and our expectations should take a look at further amendment of the 1999 Constitution in such a way it would confer autonomy to all the regions in the country such that we would have something close to what we had during the First Republic.”

“If these security challenges and the failing economy are appropriately looked into, it will snowball into enhancing the welfare of the country. So, we look forward to the National Assembly to cooperate with the executive to address these challenges. By cooperation, we are not saying the National Assembly should turn itself into a rubber stamp. The National Assembly should project and make bills that will help the executive to uplift the country.

For the founding National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Chekwas Okorie, the 10th National Assembly is succeeding the Ninth National Assembly that had the tag of a rubber stamp, adding that it is the way and manner senators and members of the House of Representatives carry out the statutory functions that would stand them out.

“This National Assembly will endear itself to Nigerians if it gives priority to legislation that will free Nigeria from the pangs of excessive centralisation of governance. The present architecture of the Nigeria Police is not only counterproductive but the major cog in the wheel of every initiative to fight insecurity effectively. Nigeria is very large, both in land space and population, to have a central police command. I urge the Presidency to speed up an executive bill to usher in a state police and community policing structure. Previous National Assemblies scored poor marks in their supervisory and oversight functions. The predecessors of the 10th National Assembly were notorious for corruption and crass irresponsibility. Nigerians will be pleased to see an end to the criminal budget padding. The 10th National Assembly must shake off the baggage of the 9th National Assembly as quickly as possible. It must carve a positive image for itself without delay.”

Okorie, was, however, quick to add that it would not be in anyone’s interest for the National Assembly to be unduly antagonistic and confrontational to the executive arm just to impress some people, or show off their inherent powers.

He added: “Constructive collaboration between the two arms of government is what this critical time demands. The welfare and security of Nigerians and all lawful residents in the country should at all times guide every action of the National Assembly. It is fortuitous that the Presidency and the leadership of the National Assembly are in what promises to be a cozy relationship, but the admixture of the composition of the 10th National Assembly of eight political parties, calls for a high dose of leadership sagacity and savvy to sustain a delicate relationship with the executive arm of government, and at the same time serve Nigerians satisfactorily without attracting the suspicion of complicity with the Presidency to the detriment of the public.

A legal practitioner and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Niyi Akintola, also said: “I don’t really have any agenda for the legislative arm of the government other than to say that the functions, agenda, focus and other responsibilities of the National Assembly are clearly stated in the constitution and it is left for the legislators to embrace it.

“The other aspect is their oversight functions and it depends on them to rise to the challenges of governance.

“I believe that our National Assembly or lawmakers are as good as the president and governors want them to be. The legislators are as active as the Senate president or speaker wants them to be.”

According to the National Publicity Secretary of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Dr. Ken Robinson, the job of the National Assembly is well defined.

“However, I would urge the 10th National Assembly to enact laws that are in tandem with the desires of Nigerians and, of course, for the betterment of the lives and wellbeing of the people.

“At the moment, the issues of insecurity, the rising inflation and cost of living, the value of the naira, high cost of fuel and local refineries not working, etc., are issues bedeviling the country.

“They should cooperate with the executive in the interest of Nigerians to enact laws that will better the lot of Nigerians so that Nigerians can sleep with their two eyes closed, and afford to have three square meals a day.

“The other issue is the feeling of alienation and marginalisation and sense of division in the country because the country is currently disunited. So, they should also work with the President to foster unity.”

He added: “The first step they have taken, in the election of a Southern Christian from the South-South as senate president, has provided the resemblance of fairness and equity in the balance of power in the country.

“So, we expect that this National Assembly will take the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians above any other interest, be it partisan, or personal interests.

“This National Assembly should strive to be different from the 9th National Assembly, which many have branded as a rubber stamp of the past executive. That is due to the fact that the members seemed to have readily agreed with whatever the immediate past president brought before them, or whatever request he made without proper scrutiny, interrogation or evaluation of their merits or demerits.

“We hope that this National Assembly will provide robust engagement with the executive arm of government whenever necessary without necessarily being rascally, as it were.”

Speaking specifically on what the Niger Delta would want from the parliament, Robinson said: “For us in the Niger Delta/South-South, PANDEF, and our interest-associated groups, we would want a review or amendment of some sections and provisions of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) that are very unfavourable to the oil and gas host communities.

“We also want to see further improvement of the electoral process, strengthening of the electoral body to make it indeed more independent and ensure that the electoral process is more credible.”

President of the Arewa Defence League (ADL), Alhaji Murtala Abubakar, also called for improvements in the area of economy, security, and other social problems like education and health.

“Any reform or bills that would address these problems should be the focus of the 10th National Assembly. This time, it is not a matter of making laws, because there are lots of beautiful laws made in the past, but the implementation remained very poor,” he noted.

For the President of the Northern Youths for Development and Progress (NYDP), Danjuma Sarki, the lawmakers “should focus on bills and reforms that would enhance economic development.”

Sarki, who called for judicial reforms, advocated that the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation must be distinct from the Office of the Minister of Justice.

A Former Secretary General of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Elder Anthony Sani, said the lawmakers should prioritise the manifesto of the ruling party.

He added: “I do not believe that our challenges are the laws, but more on the execution of the laws. Mr. President is expected to use his manifestos for which he was elected and send bills for laws that can move the nation forward. I do not have preferences besides the manifestoes for which they were elected. But I pray they would not forget to improve the administration of local government councils, where staff members collect salaries without working. If the 774 local government councils can be managed effectively, it would help move the nation forward.”

To the Executive Director of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Ibuchukwu Ezike, the first noble decision the 10th National Assembly should take is to be independent, and not controlled by any other arm of government, but to be committed to addressing genuine issues affecting the Nigerian people.

Ezike said: “The second recommendation is for the National Assembly to work together with the executive arm to deal with the scourge of insecurity, corruption, abuse of human rights, the law and due process so that both Nigerians and the international community will begin to have confidence in our system and society. They must close ranks with the other arms of government to be able to address the issue of herdsmen who invade our communities, kill, maim, rape our women, and destroy our farms and property. They should be able to resolve the case of Boko Haram and armed banditry in the North because without securing Nigerians and their property (environment), the government has, itself, failed.”

He added: “With Nigerians and their environment secured, and corruption, and abuse of human rights addressed, the law and due process resolved, the National Assembly will settle down to its main assignment of making good laws and ensuring that these laws are fully respected and obeyed by the executive arm and Nigerians. By doing this, the National Assembly will have to monitor how the executive administers the laws for the good of our people, including not interfering with the judiciary in its administration of justice.”

The Coordinator of Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Delta State chapter, Pastor Edewor Egedegbe, also tasked the lawmakers with the performance of their oversight functions.

Egedegbe, who is the Executive Director, of Value Rebirth and Empowerment Initiative, said the failure of past legislators to check the executive did not impact positively on the people, hence the current state of the nation.

“The Assembly should stand on what it is expected to do. We are critical of oversight. When you fail to do checks and balances, people get loose,” he stated.

According to him, absolute freedom is anarchy in disguise because if you don’t question people in the office, there is every tendency for them to misbehave.

He, therefore, urged the 10th National Assembly to complement the roles of the executive by passing bills that would have a direct impact on Nigerians.

“So, the National Assembly should put on its thinking cap and roll out programmes and plans that would work smoothly for the overall interest of the nation,” he advised.

A political analyst in Calabar, Cross River capital, Mr. Michael Akpang, expressed a similar view, saying that the 10th NASS should not make itself a mere appendage of the executive, but rather propose bills that will drive positive policies.

He noted that the removal of the petrol subsidy has caused Nigerians unexpected hardship, urging the lawmakers to enact laws that would ameliorate the sufferings of the people.

“We had seen legislatures in the past that were mere appendages of the executive. This 10th Assembly should propose bills that will help to drive policies that impact on everyone’s life; policies that will impact directly and positively on the wellbeing of the people. If there are anti-people policies, they should stand up for the people and condemn such policies and ensure that such policies do not see the light of day.

“Today, the petroleum subsidy regime has been completely exterminated. It behooves the legislature to come up with laws that will ameliorate the sufferings of the people arising from the fact that the subsidy has been removed. This is the product that affects virtually all classes of Nigerians from the poor, the middle class and the rich irrespective of whether you drive a car or not,” Akpang said.

However, the Northern Christian Youth Professionals (NCYP), in a congratulatory message to the leadership of the 10th Assembly, urged the lawmakers to help the executive to sustain the war against the oil subsidy cabal and ensure that the nation’s resources are efficiently managed for the benefit of every citizen.

Chairman of the NYCP, Mr. Isaac Abrak, urged the lawmakers to collaborate with the executive arm to improve the living conditions of all Nigerians.

“Specifically, we emphasise the importance of sustaining and winning the war against the oil subsidy cabal, ensuring that our resources are efficiently managed for the benefit of every citizen,” he said.

State Police, Local Councils Reform Top Nigerians’ Wish List For 10th NASS

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