39 Civil Society Organisations drop in NASS’ oversight functions

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Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, numbering 39, on Sunday, alleged drop in National Assembly’s oversight functions and other legislative activities from June 2019 to July 2020.

This was contained in a joint statement signed by leaders of the CSOs, which include Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, Centre for Democratic Research and Training, CRDDERT, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project, SERAP, Media Rights Agenda, MRA, Centre for Information Technology and Development, CITAD, Zero-Corruption Coalition, ZCC, Accountability Maternal New-born, and Child Health in Nigeria, AMHiN, Partners on Electoral Reform, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, PLAC. Others are 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, 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, 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, and Conscience for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution.

According to the statement the legislative year is June 2019 to July 2020, two months vacation, 56 days public holiday, 6-week Yuletide vocation,42 days,7-week coronavirus break,49 days in addition to 62 days for Saturdays and Sunday this means 216 days out of 365 days in a year.

“Therefore, the National Assembly sat for only 149 days instead of the 181 days prescribed by the constitution. The statement reads in part, “We the undersigned civil society organizations are constrained to issue this statement over the drop off of legislative activities by the National Assembly at a time when its role is more critical than ever before, not only to join the Executive in finding solutions to the unprecedented challenges facing the country but indeed to also ensure that there is no Executive overreach as emergency powers are being invoked to implement a range of measures, ostensibly to check the spread of the Coronavirus in Nigeria.

“It was therefore shocking to wake up to the August 19th directive by the leadership of the House of Representatives suspending all legislative activities including those investigative hearings that had captivated the nation.

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The House leadership relied on established global practice of suspending legislative activities while the institution of the legislature is on break. “However, given the importance of the hearings and the limited time available for the National Assembly to conduct reforms in nation’s electoral laws, review the Constitution, consider the 2021 Appropriation Bill, and attend to numerous other pending legislative assignments, there was no justification or reason given for the illogical step taken by the House of Representatives to suspend committee activities.

“We dare say that even if this decision was taken with good intentions, it is 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.”

The CSOs also called on the House leadership to as a matter of urgency allow various House Committees to commence legislative and oversight functions including suspended public hearings. “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.

“We also call on the House to ensure that the reports and outcomes of these investigative hearings are made publicly available and that all those who are found to be culpable should be brought to justice”, it stressed. In conclusion, the CSOs also in the statement called on anti-corruption to step up in their performance against corrupt persons in the country.

“Finally, 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”, it added.

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