House of Representatives yesterday said that its members were facing undue pressure from their constituents over-high expectations.
To this end, the House said that members were developing various ailments and dying.
Represented by its Spokesman, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, the House spoke on a day it adjourned plenary for one day in honour of its fallen member, Hon. Ossy Prestige who until his death on Sunday represented Aba North/Aba South Federal Constituency of Abia State.
Kalu at a press conference shortly after the adjournment of the plenary was responding to a question from Journalists of why the report of most investigative hearings by the House never saw the light of day and whether the members compromised in the reports.
He said that there was no compromise, stressing that it was wrong for Nigerians to reason in that direction.
According to him, Nigerians had mistaken the functions of the Executive arm to be the duties of the legislature.
He said that expectation management should reflect constitutional mandate, saying it wasn’t the job of the parliament to implement the resolution and build social infrastructure but to make laws for the country.
He also attributed the delays in making the reports public to the Covid-19 pandemic which slowed down the pace of work, asking Nigerians to be patient with the lawmakers.
The House spokesman, however, said that despite the pressure from the people, lawmakers would continue to ensure that the dividends of democracy were made available.
The pressure from constituents is killing members of the National Assembly
He said: “You are aware Covid-19 slowed the activities of the House and the things we were supposed to achieve within one month, we spend three months on that because we spread what we were supposed to do across several months. Be patient with us and I can assure you that every report that is laid before the House will receive the attention it deserves. Our job is to lay the reports, make recommendations, take resolution and pass it to the Executive. Some of the reports before the House has been attended to, while others have not been attended to because of Covid-19.
“There will be a spillover from what happened last year. We are not ending the parliament today and so, whatever has not been done before now will be done. So, we have not been compromised.
“If this parliament has been compromised, you will see it in them. This is one of the poorest parliament. You don’t see them live in luxury. So, compromised in what sense? These guys are suffering. They are under stress. That is why most of the sickness they are passing through is a heart attack or organ failure due to pressure from their constituents. That is the truth which must be told. Whether you want to understand it or not, let the press know this. The pressure from constituents is killing members of the National Assembly. The pressure is too much. People are receiving a lot of pressure on issues that do not concern them.
The pressure coming from our constituents is way out of the scope. Those who are not supposed to build roads are asked to build roads. Those who are not supposed to build hospitals are asked to build hospitals. So, most members of the National Assembly are under great pressure and the resources to meet these expectations from the public are not there.
People don’t want to hear the truth, but I will tell you the truth that members of the parliament are under pressure. I don’t care how you go and report it. This is the truth and you can report it whatever way you want to report it.
“I am telling you that members of the National Assembly don’t have the kind of money you think they have and the pain they are passing through is affecting them. That is one of the things that has made the negative image of the House to last.
“Despite the pressure, we will continue to do our best because that is what we signed for. Today, I was on a radio station in my state and most of the people that called in were asking why I have not fixed about two or three roads and the anchor asked me to clarify the functions of the House.
“Many people misunderstand the function of the parliament and many of the members who don’t know how to explain to their members carry on with this pressure with little resources and it weights them down. Do you know that members of the National Assembly spend their private money to take care of their constituents and the constituents feel that the money they are spending is from the federal government? This is killing them. Go and ask any of them, from the Senate to the House of Representatives.
They are not finding it easy but we will keep pushing on because it is national service. People don’t understand legislative work. That is why we keep explaining that our jobs are not to build houses or build roads and hospitals. But are we going to stop? No, we will not stop because we are confident enough to carry the pressure. That is why we are here.
“Expectation management should reflect the constitutional mandate. The Constitutional mandate is that we make laws. The constituents are asking us to do the job of the executive and we don’t have the resources to do the job of the executive.
“So, when I hear the issue of compromise against the National Assembly or somebody telling me that a report is not ready because we have compromised, I get angry because there is nothing like that. We can defend the integrity of the leadership of this House to high heaven, especially under Femi Gbajabiamila. If a report is not out, it is simply not out and not because anybody has been compromised.
“That was how there were rumours that Bill Gate came and gave us money to pass the infectious diseases bill and at the end of the day, there was no evidence to back up that claim. Yet, somebody is somewhere sponsoring this blackmail against the National Assembly to make us bad so that the focus of the lawmakers will be shifted. It is high time we start telling the truth as it is.
“The National Assembly is under big pressure and this pressure will not stop us from moving on. So, we will keep moving on, we will keep pursuing the mandate we have been given by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We need to tell the story the way it is. When you tell the public that we have been compromised, that is what they will go to town with because you are the eyes of the public.
“The story is not that we have been compromised, but that Covid-19 affected all aspects of our lives, including the work of the parliament and so, if there was any delay, it is because Covid-19 not allow us sufficient time to do the jobs that we are supposed to do. We will not withdraw from the job because there is always a rollover.
“Despite the pressure, we will keep pushing for the dividends of democracy for the people who elected us. There is no job that has no pressure. What I am saying is that because of lack of understanding of the role of the lawmakers by the people that elected us, they assign to us pressures that are not ours.
They are giving us the roles that are supposed to be played by the governors or ministers and then talk you down if you are not doing it. They flog you as you don’t know what you have come here to do. They don’t know that is not what you came here to do. It is an inferred burden. Nobody is going to be resigning because nobody is saying they are not fit for the job. But the expectation is misplaced and the accusation of being compromised is also misplaced.”
Reps to prioritize PIB, Constitutional Amendment, Electoral Amendment Bill, others
Regretting the effects of Covid-19 on the activities of the House in 2020, Kalu said that the House in 2021 would brace up to ensure that the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB; the Constitutional Amendment Bill; the Electoral Amendment Bill amongst others were passed in record time.
He said: “The parliament is determined to ensure that all the interventions that will drive the dividends of democracy will not be hindered at all this year. Our speed was affected by the COVID last year and this year, we intend to make use of whatever time that we have. Most of the legislations that we were supposed to speed up last year were encumbered because we were meeting for only two hours daily and so, it was not possible for us to work at the same speed we expected.
“The leadership is thinking of the use of technology to drive the process this year in other to achieve more this year.
“The issues on our front burner will be the issues that we have expressed in our legislative agenda. We are prioritizing few of them and these are the constitutional amendment, the Petroleum Industry Bill and the Electoral Act. These ones will take the front burner of the House and we will push it hard.
“The PIB has gotten to a stage where Nigerians believe it is impossible for them to get that piece of legislation. But we have the political will and the leadership is determined to ensure that the PIB becomes a reality. The process of working on the information gathered during the public hearing will start this weekend. Some members from the House and the Senate have been selected to work on that piece of legislation hoping that our target will be achieved, hoping that COVID will allow us.”
On Issue of State Creation
On whether the House will also prioritize state creation in the constitutional amendment just as the Senate had done, Kalu said that the Committee would look into it.
“It is also a function of the constitution amendment. You don’t just wake up and say you want to create states. States are captured in our constitution. If it was that easy, everybody will wake up and do that. The amendment will only make use of feedback from the public. That feedback will be used by the constitution review committee. If state creation is one of them, it will be looked at by the committee amongst other issues.
So that balance and equity are created in-country to command National loyalty among citizens of the country”, he said.