President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has advised die-hard critics of the National Assembly to debate on the relevance of the legislature to Nigerians, rather than criticising the funding of the National Assembly.
Lawan gave the advice in Abuja on Friday, while declaring open a two-day retreat organised for top management staff of the National Assembly and National Assembly Service Commission.
Lawan said: “What does the National Assembly mean to Nigerians? What does the legislature mean to Nigerians?
“We need to understand what the National Assembly or what the legislature is to Nigerians.”
He called for a proper debate on what the functions of the National Assembly and, indeed, the legislature should be, rather than talking about the jumbo pay of legislators.
“Where is the jumbo pay? We should be looking for value for money.
“Without the National Assembly or the legislature across the country, what we will have is no longer democracy anymore.
“So, the value of the National Assembly or the legislature to Nigeria is democracy.
“We always debate on jumbo pay, instead of what should be the functions of lawmakers. Our citizens should be able hold us responsible for what we are able to do and for what we are not able to do.
“Ask for what you think we should be doing, rather than saying ‘close the Senate’ or ‘close the National Assembly’. Do you understand the implications of this?
“If you close the Senate, for example, not because I’m in the Senate but the Senate is a leveller.
“In the House of Representatives, however, population is the major consideration; that’s why some states will have five or six members in the House and others will have more than 20.
“So if you say ‘close the Senate,’ you can be sure that there will be a day when people will cry foul of the tyranny of the majority.
“But you come to the Senate, what Kano State produces in the Senate is what Bayelsa State produces — three Senators from Kano; three Senators from Bayelsa.
“That gives everyone the advantage and the opportunity to be represented fully, properly and equally in the Senate.
“So that stabilises the system. It is the representation in the Senate that provides equality of states; it ensures that every part of this country is fully represented and protected.”
The Senate President said that the National Assembly was allocated less than one per cent of the National Budget yearly.
“So, where is the remaining 99 per cent? People, should instead try to see how the N125 billion to N128 billion will be utilised by the National Assembly system; what will be the output from the National Assembly; how useful is the output to the Nigerian public.
“I’m not here to defend the National Assembly but I’m here to encourage a debate on what the National Assembly means to us as a country, or what our legislature means to us as a country and as a people.
“If you don’t like the set of members in the ninth National Assembly, change all of us in 2023.
“Get better people but help support the system to function efficiently because that is your protection,” Lawan added.