Nigeria to get the Guinness World Record for the Most Bills passed in 5 Hours. #46PassedBills

Abiola Afolabi

“Chai! N600 billion to service less than 600 individuals? This is madness at its peak.”

This is what a citizen had to say about the 7th National Assembly (NASS), which became history at the weekend.

However, as the newest set of lawmakers settle in, their outgoing counterparts remain in the news for passing 46 Bills in 5 hours; a feat no legislative arm of government anywhere in the world has achieved.
Setting records comes naturally to Nigeria’s lawmakers; they are the world’s highest paid, and over the years, Nigerians have voiced their agitation about the stupendous chunk of public funds earned guzzled by the Federal Legislators as wages and for the running of the NASS.

In the past few weeks, BudgIT and PPDC have been advocating for openness in the National Assembly, where over N150 billion of taxpayers’ funds has been spent annually for four years, without records or statements of accounts made available to the public. We had sent the 7th National Assembly an FOI request to release details of their budget and performance report to citizens, but its secretary/Clerk dismissed and denied this request, claiming they are private records. The obvious question is: what is private about public funds?

The Nigerian Legislature has spent at least N1.26 trillion between 1999 to 2014, and these monetary allocations to NASS are more than that of at least 21 States in Nigeria.Click on the image to see the states.

NASS

Nigerians pay N5.77 billion per Bill Passed.

The figures do no favours to the world’s highest-paid lawmakers, and it is exceedingly obvious why Nigerians believe the Legislative arm of government gives no value for the outrageous amount remitted into its coffers.

Remember that within four years, the outgoing NASS received at least N600 billion in budgetary allocations, with an annual average of N150 billion. The legislators only successfully passed 106 Bills into law. Meaning, Nigerians paid N5.77 billion for each Bill passed.

It gets worse, Close watchers have said that the vast concentration of the 106 Bills passed were widely believed to be government-sponsored Bills, including budgetary or supplementary appropriation Bills (which effectively disburse money or grant additional money respectively.)
Also in the mix were Bills authorizing the Presidency to borrow loans, seemingly at the discretion of both arms of government. Public debate has pointed out that of the 106 bills under reference, expert bills and public-interest Bills were in the minority.

This may well be why on the 3rd of June, the Senate surprised everyone by utterly dumping their own rules and passing 46 bills in only five hours.
Even more outrageous is that this happened just a few days to the end of the 7th National Assembly’s four-year tenure, as though the lawmakers suffered a sudden tinge of civic duty so powerful they had to make up for the lost man-hours.

See the full list of the passed bills here.

No doubt, these Bills are beneficial to the nation, but there is a strong impetus to believe our lawmakers keep playing politics with Nigerians by prioritising certain Bills over the other, because there is no justification for delaying their primary assignment of passing people-centred Bills until the last minute. The fact remains that lawmakers are for making laws.Therefore, they must give value for money by taking the time to deliberate on said laws and make provisions for citizens’ input into these deliberations, rather than invoking a clause at the last minute to rush Bills through. This is not democratic, by any standard.

From our deductions, we believe that prior to the #46PassedBills frenzy, every Nigerian household paid the National Assembly N24,000 to pass 106 Bills in four years. This is very inadequate, because as we stated earlier this week, funds expended by lawmakers are not capital projects, as the wider populace does not directly benefit from them. Therefore, if the nation must spend at least N150bn every year on the NASS, then Nigerians must receive value for money, and whether we are getting value can only be accurately grasped with an #OpenNASS, where the books are open to public scrutiny, for enhanced accountability.

For BudgIT, value for money comes not only making a clear report of what funds go into the process of lawmaking, BUT also giving Nigerians value by making the process more inclusive.
For example, the UK legislature has a very active website which shows the bills and what stages they are in, when they are expected to be passed and you can even get an alert via email so you know when progress is made on a Bill and when next actions should occur. This will enable you follow through as a citizen if you choose to http://services.parliament.uk/bills/

Every Nigerian Citizen should understand that Public Ignorance is Government Bliss. If we do not ask questions and demand for transparency and track Government projects as well as the work of elected officials, we will continue to bear the brunt.

An #OpenNASS starts with opening the budget, but any self-respecting lawmaker knows it doesn’t just end there; the process requires more sacrifices.
The entire business of law-making needs to be obliged to the taxpayers whose sacrifice put today’s lawmakers in those gilded seats, in these “hallowed chambers” and ultimately in this position of power that has so far been wantonly abused.

It’s time for our new lawmakers to break the records once more, by making a break with the past, and moving to speedily enshrine a culture of transparency and accountability.