THE FACTS BEHIND THE OUTCOMES: KEEPING TRACK OF THE ACTIVITIES AND PROCESSES OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
A PAPER PRESENTED DURING THE PUBLIC SESSION ON THE INSTITUTIONAL NEEDS ASSESSMENT OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY HELD AT THE TRANSCORP HILTON, ABUJA ON THE 10TH OF NOV. 2015
The National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a bicameral legislature established under section 4 of the Nigerian Constitution. It consists of a Senate and House of Representatives. The Senate is the upper house of the National Assembly of Nigeria. It consists of 109 senators: the 36 states are each divided in 3 senatorial districts each electing one senator; the Federal Capital Territory elects only one senator. The President of the Senate is the presiding officer of the Senate, whose chief function is to guide and regulate the proceedings in the Senate.
The House of Representatives is the lower house of the country’s bicameral National Assembly. The current House of Representatives, formed following elections held in April 2015, has a total of 360 members. The Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives is the presiding officer of the house.
The Constitution has vested in the National Assembly the power to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of the Federation. The Assembly also has broad oversight functions and is therefore empowered to establish committees of its members to scrutinize bills and the conduct of government institutions and officials.
So for the National assembly to be able to deliver on these constitutional functions, there has to be strong and effective institutional structures and competencies delivering defined tasks that will help deliver on the constitutional functions expected from the National Assembly..
One key area in which the National Assembly has not been able to make appreciable progress is in the area of keeping count/track of National Assembly actions, activities as well as facts that define some of the outcomes that are eventually put into the public domain.
The achievement of the objectives of the National Assembly entails the scheduling and members participation in a whole range of activities that includes among others:-
- Holding of plenary sessions.
- Committee of the whole house meetings
- Sponsoring of bills
- Sponsoring of motions
- Co-sponsoring of bills
- Co-sponsoring of motions
- Meetings of standing/adhoc committees.
- Holding of public sessions
- Organizing visits to MDA’s for oversight functions
- Organizing/Participating in workshops, retreats and training activities.
These activities require the active and robust participation of distinguished Senators and Honourable members. There has to be a simple, effective and efficient administrative way of keeping track of these activities and also noting the inputs that go into them so that we can eventually reflect this into the outcomes that we have at the end of the day.
This process can be developed by strengthening some of the institutions of the National assembly such as the National Institute of Legislative studies (NILS) and the NASS CSO office. The Information and Communication Technology office in close collaboration with The Journal and Procedure office and working with the Library and documentation unit of NILS should be able to develop a procedure to guide this process.
The activities and items to be tracked should include but not limited to the following:-
A).The Senate/House of Representative
- Number of plenary sessions held.
- Individual members in attendance at the sessions.
- Number of bills presented for consideration and by whom.
- Number of motions presented and by whom
- Number of bills passed.
- Number of motions passed.
- Number of all outstanding bills and at what stage they are.
- Number of bills passed, assented and gazetted.
B). Standing Committees of the Senate/House of Representative.
- Number of committee sittings held.
- Which committee members were in attendance for each meeting?
- Number of bills received from plenary for consideration
- Number of public sessions held.
- Which committee members were in attendance?
- Number of bills transmitted back to plenary for clause by clause consideration
- Number of bills emanating from committee and eventually passed by plenary.
- Number of oversight visits conducted
- Which members were present during the visits?
- Number of workshops/training/retreats held or invited to participate.
- Which members were in attendance?
C). Distinguished Senators/Honourable House Members.
- Total no of plenary sessions for Senate/House.
- Number of plenary sessions attended
- Number of bills sponsored
- No of bills co-sponsored.
- Number of motions sponsored.
- Number of motions co-sponsored.
- Number of times he/she made contributions during plenary.
- Number of committee he/she is heading or a member.
- Number of times the committees had sittings.
- Number of committee meetings attended.
- Number of oversight visits expected to attend.
- Number of oversight visits he/she participated.
These items are inclusive but not exhaustive by any means.
Such process should be developed as a routine administrative mechanism for developing an Assembly data pool and not as a monitoring mechanism for it to be successful. Tools can be developed that administratively feeds into a template that is collated on a periodic basis that will now be published at the end of each session of the National Assembly.
The publication while being a document of the National Assembly should also be available to other stakeholders for research, advocacy and other uses.
Ayoka Anthony O.
Habitatcare and Protection Initiative