The Nigerian Senate and Citizens’ Action.

By Olusegun Hakeem-Adebumiti

News filtered in during the course of plenary at the Nigerian senate chamber last week that the ongoing amendment to the code of conduct bureau and tribunal act as well as the administration of criminal justice act had been suspended.

To some Nigerians it is a welcome development after the pressure was mounted on members of the red chamber to drop the amendment at this period.

The argument by these Nigerians were that the amendment is been done to protect the senate president, Bukola Saraki who is currently facing trial at the code of conduct tribunal. The senate however denied such claims.

Had it been that the senate president is not on trial at this period, Nigerians wouldn’t have been bothered about the amendment. After all, have we always care about what goes on at the second estate of the realm?

Many laws have been amended and subsequently passed at the National Assembly without us batting an eyelid. Also there are important bills (like criminalising rape and kidnapping) that Nigerians need to introduce to the National Assembly that are not been proposed.

Not to talk of the child act or freedom of information act that have been promulgated and yet to be domesticated in many states across the country but these are not getting Nigerians attention.

To me, Nigerians came down on the senate at this moment because of the circumstances that witnessed the hitherto suspension of the amendment to the CCB, CCT and ACJ Acts. We have never cared about what goes on there or have we?

Though it is a good omen that Nigerians are now been conscious of their environment vis-à-vis what goes on in the government, either at the executive arm or the legislative arm as well as the judiciary arm not to talk of the fourth estate of the realm – the mass media, and of late the social media.

When the news of the amendment to the CCB, CCT and ACJ Acts came up three weeks ago, the media played host to several human right activists, non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations as well as citizen journalists who denounced the move by the Nigerian senate to amend such Acts.

They argued that the amendment may spell doom for the government’s war against corruption and encourage impunity among public office holders and politicians. Foremost lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana also wrote a letter to the house of representatives and copied the Nigerian senate on the need to stop the amendment.

The social media as usual was the most active on the demands to stop the amendment by the senators. The phone numbers of the 109 senators occupying the red chamber were shared on Facebook and Twitter with their pictures accompanying it. Apparently to call the senators to order. That says much about the Nigerian spirit, the spirit of unity in the face of struggle.

Recall that the Nigerian masses took their stance against tyrannical leaders during the military juntas and were successful in their agitations for the return to democracy in 1999. This same spirit is still very much with us and must be used jealously to protect our collective heritage.

Government at every level in Nigeria must be accountable to the masses. Questions must be asked as to how the governments plan to protect the lives of the citizens. Senseless killings by armed groups must stop. Education and healthcare must be prioritised. Poverty must be a thing of the past. Our common resources must go round. That is
when we have succeeded as a Nation.

If democracy is defined as the government of the people, by the people and for the people, the onus then rest on the people to take their destinies in their hands. The time to ask genuine questions from our leaders is now.

Hakeem-Adebumiti writes from the University of Medical Sciences, Ondo.
Follow on Twitter @Hakeemadebumiti

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