The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has challenged those who are critical of the National Assembly to a debate on the relevance of the legislature to Nigerians rather than criticising the funding of the Assembly.
Lawan threw up the challenge in Abuja on Friday while declaring open a retreat for top management staff of the National Assembly and National Assembly Service Commission.
He 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.”
The Senate President 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.
Lawan said: “Where is the Jumbo pay?
“We should be looking for value for money.
“Without this National Assembly or the Legislature across the country, what we have is no 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 and 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 implication of this?
“You close the Senate, for example, not because I’m in the Senate but the Senate is a leveller.
“Senate is a leveller because in the House of Representatives, population is the major consideration and that’s why some States will have five or six members of 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 produces – three Senators in Kano and you have three Senators from Bayelsa.
“That gives everyone the advantage and the opportunity to be represented fully and properly and equally in the Senate.
“So that stabilises the system.
“That tells you that that representation in the Senate that provides equality of states is to work to ensure that every part of this country is fully represented and protected.”
The Senate President said the National Assembly is allocated less than one percent of the National Budget yearly.
Lawan added: “So where is the remaining 99 per cent?
“Yet instead of trying 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 are the output to the Nigerian public, we will always argue ‘cut the funding to the National Assembly. Its bogus.’
“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 because that is your protection.”