Lawmakers hardly represent the people – Ugwuanyi

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Ifeanyi-UgwuanyiEnugu State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, on Wednesday chastised members of the National Assembly, saying they “hardly” operate as representatives of the people, which they are supposed to be.

Ugwuanyi was a member of the House of Representatives until he was elected governor in the 2015 elections.

He spoke while delivering a paper titled ‘Legislation as an instrument for social justice in a growing democracy’ at the 55th Founders’ Day Lecture of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Highlighting what he described as “key pitfalls in the present system of governance,” Ugwuanyi said it was unfortunate that federal lawmakers were not accessible to their constituents, who they are supposed to be representing.

The governor equally noted that it was unfortunate that the National Assembly had not been effective in sustaining democracy.

“There is an unfortunate pervasive perception that the National Assembly has not generally functioned as an instrument for sustaining democracy.

“In this direction it is opined that the members are inaccessible and hardly operate as representatives, in form of dearth of formal contacts between them and their constituents.

“The constituency offices that ought to provide a rallying point are hardly functional across Nigeria, making it difficult for the constituents to reach their representatives,” Ugwuanyi said.

He also identified the high turnover of legislators, and what he described as the decline in the public image of the lawmakers, as challenges which undermine the effectiveness of the National Assembly.

In the same vein, he said there was a need to address the lack of transparency and accountability in the operations of the National Assembly.

Ugwuanyi said, “Beyond capacity issues, which hobble the effectiveness and efficiency of work in the National Assembly, two critical areas of concern which appear to have consequences on the ability of the National Assembly members to act as harbingers of democratic change are the rising attrition in the number of returning members which currently stands at about 30 per cent in the past twelve years, and the downward spiral in members’ image.

“Again, there is still the nagging question on lack of transparency and accountability in the operations of the National Assembly.

“The dominant view is that there is an urgent need for the assembly to open up its legislative process and financial transactions, particularly the salaries and allowances of members to the scrutiny and input of the public.

“This will go a long way in correcting the pervading and largely false impression that the assembly is a compromised institution whose membership earn so much and do so little.”

Ugwuanyi noted that the country’s socio-economic indices had remained grim despite reported economic growth.

He said there were concerns within government circles over the development. (Punch)

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