The National Assembly has been on recess for nearly two months now and from all indications, its members will seek further postponement of their resumption date in order to attend to personal political matters, to the detriment of the nation that elected them to do a well-paid full-time job.
Both chambers of the National Assembly went on recess on July 24, 2018 and are expected to resume tomorrow, September 25. The recess was done under dark political clouds because on that day, Senate President Bukola Saraki announced the defection of 15 senators from APC to PDP. 35 House of Representatives members also defected from APC. while most of them went to PDP, others went to smaller parties.
This was followed by sharp disagreement between the two major political parties as to which one of them now has a majority in the Assembly. Matters got worse on July 31 when Saraki announced his own defection to PDP. There followed a strident campaign by APC leaders, especially its national chairman Adams Oshiomhole, for Saraki to vacate the Senate President’s chair or be impeached. More recently, House Speaker Yakubu Dogara also defected from APC to PDP by picking PDP nomination forms. Another campaign has since started for him to vacate the Speaker’s chair as well.
Meanwhile, serious national issues have been stalemated because of the Assembly’s recess. Just before the MPs went on leave, Saraki read a letter from President Muhammadu Buhari asking the MPs to approve the Independent National Electoral Commission’s budget for the 2019 elections. The presidency appealed to the Assembly to reconvene in order to pass this budget, but the threat to impeach Saraki as well as the Department of State Services’ [DSS] despicable siege on the Assembly Complex on August 7 fouled the atmosphere and the plan to reconvene early was jettisoned. Since then, the two chambers’ committees have worked on INEC’s budget and reduced it from N189billion to N143billion. Yet, it can only be passed into law by the two chambers.
There is also the stalemate over the Electoral Act. President Buhari complicated matters by vetoing the version passed by the Assembly, saying there were errors in it. Unless the amended electoral act is passed into law, key tools such as the card reader will not be covered by law and could jeopardise the integrity of the 2019 elections.
As it is, this week’s resumption date also comes in the heat of party primaries. Most of the MPs are seeking re-election and it is unlikely that they will turn up in Abuja this week while the primaries they are contesting in are yet to conclude. We must therefore urge the parties to put heads together with Assembly leaders and work out a formula that enables the MPs to resume work and attend to urgent national matters. Contesting in party primaries is futile if lack of passing INEC’s budget and the Electoral Act jeopardise the main elections of next year.
As to the matter of impeachments and threatened changes in National Assembly leadership, the main parties should also seek a truce and postpone the showdown to a later date while we clear the table of pressing election matters. There is enough time after the primaries for them to do all the battle they like.