11th February, 2011
The Edo State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Osagie Obayuwana, has taken a swipe at the nationâ€™s lawmakers both at the national and state levels over their lack of regards for those who elected them into power.
He accused the lawmakers of not having constituency offices and not representing the people of their constituencies.
He also described as a national embarrassment the continuous neglect of the Freedom of Information Bill that is left to gather dust at the National Assembly complex.
Comrade Obayuwana, while speaking yesterday at the fifth Beko Ransome-Kuti Memorial Anniversary on a topic titled â€˜Beyond Elections, Building A Capable Stateâ€™, decried a situation where constituents do not even know their representatives who end up becoming billionaires once they are sworn into office.
â€œThe non-passage of the Freedom of Information Bill is another source of national embarrassment as far as democratic ideals are concerned.
â€œThe conclusion can easily be drawn that once elected, members of the National and State Assemblies become lords unto themselves with constituency offices, which without any doubt, only exist on paper and sign boards.
â€œQuestions can be asked about how many of these constituency offices can a citizen go to ask for copies of bills under consideration or laws that have been passed? This is only half of the story.
â€œAlso how many individuals and civil society groups can visit the constituency offices of their representatives and ask questions concerning such bills?
â€œHow many times have we taken up legislators on why their constituency offices remain permanently shut?
â€œHow many of us have the phone numbers of our representatives at the local government levels, state or National Assembly? Do you even know who your legislator is?â€ he asked.
Obayuwana, who agreed that democracy was beyond election, also maintained that there has been very little level of legislative activism at the local government level.
Even though bills under consideration are publicised, and in many instances public hearing is held on them, he said that contributions of the public are never reflected in the outcome of such bills.
â€œIn 2005, a number of members of political parties scrutinised the draft electoral bill and made a presentation to the Senate committee charged with the matter.
â€œI had the misfortune of presenting the input of the political parties to the committee. Before we could complete our presentation, more than half of the Committee members were out of the room and at the end, not a single aspect of our proposal was reflected in what became the Electoral Act 2006.
â€œI can imagine that there are several other pieces of legislation that have gone through the same process and many groups have their sordid tales to tell, one of which was the constitution amendment where the people were made onlookers.
â€œWhat is to be done is to come together and throw out these few people who are milking the people and would not on their own give up the privileges.
â€œIn the process, we must consider how we can build a qualitatively new type of state with a new orientation and focus.
â€œThe man in whose honour we gather here today did not label himself. He exhibited traits that should continue to inspire our generation.
â€œHe was forthright, tenacious, upright and he displayed commitment of unparalleled proportion. These are what we should be looking at,â€ he said.