Scrap Senate to reduce cost of governance — Aisha Yesufu

A renowned political and civil rights activist, Aisha Yesufu, has called for the scrapping of the Nigerian Senate to reduce cost of governance.

Yesufu, co-founder of the Bring Back Our Girls Movement, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Lagos.

She was reacting to calls in some quarters that the country should jettison the bicameral legislature (the two-chamber National Assembly) and adopt a unicameral legislature to reduce the cost of governance.

NAN reports that a unicameral legislature is a system with one chamber or house, as opposed to a bicameral legislature, which has two chambers (the Senate and House of Representatives).

Some countries with unicameral legislatures include China (National People’s Congress), Sweden (Riksdag), Norway (Storting), Denmark (Folketing), and Portugal (Assembly of the Republic).

The activist said they could alternatively consider re-introduction of the parliamentary system of government to reduce the heavy funds spent on the National Assembly.

According to her, until something is done about the cost of running government and corruption, Nigerians will not feel the dividends of democracy.

“We need to really and critically examine our democracy, look at what fits us, and serve the ordinary people and the masses. The one that will not be too expensive.

“What we have now is too expensive. We need to cut costs and not just continue what we have that has not been working for Nigerians.

“I totally support the call for us to have a unicameral legislature and the scrapping of the Senate; it is very important because the kind of governance that we are practicing is very expensive.

“As a country, we really don’t have that kind of money. Apart from this, the fact is that both the Senate and House of Representatives end up duplicating functions in terms of what they do,” Yesufu said.

She said the Senate had been turned into ”a retirement home for a lot of incompetent and failed governors who didn’t do anywhere well for the people in their state.”

She said that Nigerians had continued to bear the brunt of the resources annually allocated to these political retirees in the Senate.

Yesufu added: “It (Senate) is a joke ground; we cannot say what the Senate does is in a really sense different from what the House of Representatives does.

“They (Senators) do nothing special, and at the end of the day, they are paid humongous amounts of our money and such huge allowances for doing nothing different.

“We found out that a good number of them, especially those that are former governors, while they get this humongous salary, they are also collecting pensions from their respective states.

“There is no way democracy can work for the masses with this kind of waste of public funds that could have been directed to put happiness in the face of the common man.”

According to her, Senegal is practicing a unicameral legislature after abolishing the Senate for the second time in September 2012.

She said, “The House of Representatives is enough for it to be able to take care of the law-making aspect of the nation, oversights, and other things that the legislative arm of government does.

“Unicameral legislatures should be adopted in Nigeria because bicameralism is too expensive, apart from the fact that it slows down the business of lawmaking.

“It is not working for us; we don’t have the kind of money to run it and maintain it, especially at a time when the masses are suffering.

“Having a single legislative arm will pay us better in terms of reducing the cost of governance,” she said.

Yesufu decried that Nigeria had not, in a real sense, been practicing a true federal system of government.

Speaking further, the activist said the country could also adopt the parliamentary system of government to reduce the cost of governance.

She said that Nigeria could no longer sustain the current presidential system of government.

“This will also pay us in terms of reduction of the cost of governance because whoever is leading the country is the one that is the first among equals.

“Ministers in this system are selected from members of parliament that are elected.

“So, that reduces the cost of governance drastically and is better than what we have now, where separate people are brought in as ministers,” she said.

The activist said that both the bicameral legislature and the presidential system of government had put a lot of pressure on the nation’s resources.

“We can have a parliamentary system of government; we shall be reducing the cost of governance drastically.

“The Prime Minister would not be this powerful and exercise control over everything, including the appointed ministers, because ministers are also members of parliament,” she said.



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