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Nigerian Legislators Have Enormous Challenges -Dayo Saka Fafunmi

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Dayo FafunmiMany Nigerians are ignorant of the works of legislators, in not a few instances; people equate lawmakers with members of the executive arm of government thereby expecting legislators to directly provide some facilities for them.

The lawmaker representing Ifako/Ijaiye Constituency 1 in the Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Dayo Saka Fafunmi, believes the people should not mix things together, while canvassing for more freedom for the legislative arm of government.

In this interview, Fafunmi, who is the Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts (Local) speaks on issues affecting the legislators in the country, the problem with the state’s Water Corporation, corruption and other matters of interest.

There is this issue of plea bargaining that is so rampant in the system, should it be continued or included in the Nigerian Constitution?

My stake on plea bargaining is that it should not be encouraged. It is foreign, it is not part of the Nigerian law, it is not part of the Nigerian system, it came as a result of judicial activism. In developed countries, the judiciary still looks at the causative factor, the reason for committing the offence. Here, it is not part of our culture; it is something that should not be encouraged because of our level of development and level of corruption. If a man is found wanting, he should be punished. If I know that if I loot the treasury and I get arrested and only few part of it would be taken away from me, why won’t I want to loot and encourage others to do so. It should not form part of our constitution; the constitution is not a document that ought to contain everything that we need. It is just a legal framework that guides our existence as a nation; it is not something that should contain even the list of the local governments. It is not necessary, it would bring unprecedented level of corruption in the country and you know Nigeria is rated as one of the most corrupt countries in the world; we should do things that would make people desist from corruption.

The proposed African Legislative Summit coming up in Abuja is seen as a forum, where issues would be discussed, what do you see as the challenges of legislators in Nigeria?

The summit is a platform where people rub minds on issues affecting them. When you look at the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the legislator is serving certain responsibilities such as representation, carrying out oversight functions and monitoring the executive. But, one major problem the legislature is facing is that most legislators do not have a free hand to operate, we are where we are in Lagos because of the tenacity of purpose with which issues are addressed, the seriousness of the legislature and because we have a Governor who understands the rule of law. We have cases where some legislators are not doing anything, it is the duties of the legislators to identify the need of his constituents and bring it to the attention of the government and if the policy of the government is not looking in that direction, there is nothing the legislator can do. He cannot implement any contract. The challenges of legislators are enormous; the constitution gives them so much power if they have the will to perform the functions. Secondly, legislators should be free from the whims and caprices of the executive. Most of the legislatures in the country still depend on the executive for the approval of their overhead expenditure, but Lagos is free from this based on our Self Accounting Law as approved by the House and signed by the Governor. The other challenges we face is in the area of representation, even things that are not our responsibilities such as the provision of roads, water, employment, so many things, we are being made to do them. We have been doing what we are not supposed to do, when we start facilitating employment, we are doing the work of the executive, when we start providing boreholes and things like that, we are implementing policies, that is the job of the executive. When people say Nigerian legislators are better paid than their counterparts in other parts of the world, I want them to know that they have more challenges than any other legislators around the world. People would come to you that their wives have just given birth, they would tell you they want to pay house rents, a landlord would walk up to you that the roof of his house has been taken away by thunderstorm, people die in your community, you cannot just condone with the family, you have to put your finances in it, it is quite tasking on the Nigerian legislators.

Does it not have to do with the level of poverty in the country as there is a report that an average Nigerian lives on less than $1 per day and it seems people don’t understand the work of a legislator?

I want to agree with you that there is poverty in Nigeria, but I do not agree with the statistics of the United Nations that 70% of Nigerians lives on less than $1 a day. We all know that Nigeria is a blessed country; we know that Nigeria with our population, it is a place, where you can have the highest return on investment; it is a country, where you can turn around anything to make money legitimately. I will not agree with that statistics, we are not as poor as the whole world think we are. There is hardly any family in Nigeria that would not be able to afford a meal per day and is there a meal that is not more than $1 or N160 for a whole family? It is not likely for it to be correct.

The budget performance, both in the state and the federal level has been hovering between 60 and 72%, how can we make our budgets perform better and let the people feel the impact?

Well, the budget performance of LagosState is hovering between 70 and 71% and we were expecting about 80% for the third quarter and the last quarter of the year, but the projection failed because of the activities of the country and the economy. When we look at the total revenue, federal transfer and the capital receipts, they are not all that okay and when you have about over N400 Billion to spend and people are not feeling impact, it is an indication that we the legislators should work harder and see areas we need to critically analyse. I raised the issue of Water Corporation and I will raise it anytime that it is an agency of government that if I have my way they do not deserve any allocation. The ones we have been giving them, we are not feeling the impact, no water, is there any new community that water corporation has given water. People depend on boreholes, even government estates have industrial boreholes, why do we keep pumping money into an agency that does not function, and that does not give us the desired results. The responsibility of the legislator is that your oversight should be result based, do they achieve the expected result after making the expenditure or else they should be sanctioned. I canvassed that more money should be allocated to Public Works Corporation (PWC) so that they can continue to maintain our roads that are in bad shape because we are going into election year and people expect much from us. The Ministry of Works and Infrastructure are actually building more roads, but the ones we have should be maintained.  The Water Corporation is in Adiyan and the area is an extension of Ifako/Ijaiye whereas our people have to dig boreholes, they give water to Ikoyi and Victoria Island, are they the only places in Lagos. If they cannot give our people water, Water Corporation should not be given subvention or financed by the government. They are even big enough to be generating revenue, they should be contributing to the revenue of the state rather than taking money and at the end of the year they have not achieved anything. They were given about N15 Billion last year, what is the result. What is the outcome of the reticulation they did whereby they are to take water to various homes, anyone that is using water would be willing to pay for it. A lot of people are falling sick because we don’t drink clean water, things are fast degenerating. In the same compound where you have the sewage is where you have the borehole. There is no way you can manage the sewage that it will not leak and pollute the water and everyone that is drinking such is drinking waste products. When the regulatory agency was set up, we saw it as a right step in the right direction, but ever since then we have not seen anything, I am talking of Water Regulatory Commission, we are expecting some radical changes from them, but we have not seen this. Now, we want to increase the water to 70 million gallons, it is good, but when you increase it and you are still serving the same set of people, have you achieved the desired result, the government should do the reticulation and increase the capacity of the corporation. Instead of just increasing capacity, increase the reticulation, you can start from one or two local governments and let us know that you have done that, then next year you go to another set of local governments rather than we not achieving anything.

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