President Muhammadu Buhari has said Nigerians have the wrong perception that members of the National Assembly are overpaid in the discharge of their lawmaking duties.
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President Buhari stated this at the launch of The Green Chamber Magazine, a publication by the House of Representatives Committee on Media and Public Affairs in Abuja on Wednesday.
The president, who was represented by Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, said contrary to the notion of Nigerians, the lawmakers do not just principally share money amongst themselves.
He explained that majority of Nigerians lack the understanding of the lawmakers’ functions, particularly after their plenary sessions shown on television.
He said the lack of trust in the lawmakers had made their critics not to see the enormous work they were doing for the country.
“Hitherto, the public perception of the National Assembly is that of a bicameral legislature where overly comfortable and highly-overpaid members merely stuff wads of currency notes into their pockets for little work done. This wrong perception has resulted partly from the lack of understanding of the enormous work of lawmakers, especially outside the glare of television cameras.
“But with a magazine that will be the authoritative source of anything that goes on in the House – motions being moved, bills being passed, national issues being discussed and constituency projects – the public will be better informed on the activities of the House, and this will in turn reflect in an improved public perception.
“In addition, it will help the House to tell its own story, rather than relying on others to take charge of their narrative. It is said that no one can tell your story better than you,” President Buhari said.
Professor Plo Lumumba, a former Director of Kenya’s Anti-Corruption Commission and Director of the Kenya School of Laws, who was a keynote speaker at the event, asked if the lawmakers are truly serving the nation as the country’s founding fathers, who he said were a source of inspiration across Africa.
He said, “I read your great founding leaders. I read the works of Nnamdi Azikiwe and I listened to him in those early days. He was as eloquent as he was passionate in telling Nigerians and Africans – because he was called the Zik of Africa – that leadership is about service. This magazine is an occasion for you to demonstrate to Africa that you are servant-leaders.
“I did not only read about Nnamdi Azikiwe, I also read about Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa in his younger days – eloquent and passionate about Nigeria. You may not have agreed with all that he said and did, but you cannot deny the fact, the clarity of vision and the need for marshalling the people as the only antidote to the problems that have afflicted Nigeria, and by extension Africa.
“Now that you have been given the honour and privilege of serving Nigeria, now that Nigerians and Africans refer to you as honourable members, the question is: are you honourable members or horrible members? The question as to whether you are honourable members is determined by the service that you render to the people.”
In his remarks, Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives, stated that the country’s return to democratic rule was greatly aided by the role played by the press.
“I can say with absolute confidence, that our democratic settlement could never have been achieved without the noble daring of the press. Those unsung heroes who understood the power of the written word and wielded it in passionate denunciation of the tyranny that sought to consume us all,” he said.
Present at the event were Senator Ahmed Lawan, the Senate President, represented by Ovie Omo Agege, the Deputy Senate President; Ahmed Wuse, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives; Aminu Bello Masari, Governor of Katsina State and a former speaker of the House; Hope Uzodinma, Governor of Imo State, among others.