National Assembly: Why we need Mid-term elections – Hamalai

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Nigeria's National Assembly in Abuja. Photo: file
Nigeria’s National Assembly in Abuja. Photo: file

Director General of National Institute for Legislative Studies , NILS,  Dr. Ladi Hamalai, has proposed the adoption of the United States system of conducting mid-term elections involving not more than half of serving legislators, stating that it will help to safeguard institutional memory.

Such system, she said enhances the maturity and growth of the Legislature.

Speaking at the on-going induction course for fresh National Assembly lawmakers, The NILS boss, described the legislature as “the most democratic arm of government” and condemned the idea the idea of changing legislators every four years, adding that it had retarded the growth of that arm of government.

“The Legislature is the most democratic arm of government where you have 360 members of the House and 109 members of the Senate representing 360 Federal Constituencies and 109 Senatorial Districts respectively.

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“Each one is an independent unit of power created by, and deriving its functions from the constitution. So it is not subject to any other organisation. Any other organisation is a bureaucracy. And since it’s the most democratic arm of government, the sustenance of democracy will largely depend on the growth of the legislative arm”, she said

She also stated that such practice is responsible for the unhealthy practice of designating returning legislators as ranking members who enjoy certain preferential treatments at the expense of others, even though the presiding officers are called, ‘first among equals’.

She, however, said there are constitutional huddles in the way of such political reforms which is necessary for legislative growth.

“The need to keep experienced lawmakers for the growth of the legislature is a policy and constitutional issue. There are various systems worldwide where they fashion out ways on how to solve these problems. In the US for example, every two years they elect half of the congress in what is called mid-term election. Not all, in such an election, almost 90 per cent of the legislators are returned. In this arrangement, not all the legislators go for re-election at the same time. That is why you have lawmakers spending decades in the legislature with so much legislative experience.

“This has to be really debated on. Whether to do a constitution amendment to ensure that at least, 50 to 70 per cent of legislators are retained at every election, or better still we can adopt the US method which ensures that not all of them are made to go for election at the same time. It however requires an amendment to the constitution.’’

‘’There are other strategies we can also adopt. The political parties can adjust their behaviour by removing zoning from legislative elections. Take it off completely, we don’t need to zone legislative appointment and offices. If they can really appreciate ideological and legislative reasoning behind that, we all can benefit from it.’’

‘’Now it must not be that somebody is left permanently there. But at least, we know that we need some semi-permanency. So you can have a time limit instead of just zoning positions from one legislative session to the other. With that each zone is represented and the positions are rotated. By doing that institutional memory would have been achieved.

“Or better still, if we can have different starting points for different zones so that we mix experience and inexperience legislators of equal proportion with the experienced ones acting as teachers to the new ones through legislative processes and practises.’’

 

 

 


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