The Yiaga Africa Centre for Legislative Engagement has commended the decision of the National Assembly, particularly the House of Representatives, to resume plenary after a one-month recess following the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Executive Director , Samson Itodo in a press statement issued in Abuja said the resumption of legislative work will no doubt strengthen Nigeria’s response to the pandemic, deepen accountability and transparency and protect citizens’ socio-economic and political rights.
According to him, this resumption is coming against the background of increased cases of Coronavirus and its determination to wreak havoc on the nation’s economy and annihilate our population. As of March 24, 2020, when the National Assembly proceeded on recess, Nigeria had 44 cases and one death. Within the one-month break, the case profile has risen to 1,273, with 40 deaths spread across 32 states based on data released by the NCDC on April 26, 2020.
“This case progression calls for urgent action by all arms of government to prevent further transmission of the virus and mitigate its harsh effects on livelihoods.
“As the National Assembly resumes legislative activities, the Yiaga Africa Centre for Legislative Engagement (CLE) recommends the following pathways for an improved legislative response to COVID-19. These pathways require administrative decisions and legislative actions;
He said there is the need to Adopt e-parliament in legislative work: Given the shutdown of the National Assembly to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus, it has become imperative for the NASS to integrate e-parliament into legislative action fully.
“Yiaga Africa calls on the NASS to amend its rules to incorporate videoconferencing and teleconferencing to facilitate remote legislative work like committee meetings, public hearings, public petitions etc. to ensure legislative work is not stalled due to social distancing or lockdowns as a result of the pandemic.
“Yiaga Africa calls on the National Assembly to mandate its committees to subject all executive actions taken during the recess to legislative review especially enforcement of the COVID-19 regulations, distribution of palliatives to indigent Nigerians, management of COVID-19 funding and coordination and containment of the health crisis.
“The NASS should, in the spirit of transparency, engage with critical stakeholders, especially citizens, civil society, media, faith-based organizations, etc. in holding the executive to account for its actions. “The National Assembly should use its power of appropriation to increase budgetary allocation to the health sector and deploy necessary legislative oversight to ensure that the country’s health infrastructure is prepared to manage health crises like the one posed by COVID-19.
He said the lifeline of the COVID-19 will be determined principally by the responsiveness, accountability, transparency, and inclusiveness of the government’s response.
“This is the moment for democratic institutions like the National Assembly to demonstrate they exist for the collective interest of the people.
“ Yiaga Africa Centre for Legislative Engagement restates its commitment to supporting the legislature as it gears up to fight the COVID-19 pandemic through legislative action,” he said .