THOSE who have canvassed part-time legislatures have a point as the long recesses, high costs of maintaining legislators and their low contributions to the society are showing.
Lawmakers – the National Assembly rates high in this regard – place their comfort above every responsibility to those who elected them. After their inauguration, the House of Representatives proceeded on a two-week recess, awaiting better arrangements for their welfare.
Indications are that the break could be extended. The leadership of the House of Representatives claims offices for its members are not ready. Nigerians would wonder what offices. The microphones in the chambers are also bad, so their voices cannot be heard.
We would like to observe that in 12 years of civil administration, the House of Representatives has always had 360 members. There has been no increase in the number and the House whose life just expired had offices for the 360 members and microphones that worked as recently as the valedictory session.
Those who watched heard the sobs, the reminisces of what members thought were highlights of their contributions in the past four years and regrets of those who were thrown off the gravy train which is what the National Assembly has become in 12 years.
Did the former legislators depart with their offices? When did the microphones spoil? The joke is that some microphones could have gone bad from lack of use as many members were usually absent, slept during sessions, or were wide awake to ensure they gleaned information that would improve their welfare, even if they acquired fame for not saying a word in the House. They represented themselves.
The official position that the offices were not ready is as good as announcing the bid to equip them. We would be expecting new contracts for furniture, computers, copiers, air-conditioners, and maybe new generators to power the new offices. Everything must be new in line with the commencement of a new leadership at the House of Representatives.
Nigerians are not amused. When the cost of providing these offices and microphones are made public, they could be scandalous. More worrying is the fact that the previous members had these facilities. Whether they were adequate or not, it did not cause the House to proceed on a long break, during which they would still be paid for doing nothing, not even sleeping during sessions.
If the House can afford a long break, at a time Nigerians expect serious and urgent legislative actions for the general improvement of the country, in the comfort that whether its members work or not, they would be paid, a lot then has to be said for what the House of Representatives does.
Agitations for part-time legislators would then be justified, except that those who can change the law are the main beneficiaries of the sort of waste we are witnessing.
We expect the House of Representatives to return to work when the initial break ends. The claim of inadequate comfort is an insult to those who elected them. Nigerians are carrying on with life under worse conditions than any of the legislators will witness while idling in Abuja. There is no reason to extend the recess.