RECESSION : NASS MEMBERS ABSCOND FROM CONSTITUENCIES

The economic meltdown, which is currently ravaging Nigeria and her citizens, is now taking a hard toll on the members of the National Assembly. New Telegraph learnt that unlike in previous assemblies, where members of the nation’s apex legislative institution had excess financial provisions to live in grandeur and luxury, the members of the present assembly are passing through severe financial difficulties.

Investigations carried out by our correspondents indicate that many of the lawmakers have no sufficient resources to meet up with their constituency obligations. It was further learnt that many of the legislators now avoid visiting their constituencies due to lack of funds to attend to their constituents’ ever increasing financial demands.

New Telegraph gathered that the demands being made on both members of the Senate and the House of Representatives have more than tripled what it used to be as a result of the poor state of the economy, which has reduced the purchasing power of the naira.

Although the federal lawmakers are not being owed salary or allowances, our investigations show that their monthly and quarterly emoluments are no longer adequate to cater for the demands of their constituents.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Power, Enyinnaya Abaribe, who spoke to New Telegraph, confirmed that it is true that the comatose economic situation in the country is hindering the lawmakers from fulfilling their campaign promises to their constituents.

He also admitted that some of the senators could no longer visit their constituencies because they would be embarrassed when confronted with needs, which ordinarily they would have met, but could not, as a result of the deepening economic decadence in the land. Abaribe, who is an outstanding opposition voice in the Senate, said that the prevalent economic situation had vindicated the past administration of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which was demonised by the All Progressives Congress (APC), as the destroyer of the economy.

“Nigerians can now agree that PDP is a great party and former President Goodluck Jonathan, a great man. Our economy became the strongest in Africa under PDP and Jonathan. Unfortunately, in less than one year of APC’s takeover, the same economy has crashed and gone into recession. “On senators not visit ing their constituencies or senatorial districts as a result of the bad economy, I know that it is true, but I am not one of them, because I am always with my people.

“They know when I have and when I don’t have because from the beginning, I came to serve them and I don’t hide anything from them. But to say it point blank, the situation is neveimages-54r the same since APC came to power.

They have mismanaged the economy,” he lamented. Also, a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Anayo Edwin, attested to the fact that the condition is not pleasant for the lawmakers anymore, noting that it is difficult for them to freely visit their constituencies without facing embarrassment from pestering constituents.

“My brother, it is true and I am not ashamed to confess that it has become very difficult for us because what we are seeing is not what we bargained for. Before I came to the House, I made some promises to my people based on the problems they are facing. “I appealed to them to give me their votes, that I am coming to tackle those problems. I can tell you that I am doing my best, but it is not enough bimages-172ecause we now have very limited resources to meet those needs of theirs. So, lawmakers sparingly go to their constituencies because the demands are too much, compared to the available resources,” he noted.

A member of the APC from the North-West in the Senate, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, lamented that the economic situation had gone bad that he could no longer visit his constituency freely.

“You can see that we are on recess, but I am here in Abuja because I cannot go to my constituency without being ready to meet their demands. I am a grassroots politician and I love visiting my people because it is their mandate that brought me here.

Unfortunately, things have changed drastically overnight. I will not tell you lies, no senator or any member of the National Assembly will beat his chest and say that it is easy for him now because the economy is really bleeding. “As I am speaking to you now, there is an event going on in my state capital and I was duly invited, but I cannot go because I don’t have what it takes to go there,” he stated.

The lawmaker, however, expressed optimism that the hardship would not last forever, pleading with Nigerians to be patient and support the Muhammadu Buhari-led government to turn the situation around for a better Nigeria.

Corroborating this position, another Senator from the opposition party admitted that he was no longer visiting his constituency the way he was doing before the economy got worse. He said that he had to avoid regular visitation to his senatorial district because of paucity of funds to attend to his obligations to the electorate, noting that it had become difficult for them to meet their campaign promises to the people that brought them to power.

The legislator said that the situation would jeopardise the interest of the lawmakers in future elections because the electorate would think that thepoliticians deliberately refused to attend to their needs after being voted to power. Also, some members of the House who spoke to our correspondents confirmed that the National Assembly members were not meeting up with their constituency obligations as before because of the economic recession in the country.

A first timer in theHouse from Kaduna State told our correspondent that though some of them are not running away from constituents, but the unfriendly economic situation in the country makes it impossible to meet up with demands from constituents. According to him, most of them were indebted to banks and wondered if they would be able to clear their debts before May 2019.

“My brother, some of us are not really running, but we can’t attend to the deluge of demands from our people. For example, I sold my House in Gwarimpa to come to the House.

But with what we are getting today, I may not be able to build another house even if I spend eight years in the House. It is tough,” he said. Another Rep from the North-East confided in our correspondent that: “This vehicle (Prado Jeep), which I’m using, you won’t believe it, I took a loan from a bank for my campaign and I’m still paying. This is my second term, but we never experienced this during the 7th Assembly.

But things are really bad now.” As to whether some lawmakers were keeping away from constituents, he said: “It is true some of us are afraid to visit our constituencies because when you don’t meet people’s expectations, they tend to write you off and this is dangerous in politics.”

But another member of the House disclosed to New Telegraph that things are so hard that “some lawmakers no longer come to the chambers, but instead go about doing their businesses in order to meet up.” “If you look at the plenary, not many honourable members are attending sittings. It wasn’t like this in the past, but this is what change has brought us,” he said.

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