OrderPaperToday – In view of several criticisms lodged by members of the public about the outdated nature of the National Assembly website, the House of Representatives spokesman, Mr. Benjamin Kalu, has promised that the issue would be redressed soon.

The website has continued to receive several criticisms due to the outdated nature of information it bears. Recall that a report by OrderPaperNG had raised the alarm about multiple errors and outdated information on the site.

This was further reinforced on Monday by participants at the OrderPaper Online Parliamentary Engagement Nigeria (OPEN) webinar.

Executive Director, Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER), Mr. Frank Tietie, while buttressing the gap in communication between the people and the parliament, highlighted the deplorable state of the legislature’s website.

He said: “The presence of democracy resides in an active National Assembly that opens it’s gate. I do not think the National Assembly in the last one year has been responsive enough with their constituents.

“Take a look at the National Assembly website. Look at how outdated it is. I have been a follower of that website since the last two assemblies and I see how muddled up it can be; we have a website responsible for both the Senate and the House of Representatives which is supposed to be a critical tool in communicating with the people.

“The National Assembly website ought to be a repository of the most current information but it is not. When you go there, it is still grappling to give us feed that belongs to 2019.”

Similarly, a participant, Uche Ojuigho, suggested ways that the website could be rejigged and made functional.

“The question on the website is about committee records. You mentioned that (during the break), committees were meeting but there is no way the public will know. When you look at the legislative website of other nations, you see available schedules for committee meetings oftentimes hyperlinked with what was being discussed.

“When you go the committee section of the website, all you see is Committee makeup, you have no way of knowing when this committee meets, what they meet on and the outcomes of the meeting. That is one very actionable way of getting the public informed.

“If you look at the order paper hyperlink as of when I checked during this meeting, it was last updated in March of this year. The bill section was last updated in 2019. The proceedings are not up-to-date as well. These are ways the website can provide reliable information and resource from the horse’s mouth as against the few bills we can get on PLAC or OrderPaperNG“, she said.

On his part, Mr. Adebowale Olorunmola, Country Representative, Nigeria, Westminster Foundation for Democracy, advocated that lawmakers own individual websites and email portals to access their constituents.

He said: “How many lawmakers have functional websites? How many of them go to conduct membership recruitment activities. Most of them just shut down after elections and they wait till the next election.

“It will be good that the National Assembly becomes very open and this is a two-way communication between the constituents and representatives such as them having official emails through which people can reach them and they will also respond to constituents’ enquiries.”

Responding to the highlighted observations, Mr. Kalu admitted that the website of the federal parliament is flawed but assured that it will be corrected after a change of its management.

“I can tell you with all humility that you are right. The website is supposed to be more updated than it is. Am I going to make excuses? No. The part we are going to use to correct this is to change the management of that particular website.

“At the moment, it is being managed by the management of the National Assembly and I don’t think the same passion that we have is the same passion that they will have in media and changing these narratives.

“My committee as the media and public affairs that is supposed to build this bridge that will link the public to the House and sustain this engagement will go for it now. We will pressurize the leadership to take over anything that has to do with media including the website to be under the management of the committee.”

The OPEN webinar is the second in the monthly series designed and implemented by OrderPaper Nigeria to bridge the gap between citizens and elected representatives in parliament, especially against the background of the global coronavirus pandemic.

It was convened with technology support from dotCivics and streamed live on the verified Facebook page of OrderPaper Nigeria where hundreds of viewers followed and participated in the conversation.

The inaugural episode held in May, 2020 and had Mr. Akin Alabi, chairman of the House committee on inter-governmental affairs, and Ms. Nimah Arigbabu, a public policy expert, as featured guests.


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