OrderPaperToday– Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) championing the #OpenNASS initiative on Wednesday expressed worry over the state of the National Assembly website which is filled with blunders.

OrderPaper Nigeria previously reported its findings on the level of errors and misinformation found on the website of the federal parliament and, speaking today at a press conference in Abuja to mark five years of the #OpenNASS campaign, Yetunde Bakare of the Youth Initiate for Advocacy Growth and Advancement (YIAGA), bemoaned the inability of the National Assembly to maintain a functional website.

She said: “The National Assembly has failed to maintain a functional website with a list of dead members still appearing on the website as legislators. Also, defected members still have their details wrongly captured. The website does also does not provide information on the activities of representatives elected to serve their constituents.”

“Parliamentary documents such as acts, bills, hansards, notice and order papers are neither up-to-date nor easily accessible.

“Indeed, an arm of government that cannot maintain a website with accurate and up-to-date information leaves much to be desired,” Bakare added.

Speaking further, YIAGA’S Senior Programme Manager called for the inclusion of attendance records on the website as she accused lawmakers of skipping plenary under the guise of committee meetings, even though the constitution specifies the attendance of one third of members to form a quorum before plenary.

In his remarks, the Program Manager of Enough is Enough (EiE), Adeolu Adekola, explained that #OpenNASS is an advocacy campaign that demands an open, transparent, and accountable National Assembly.

He noted that the goals of the campaign are to publicise the breakdown of the National Assembly’s budget; replace voice voting with electronic voting; maintain a functional website and publicise the attendance records at plenary; work with the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Committee (RMAFC) to review and reduce allowances of legislators; and to provide an audit for the N1.15 trillion ($5.75 billion) it received from 2005 to 2014.

“Over the last two years, EiE (in partnership with Viamo) has focused on the first three goals. This has relied strongly on getting citizens to sign petitions using the toll-free hotline 55052 and online. As of August 31st, thirty-one thousand and thirteen Nigerians have signed the petition demanding an open and transparent National Assembly,” he stated.

On the issue of the NASS budget, a representative from BudgIT known as Tolulope Agunloye revealed that following several FOI requests, petitions and engagement, the National Assembly, under the leadership of Senate President Bukola Saraki, published the details of its 2017 N125 billion budget for the first time in 7 years.

However, he lamented that a proposed reduced and streamlined budget of N52.5 billion submitted to the National Assembly and the Presidency was neither acknowledged nor responded to, while the increased 2018 budget of N139.5 billion is yet to be made public.

On the issue of electronic voting, Hamzat Lawal of Connected Development (CODE) observed that while the National Assembly adopted electronic voting during the constitution review last year, the results of how each member voted has not been published for citizens to know how their representatives voted on issues that concern them.

The various CSOs represented at the briefing concluded by criticising lawmakers for what they described as “selfish and unconstitutional defections” and also for their inability to reconvene and pass the budget of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for next year’s general elections.

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Damilola Zebulun Adeniran
Damilola is a multiple award-winning Writer, Researcher, and Community/Sustainable Development Practitioner. His interests and experience span across media, academics, human capital development, and strategic planning. Damilola is a Paradigm Initiative Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellow. He is the first Nigerian in history to win the blog4dev writing contest organised by the World Bank Group. Also, Damilola's written work on violent extremism and sustainable peace in Nigeria won a PeaceWriteNow prize, presented by the Embassy of Ireland in June, 2018. His works have been published in Nigeria and the United States of America, in English and in French. Damilola has also attended important meetings within and outside the African continent including the 2019 Spring Meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington D.C, USA and the West Africa Coastal Areas Management Program (WACA) Marketplace in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. He was also a special guest on a panel discussion titled “How creative industry can help to stem fragility,” which was held at the headquarters of the World Bank in Washington, D.C, USA. Furthermore, Damilola was selected as a Champion of Advocacy against extreme poverty and preventable diseases by ONE Campaign in May, 2019. An alumnus of the prestigious Lagos Business School and Federal University of Technology Akure, Damilola Adeniran represents Nigeria in the Youth Transforming Africa Program.

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