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Nigerians Demand Better Living Standards from New Lawmakers - 2003-05-23


In Nigeria, voters say the return of less than half the original number of legislators to the two-chamber National Assembly is a sign that change was needed. They say because most of the former legislators were not re-elected, the new ones may realize that they must be more focused and committed to enacting laws to improve the lives of Nigerians. Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, says only eight of the 109 outgoing Senators were re-elected to the Upper chamber of the National assembly. And only eighty out of the more than 350 representatives were re-elected to the Lower chamber. In all, more than 450 legislators will be inaugurated as new members of the National Assembly at the end of this month.

Some Nigerians are asking their new lawmakers to put the country and its citizens’ interests first. They accuse the outgoing legislators of not achieving much. They say the last National Assembly spent time either fighting the Executive branch of government, or debating salary increases and allowances for themselves. Patrick Aguinede a member of the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party in Ekpoma near Benin City, says Nigerians expect the New National assembly to focus more on tackling problems such as corruption in the country. "The most important problem I think that is facing our country today, borders on corruption". Mr Aguinede adds, "we can see the effort of the government in trying to come from every angle against corruption, yet it seems little or nothing is being done". Mr. Aguinede says the assembly should also look at ways to create employment and improve existing infrastructure. "When I talk of policies and bills that can move the nation forward, we can talk about bills to facilitate repair of our dilapidated roads and construction of new ones; and bills that create employment for the teeming masses, that can also alleviate poverty".

Osaro Ibizugbe is a member of the opposition All Nigeria Peoples’ Party in Benin City. He says the legislators are taking office at a time when the needs of the country are great and people are not happy. "The people are grieving, they are not happy with what is going on. They want change to take place".

Among the many expectations, some say the new National Assembly should tackle the problems of the Niger Delta, once and for all. Okharedia Ihimekpen is a Youth leader in Uromi in the Niger Delta region. He says most youths in the area remain unemployed, even as their environment is devastated by decades of oil exploration and exploitation. "The problem of the Niger Delta is principally unemployment of its youths. The people are hungry as there are no jobs and you know that the devils workshop is a man that is idle and that is the problem of the Niger Delta".

Youpele Banigo, an Ijaw youth leader in Yenagoa, Southeastern Nigeria agrees with Mr. Ihimekpen. "If we want to operate a federal government - Federal Republic of Nigeria, then power will be given to the people. You cannot take my land and still make laws to arrest me. So give them the power, give them their demands, give them, they are constitutional, they are legitimate demands within the Nigerian constitution and within intercontinental context".

Recently some Niger Delta youths attacked several oil flow stations in the region, shutting them down and taking foreign workers hostage -- actions usually meant to drive home the youths’ demands for jobs and cleaner environment. This latest development forced the government to send troops into the region to maintain order and prevent further disruption of oil production -- the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy. But analysts say what the New National assembly should really do is create programs and policies that will take care of the bread and butter problems facing all Nigerians. They also say laws to reduce corruption and create employment for the teeming population of school leavers may make Nigerians feel they are enjoying the dividends of democracy.