By Fidelis Mac-leva; DailyTrust
A peek into the qualification details of the members of the National Assembly by Daily Trust on Sunday reveals that a staggering number of the parliamentarians got elected with Ordinary Level certificates during the 2015 general elections, a development that leaves doubts on the capacity and quality of legislation in the 8th National Assembly.
A total of 45 federal lawmakers who got elected into the Nigerian parliament during the 2015 general elections to represent their various constituencies across the country were inaugurated into both chambers of the National Assembly with either Secondary School Certificates or Grade-II Teachers’ Certificates as their highest educational qualification, investigations by Daily Trust on Sunday has revealed.
Details of this, which was obtained after a scrutiny of the list of elected National Assembly members in the 2015 general elections as contained on the official website of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has left analysts expressing fears over the impact of such on the quality of legislation, especially in view of the fact that most of them are first-timers with little or no experience as it relates to debates, initiation of bills and motions.
Nigeria’s National Assembly comprises 109 senators in the Upper Chamber (Senate) and 306 representatives in the Lower Chamber (House of Representatives), but observers say most of them in the current Eighth Assembly are hardly seen taking an active part in proceedings. A check of the list from INEC website showed that 40 of the affected federal lawmakers, representing 11 per cent of the members, were elected to the House of Representatives while five got elected into the Senate.
The lists are separately titled: “Independent National Electoral Commission 2015 updated-elected Reps” and “Independent National Electoral Commission 2015 updated-elected Senators.” They are displayed on Microsoft spreadsheet in different columns indicating: state, constituency, name of candidate, sex, party, age and qualification of each member as at the time of the election.
While 28 of them were elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), 21 others got elected on the tickets of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), with their qualification details indicating that they either possessed the West African School Certificate (WASC), Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE), West African Examination Certificate (WAEC), General Certificate of Education (GCE) or Teachers’ Grade-II Certificate.
Although the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides for the possession of a School Certificate or its equivalent as the minimum requirement for election into the Senate and the House of Representatives, many critics have called for an upward review, saying the business of lawmaking, especially at the federal level, was a serious one that requires not only experience but a higher level of educational attainment.
Going by the 2015 elected National Assembly members list on the INEC website, an average of two representatives from each of the federal constituency in the country from the various zones got elected with Ordinary Level certificates.
Low qualification by zones
The list shows that the North-West zone comprising Kaduna, Kano, Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Katsina and Jigawa states, has the highest number of Rep members with low academic qualifications, totaling 11. Three representatives from the zone with the lowest qualifications are from Jigawa State, namely: the member representing Hadeja/Kafin Hausa/Auyo in Jigawa State, Usman Ibrahim Auyo (Grade II), member representing Kazaure federal constituency, Muhammed Gudaji Kazaure (SSCE) and the member representing Miga/Jahun, Hon. Saidu Yusuf Miga (Grade-II).
Three other representatives from the North-West with similar qualifications are from Kaduna State, namely: the member representing Kachia/Kagarko, Jagaba Adams Jagaba (WASC), member representing Kaduna South, Rufai Ahmed Chanchangi (WASC), and the member representing Ikara/Kubau, Yusuf Bala (WAEC).
Also from the North-West are three reps from Sokoto State and one from Kebbi. Those from Sokoto include the member representing Kware/Wammako, Abdullahi M. Wammako (Grade-II), member representing D-Shuni/Bodinga/Tureta, Aliyu Shehu A.A. (WASC) and the member representing Binji Silame, Saadu M. Nabunkari (WASC), while the only member from Kebbi State is Salisu Garba Koko, representing Koko/Besse/Maiyama (Grade-II).
The North-Central has the second highest number, with nine representatives who were elected with lower qualifications during the 2015 elections. Out of this number, three are from Niger State, namely: the member representing Wushishi/Mashe/Gukgora/Miriga, Garba Abdullahi (WAEC), member representing Gbako/Bida/Katcha, Muhammadu Bida Faruq (GCE) and the member representing Mokwa/Lavun/ Edati, Ahmed Abu (SSCE). Two are from Benue State while one each represents Kwara and Plateau states, respectively. Those from Benue include the member representing Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo, Christian Adaba Abah (GCE) and the member representing Makurdi/Guma, Dickson Dominic T. (GCE), while Plateau and Kwara have the member representing Jos North, Suleiman Yahaya Kwande (WASC), as well as the one representing Ifelodun/Ifa, Olayonu Olarinoye Tope (Grade-II).
The North-East has representatives in this category from Borno, Bauchi, Taraba and Yobe states. The only member from Borno is the one representing Maiduguri Metropolitan, Abdulkadiri Rahis (SSCE). In Bauchi, the member representing Torro federal constituency, Lawal Yahaya Gamau (WASC) also falls in the list. The same is the case of the member representing Darazo/Ganjuwa, Haliru Dauda Jika who has a WASC, while Taraba has the member representing Ardo Kola/Lau/Karim Lamido, Baido Danladi Tijos parading WASC and the member representing Bali/Gassol, Garba Hamman-Julde Chede having a Grade-II. Yobe State has the member representing Nangere/Potiskum, Alhaji Sabo Garba with WASC.
The South-West and South-South zones also have five federal lawmakers each that were elected during the 2015 elections with the minimum qualification requirement. Lagos State has five federal lawmakers who make the list in the South-West, namely: the member representing Shomolu, Diya Oyewole (WAEC), member representing Oshodi/Isolo-I, Shadimu Mutiu A. (WASC), member representing Oshodi/Isolo-II, Nwulu Tony Chinelu (WASC) and the member representing Agege, Adaranijo Taofeek Abiodun (WAEC).
The South-South has one member each from Rivers, Edo and Cross Rivers states while two are from Delta State. Rivers State has the member representing Akoku-Toru, Boma Godhead (SSCE), Edo has the member representing Egor Ikpoba, Johnson E. Agbonayinma (SSCE), while Dalta has the member representing Bomadi/Pantani, Nicholas Mutu Egbomo (WAEC), and the member representing Isoko North/Isoko South, Leonard O. Ogor (WAEC).
The South-East has the least in this category with one representative each from Imo and Ebonyi states, namely: the member representing Ahiazu/Mbaise, Raphael Uzodi Igbokwe (WAEC) and the member representing Ebonyi/Ohaukwu, Nwazunku Chukuma (WASC).
The senators found in this category are: the senator representing Adamawa North, Binta Masi Garba (GCE); Adamawa Central, Abdulazeez Murtala Nyako (GCE); Bayelsa West, Ogola Foster (TC-II) and the senator representing Imo West, Uzodinma Good Hope (WAEC).
The flip side
On the flip side, however, Daily Trust on Sunday discovered that about 24 of the federal lawmakers were elected with the highest academic qualification of doctorate degrees (PhD). They are made up of 14 members of the House of Representatives and 10 Senators. Out of this number, 15 were elected on the platform of the ruling APC, while nine came through the PDP.
The representatives with PhDs are: the member representing Uyouram/Nsit/ Ebesikpo Usutan in Akwa Ibom State, Michael Okon; the member representing Ihiala/Anhonu in Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Reginald; the member representing Alkaleri-Kirfi of Bauchi State, Mohammed Sani Abdu; the member representing Gboko/Tarka of Benue State, John Dyeh; the member representing Nkanu East-West, Chukwuemeka Ujam; the member representing Uzo/Uwani/Igbo/Etiti of Enugu State, Stella Uchenna Obiagheli Ngwu; the member representing Zaria in Kaduna State, Abbas Tajudeen and the member representing Kiru Bebeji in Kano State, Abdulmumin Jibrin (currently under suspension).
Others are the member representing Lagos Island-I, Enitan Dolapo Bau; the member representing Ede North/Ede South/Ejigbo in Osun State, Moyeed Olujinmi; the member representing Pankshin/Kanam/Kanke in Plateau State, Golu Timothy; the member representing Tai/Eleme/Oyigbo in Rivers State, Jonathan B. Nbina; the member representing Ilela/ Gwadabawa in Sokoto State, Abdullahi Balarabe Salame and the member representing Jalingo/Yorro/Zing from Taraba State, Aminu Ibrahim Malle.
The senators in this category are Stella Oduah (Anambra North); Samuel Ominyi Egwu (Ebonyi North); Ike Ekweremadu (Enugu West); Yahaya A. Abdullahi (Kebbi North); Rafiu Adebayo Ibrahim (Kwara South); Robert Ajayi Borofice (Ondo North); Olusola Adeyeye (Osun Central); Buhari Abdul Fatai (Oyo North); Ibrahim Abdullahi Gobir (Sokoto East) and Senator Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan (Yobe North).
For Auwal Ibrahim Musa Rafsanjani, the executive director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), the possession of only Ordinary Level certificates by a large number of legislators in the current National Assembly is a matter of serious concern, given what he called the character of the current legislature.
“It explains why there is poor legislative experience in terms of procedures and proceedings because if you have this kind of people, it affects not only the quality but individual contributions to legislative business. Although some of them hire competent legislative aides due to their lack of capacity and knowledge, we cannot expect quality from them due to the way and manner they came in,” Rafsanjani said.
Stressing that it was important for voters to know the kind of people they vote for to represent them, especially in the parliament, Rafsanjani, who is also the acting secretary-general, West African Civil Society Forum (WASCOF), said: “If you are elected with only WASC in the legislature, there is a huge gap compared with those in the executive, some of whom have 25 years’ experience.”
While advocating that whoever wants to serve in the National Assembly should have a requisite capacity and knowledge, Rafsanjani said there was low capacity in the current parliament due to the way and manner the elections threw up the candidates.
“About 70 percent of them are new members who are learning; some are not even interested in the legislative business but seeking for opportunities and privileges,” he said, adding that the best way is to upgrade the minimum requirement for election into the National Assembly to diploma, with at least 10 years working experience.
He said political parties should also help in fielding qualitative candidates with capacity and experience to deliver, as it is by so doing that there could be quality deliberations and debates.
Speaking in the same vein, a former speaker of Taraba State House of Assembly, Josiah Sabo Kente, said the quality of performance in the current legislature, both at the states and the federal levels, has dwindled, due largely to the low level of education of the lawmakers.
“In modern day democracy, you don’t just stop at School Certificate. This is why we are having low level of participation in the legislature because only a few attend sittings; some do not attend sittings because of their low level of education while some are coming there just to make money. I can even mention names of non-contributors in the National Assembly,” Kente said.
He called for a constitutional amendment that would raise the qualification requirement for election into the legislature.
But for Senator Dansadau, educational qualification is not the issue but voter preference as, according to him, the voters know their people very well. “Someone may have a PhD but may be weak in debates, so only the voter knows who are capable. But so long as the voter is taking money you will continue to have this problem. So, the key issue is to avoid money politics,” he said.
While calling on voters to jettison money and go for credibility, Dansadau said there could be many PhD members who do not have money to dish out. He said the current National Assembly has failed to perform optimally because it is bedeviled with political crisis, especially in the Senate.
Dansadau’s view is corroborated by a member of the Taraba State House of Assembly, Mark Useni, who said there should be a balance between capacity and educational qualification. “Some people have school certificates but do well, and I have come across some of them who speak and deliver well. Those that flaunt academic degrees have a questionable capacity to deliver well,” he said.
According to the lawmaker, capacity building is essential in terms of the qualification a lawmaker possesses, while agreeing that it is good to raise the current minimum qualification requirement for election into the legislature.
Umar Ardo, a politician, said what is critical is intellect and wisdom, which he said are lacking in the current National Assembly. “Most of them have low level of exposure and intellectual capacity; most of them go there for a job – something to survive without understanding the basic rudiments. Even for governors, there are those who know next to nothing. So what matters most is not qualification but intellect and wisdom,” he said.
‘No cause for alarm’
But the spokesman of the House of Representatives, Abdulrazak Namdas, allayed such fears, saying the 8th National Assembly is vibrant and capable of performing its statutory functions.
Namdas said: “Forty out of 360 shows that the 8th House of Representatives is a vibrant one. We have several lawyers, one of whom was only recently awarded the prestigious title of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). We also have professors and many PhD holders.
“Among all those that ruled Nigeria, only two are graduates (Yar’Adua and Jonathan), yet they performed. The act of lawmaking is not for lawmakers alone; we often conduct public hearings to collate views.”
On whether the current qualification requirement for election into the National Assembly should be reviewed upward, Namdas said it would depend on the views of Nigerians to that effect. “If Nigerians want it that way, so be it,” he said.