Nigeria Network of Parliamentary Monitoring Organisations (PMOs), Other Stakeholders advocate youth inclusion in parliament as crucial step in the promotion of democracy, diversity, and quality representation
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As the inauguration of the Tenth National Assembly draws closer, the role of the legislature as the live wire of representative democracy, especially in the area of youth and women inclusion, has been re-emphasised.
A Senior Programme Executive at OrderPaper Advocacy Initiative, Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq, re-echoed this position on Wednesday in Abuja at a Dialogue of the Nigerian Network of Parliamentary Monitoring Organisations (PMOs) themed “Setting the Agenda for Youth Inclusion in Parliament.”
OrderPaper Advocacy Initiative, Nigeria’s pre-eminent legislative think-tank and Secretariat for the network, leads its implementation of the ‘Promoting Open Parliament for Upscaling Legislative Accountability (POPULA) Project.
Taiwo-Sidiq, who spoke about Nigeria’s not-so-impressive ranking on the ‘Open Parliament Index (OPI),’ stressed that PMOs also play a huge role in ensuring a transparent and accountable parliament in Africa’s largest democracy.
Making reference to the just concluded elections, he stated that out of the 93 million registered voters, 39.65% of the Nigerian voting population are between the ages of 18 and 35, while 60% of the Nigerian population is under the age of 25. This, he said, makes it imperative for issues of youth inclusion to occupy a premium place in the legislative agenda of the incoming Tenth National Assembly.
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Also speaking in his goodwill message, Dachung Musa Bagos (PDP, Plateau State), the lawmaker representing Jos South/Jos East Federal Constituency, expressed worry that most Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the country go quiet until controversies are stirred up in parliament, urging the CSOs not to do so after the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly.
“I was at the Capitol in the US Congress, and I discovered that they have some misconceptions just like we have here. Only that their system is working, so I followed one of the lawmakers, and I discovered that people were not there. His aides had to call for people to come, but it’s a different ball game here. You find people filling the hall to its capacity here. If you are to hold a Townhall and by that, you, as a lawmaker, already know the quantum of transportation fares you will pay.
People advocate the scrapping of the House of Representatives or the Senate by looking at only the quantum of funds spent on maintaining the institution. Forgetting that democracy is the most expensive form of governance. So there is a need to look at the impact of the National Assembly.
You should be able to expect robust legislation in the National Assembly. Our major problem is leadership, from the point of governors and the president. We at the National Assembly are trying to bring a more robust leadership,” the lawmaker explained. “If youths are able to understand their agenda, it will help in making informed decisions,” he added.
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Commending OrderPaper Nigeria for putting lawmakers on their toes in terms of bills analysis and appraisal of the lawmakers, he said: “We will be with you at any point in the life of the 10th National Assembly. OrderPaper has kept members of the National Assembly on their toes, with your analysis and views. What keeps us as a guide in the National Assembly is the OrderPaper.”
Similarly, Vivian Idepefo, a journalist and member of the Nigeria Caucus of the African Parliamentary Press Network (APPN), urged media practitioners covering the legislative arm of government to ensure they are literate about the operations and processes in the institution to enable informed reportage and analysis. She also called for the deliberate inclusion of equal access for People Living With Disabilities (PLWD) across all facets of society.
The event, which featured a panel session and presentations on the 10th Assembly and Youth Inclusion by Kingsley Atang of the Youth Alive Foundation, Bridging the Gap between People and Parliament by Regina Udo of OrderPaper Nigeria, also saw the adoption of a communique by members of the Nigeria Network of Parliamentary Monitoring Organisations (PMOs).
Members of the Network include OrderPaper Advocacy Initiative, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (Centre LSD), Accountability Lab and Wewe Network Afrique.
Others are the Africa Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), HipCity Innovation Centre, Nigeria Caucus of the African Parliamentary Press Network (APPN), Social Action, Youth Alive Foundation (YAF), HallowMace Foundation, Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative (PLSI), Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA), Dataphyte and FixPolitics Initiative.