Three months ago, OrderPaper Nigeria, foremost known for its dedicated reporting, tracking and archiving of legislative activities for the digital age, began disseminating data on the Nigerian National Assembly (NASS) midterm report card. The buzz generated from the postage of these reports questioned the necessity of bills sponsorship tracking in the legislature.
The NASS Midterm Report
The data analysis for this exercise was a review of the 9th Assembly federal lawmakers’ performance in terms of the volume, quality, and productivity of bills sponsored in both chambers of the NASS. The period under review was from May 2019 to June 2021. These midterm report cards are shared across multiple social media platforms, web pages, print, television, and radio media.
Interestingly, the categories of bills sponsorship scorecards covered areas such as
- Bills tally of each senator and rep member by state;
- Top ten newbies, female lawmakers, and “not too young to run” bills sponsorship tallies for both senators and rep members;
- Top ten senators and reps by bills productivity, which measures not just the volume but the quality and progression of moving these bills to become laws;
- Executive bills, establishment bills, senate and reps bills record tallies and progression.
- And ex-governors bills tally, bills tally by geopolitical zones, among others.
Public Reaction to the Midterm Scorecards
As expected, the release of these scorecards generated reactions from all quarters of the country. Ranging from largely positive comments to criticism of the data, lawmakers and Nigerians had something to say. Several of these comments from persons who engaged with the data commended it and likewise pointed out areas for improvement.
A section also pointed out that they had not been accurately represented in the data, either in terms of bills tally or progression. Largely such comments emanated where responders were not cognisant of the period under review. However, where any data was posted in error on the part of OrderPaper, corrections were swiftly carried out.
The other segment of comments came from a quarter that was of the opinion that highlighting bill sponsorship by lawmakers is not a sufficient yardstick upon which lawmakers’ performance should be measured.
Irrespective of the comment, the levels of engagement and reactions primarily showed that Nigerians were paying attention, thereby connoting an appreciation of the data provided.
The necessity of bills sponsorship tracking in legislature
Highlighting the criticisms from the quarter that opined that bills sponsorship was not the accurate measure of legislative performance. Lawmakers have an encompassing line of duties, including committee oversight visits to respective MDAs and ongoing federal projects, budget defence hearings, constituency projects, policy representation, and lawmaking.
It is worthy of note that bills sponsorship is an essential aspect of the lawmaking process and a core function of our lawmakers’ duties. While the volume of bills sponsored in itself might not be the core aspect of legislative responsibilities, ultimately, we are governed by laws. So it is relevant to know who is pushing for what and how.
Similarly, spotlighting the volume of bills sponsored helps expand the scope of data analysis and conversations into other areas such as bills quality and productivity as captured in the scorecards. Thus focusing the spotlight on bills sponsorship does not in any way negate the strides made by lawmakers’ in performing their other legislative duties.
Tracking the sponsorship of bills provides not just the overall tallies per lawmaker. Still, it gives insight as to the natures of these bills. So constituents can decipher the relevant impact to them when their representatives can push such bills into law. Likewise, it provides insights that evaluate the volume of the bills versus the level of productivity. We get to know if our lawmakers are just raking in the numbers or are they likewise matching it by ensuring the bills sponsored are not left as mere drafts but are progressing onto becoming tangible laws.
Additionally, bills sponsorship tracking spotlight on new lawmakers has also been highlighted. It is an excellent way to inform constituents of how well they have fared in representing them and if they will be suitable for re-election. In like manner, the data on ex-governors and long-time members’ performance is also analyzed as their level of political expertise is expected to set them ahead in carrying out their legislative duties.
Subsequently, female lawmakers’ performance by bills sponsorship helps open up another critical conversation on Nigeria’s dismal strides towards political gender inclusion. Lastly, bill tracking aid the analysis by geopolitical zones to provide a bird’s eye view on the current state of affairs of the constituencies in their regions vis-a-vis lawmaker’s efforts.
Therefore, though OrderPaper can expand the scope of its NASS reports in subsequent issues, the necessity of bills sponsorship tracking in the legislature is a core aspect of legislative reporting that must be given room to flourish.