Hon. Akin Alabi has decided to answer a burning question which many Nigerians have asked million times.
The question is; Why do we have so many empty seats during plenary at the House of Representatives?
Hon. Alabi, representing Ona-Ara/Egbeda Federal Constituency at the federal house of representatives wrote the following…
Anytime I post on social media, any picture of me on the floor of the House of Representatives, there is usually a question that domainates the thread. The question is, why are there so many unoccupied seats? Some would ask: where are the other members?
The reasons are not far fetched. The first reason is because there are more seats than the number of members. There are 360 members. The number of seats are almost double the number of members so if everyone seats, there would still be many empty seats. Always.
Do you know that the joint session of the National Assembly (Senate and House of Reps), like during the president’s budget presentation is held on the floor of the House of Representatives? All the Senators, Honourables, Service Chiefs, Presidential aides, ministers etc all seat.
There are enough seats for everyone. Now imagine just members, it will always look empty. For me, my seat is on the last row. No one seats behind me. All the seats behind me are not assigned to anyone. That is the number reason why there are usually empty seats.
Here is the next reason. Some members can be away for other legislative duties. Oversight functions outside Abuja for example. This can take you out of town for some days. If only one committee (out of about 100) is out, that will be a floor less about 20 members.
Committee meetings can also account for some members’ absence. Normally, committee meetings do not clash with plenary so meetings are set for around 3pm. However, plenary stretches till about 4pm sometimes and members will go to their committee meetings. They’re that important.
Members look at the order paper, see if they have a motion or Bill they want to contribute to. If not, they go for their committee meetings. Let me make this clear. Debating on the floor of the House is a tiny part of the work of lawmakers. The real work is in the committees.
This question is often asked in the US. Google why is congress and and senate empty. You will see some enlightening articles. A lot of time, if you don’t have a Motion or Bill, to present or contribute to, your presence on the floor can be useless. Committee is where the work is.
Now, I would be lying if I say no lawmaker has ever “stabbed” sitting. Of course, some people do. But that is not the major cause of empty seats. The real reasons are the ones I stated above.
I hope I have been able to educate someone. You’re welcome.