Legislator-constituent relationship in Nigeria is fraught with several challenges. Nigerian electorates have excessive expectations of their legislators. The legislators, in turn, haven’t quite figured out appropriate and genuine ways of managing these expectations. This results in complexity in the interface between legislature’s promises and constituents’ needs and expectations.
A recent study by the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) has discovered that most Nigerians due to poor political education are ignorant of the core mandate of the legislature.
Using qualitative and quantitative analysis of data generated from 17 states and 28 constituencies, the YIAGA team found that the low level of citizens’ understanding of the legislature’s core mandate is as a result of poor and communication between the legislature and the citizens.
The study revealed that in a bid to secure electoral votes, legislators make promises not attainable within their constitutional mandate. Most campaign promises are framed in line with the dominant socio-economic challenges of a community without recourse to the constitutional powers of the legislature.
In 90% of constituents surveyed, findings show that unemployment, education, provision of basic social amenities like roads, healthcare and electricity are the key priority needs of constituents.
Furthermore, the study disclosed that citizens have an erroneous impression about constituency projects as they believe that legislators are given certain amounts of funds to implement projects.
Constituency town hall meeting has been rated as the most effective means of communication between legislators and constituents, according to the report. This is because it creates a platform where legislators can brief the people on issues that concern them, and citizens can provide feedback.
However, legislators rarely use this tool of engagement. There is a belief that the reluctance to hold constituency town hall meetings or run effective constituency offices is attributed to the fear that they could be used as structured platforms for galvanizing constituents for legislator’s recall.
Even though social media has completely revolutionized the way citizens engage, as seen during the 2015 elections, the study revealed that social media and technology has been under-utilized by legislators and constituents for legislative engagements despite its potentials to improve communication and information flow between legislators and constituents.
The study recommended the development and strengthening of effective communication channels between citizens and the legislature, as well as the establishment of operational constituency offices. It also recommended the prioritization of constituency engagements by legislators. It called on the National Assembly to devise a mechanism for monitoring constituency engagements of legislators.
In addition, the study recommended that constituents’ expectations, priority needs, and legislators’ promises should be managed and addressed.
The study, the first with a focus on the constituencies of young legislators under the Young Legislators Accountability Project (#YLAPNG), is YIAGA’s way of deepening legislative accountability and citizens participation. The project is supported by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).