I served as a legislative intern at EKHA from September 24 – October 28, 2010. Below is my report:
I found the announcement on this blog actually. It was posted by Rotimi Olawale through his Youth Development blog. Check AfricaLeadership.org around July to apply. Note that the Africa Leadership Forum also provides Entrepreneurship and Information Technology Training, with some funding capital available.
Background of Host Assembly
Ekiti State was formed out of Ondo State on October 1, 1996. Nigeria’s third period of civilian rule commenced in 1999. The Ekiti State House of Assembly (EKHA) has existed since.
The third assembly (2007-2011) has 26 members from two political parties: 13 from PDP the ruling party in the nation and 13 from AC the leading opposition party.
Halfway through my internship, the governor was ousted by court ruling and a new governor was sworn in.
I was attached to the Legislative department, where my basic responsibility was to observe Legislative Processes and the work of the support staff.
I was taught by the staff of EkitiLeg about the process (bill -> law) and all the documents involved. Never witnessed a sitting of the House of Assembly as there was none during the one-month period.
I resolved to either contribute policy writing or Information Technology improvements to the House members or staff. Since I found no need for policy-writers, I built the EKHA site at www.ekitilegislature.blogspot.com
By request, I also showed staff how to login and upgrade the site, as well as how to use relevant tools like email and Excel spreadsheets.
EKHA is an interesting place: Smart people, but scarce work. The working conditions too – crowded office (a permanent site is being built), limited funds for training, and again the limited engagement of the staff - make some staff find it an undesirable job.
Ekiti State as a whole is similar: smart people in an ideal natural environment somehow fail to create and enjoy wealth. Their understanding of enlightened self-interest is low such that they collude in reinforcing their poverty. Access to the meager budget (no more than $200 per capita) typically results in expenses (a car, a polo shirt, a phone) and not in investment (a good road, a new can-do director, a concert.)
How does this relate to the legislature and to issues during my internship? Well, a high-quality legislature would make laws which preserve the good about the state and repair the poverty by generating and rewarding industry. Instead, the business of our legislature appears to be politics, defined in this case as a contact sport a little like rugby or football.
Adoption of the website will be an issue since there is little internet access at the House of Assembly. Specifically, one modem from Etisalat or Zain/Airtel is used at the House. It does not get funded regularly – costs about 3000 Naira (20 US dollars) a month – and does not work reliably, and when it works is impossibly slow.
Clearly, all this created a challenge in making the site in the first place; work was delayed till one lucky weekend when ‘the network was up.’
Besides scarcity of internet, I think that a fear of treading on toes will keep permanent staff from working on the website.
The purpose of this website is to provide citizens (civil servants, individuals, and others) access to the laws and to the legislators of the state, thereby leading to a deeper democracy.
There are several opportunities to continue this process:
Currently, the site has a live news wire (very important for staff, as they enjoy delicious political news), names/constituencies/committees of serving members, some staff on the organizational chart, a single email address for ekiti.leg, links to the Nigerian constitution and Ekiti data, and a promise of a calendar.
Several other states in Nigeria, the National Assembly of Nigeria, and legislatures abroad, have websites providing legislator contacts, the laws, and a view of formal legislator activities. ALF can provide interns that can continue the website work next year.
Updates could include photographs of serving members, data on past legislators (name/constituency), complete staff list, phone numbers for each legislator, email for each legislator, the laws of Ekiti, the status of Bills, and a regularly updated calendar with house activities.
In addition, ALF and other NGOs/NSAs can help by rewarding State Houses of Assembly that have superior websites. This could be achieved through positive press, financial reward, or an awards ceremony.
Websites will be judged by how well they create harmony and a close working relationship between the legislature and the people they serve. At a minimum, they must provide access to each citizen’s representative, let citizens have the law at their fingertips. Citizens will be aided in overseeing the work being done in their behalf by their legislature.
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