PRESS STATEMENT: Avoiding the pitfalls of the 8th National Assembly and Strengthening the Legislative Arm
As the inaugurationof the 9th National Assembly draws near, it is pertinent forCoalition of Civil Societies and Media Executives for Good Governance in Nigeria (COCMEGG), as a civil society group, to diligently urge the authorities to remain neutral in the struggle by the National Assembly to elect their new leaders (Senate, Speaker etc.). This patriotic advice is hinged on the abysmal performance of the outgoing 8th Assembly, which was bedeviled by the frosty relationship between the political leadership of the Legislative Arm and the Executive.
In a press statement issued by the civil society group, signed by the National President, Omoba Kenneth Aigbegbele and Secretary, Comrade James Okoronkwo respectively, the group urges the Executive Arm to appreciate the unique and salient role being played by the National Assembly management. In order to actualize this role during the tenure of the 8th National Assembly, the political leadership was engaged in avoidable bickering with the Executive Arm, which slowed down legislative activities, poor national budget realization, high incidences of private member bills and consequent poor rating of the outgoing Assembly in the annals of our history. This scenario led to Nigeria being acknowledged as the Poverty Capital of the world.
The success of any legislature the world over, depends on the ability of the bureaucracy to provide the needed guidance, capacity and support to members of the legislative arm directly or through their aides, employed to work with the members. It is noteworthy that since the emergence of the current management of the National Assembly a few years ago, the institution has been transformed considerably, despite daunting challenges it faced.
Despite these challenges, the bureaucratic processes deeply embedded in the layers of offices that make up the institutional structure is highly technical and must be insular from the political schemes in the in-coming 9th National Assembly. As the engine room of the National Assembly, management is politically neutral and performing its functions transparently and efficiently. As the conscience of the nation, COCMEGG advocates that there should be minimal interference from the executive arm as the struggle for the election of leaders into offices of the 9thNational Assembly heats up. The coalition strongly deplores the clandestine moves by negative forces to harass, intimidate, blackmail and draw the management of National Assembly into the scramble for the leadership of the 9th Assembly. At this juncture, it is pertinent to assert that previous court judgments have absolved the National Assembly bureaucracy of complicity in the election of the principal leaders of the 8th Assembly. Therefore, any attempt to drag the management into this current controversy over who occupies what office in the incoming National Assembly must be vehemently resisted by all well-meaning Nigerians.
The management of the National Assembly is walking a tight rope as its traditional role puts it as a bridge between the National Assembly political leadership, the executive, the workforce and other stakeholders. The coalition urges the Clerk to the National Assembly to remain focused and committed to identifying ways that would strategically strengthen the bureaucracy in order for the National Assembly to perform its primary role of making laws and providing oversight functions to the executive to enhance sustainable develop in the country.
Therefore, in setting a new agenda for the 9th National Assembly, it will be wise to draw lessons from the pitfalls of the 8th Assembly in order to forge a mutually beneficial relationship with the Executive. A popular adage says “if two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” This perceived cordial relationship will consolidate on the gains and avoid pains that were associated with the outgoing Assembly. It will, as well, strengthen the legislative process, outline the programme of action to achieve set objectives; identify legislative priorities and draw up a specific development blue-print that would lift Nigeria from its economic dungeon. This relationship will also guide the National Assembly in drawing fiscal frame-work that will resolve the economic and social needs of all and sundry.
As we usher in a new National Assembly, the coalition strongly admonishes the President to be open-minded, respect the constitutional independence of the National Assembly as is normally practiced in advanced democracies. In this respect, the doctrine of “separation of powers” must be respected by the all, as it is the only antidote for good governance, economic prosperity, enduring peace and security.
The coalition urges the President to hem -in some political gladiators who have hitherto desecrated the hallowed institution like in the case of “mace snatching.” Those unfortunate incidents portrayed Nigeria’s parliament in bad light.