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The 9th National Assembly: Balancing Between Independence And Co-Operation with the Executive

1st Jul, 2019 | By Sennen Udoh | ||

Nigeria's 9th National Assembly, a bicameral legislature, was inaugurated on 11th June 2019 with Senator Ahmed Lawan from Yobe State and Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila from Lagos State emerging as President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively. Given the legislative experience of these men, we believe that they have what it takes to provide dynamic, stable and productive leadership to the two arms of the National Assembly in the next four years.

We congratulate them with other elected leaders of the 9th National Assembly. We also commend the fact that their emergence was rancour free and bi-partisan. This is indicative of the preparedness of members of the National Assembly to work in the interest of Nigerians irrespective of their political parties. The relationship between the Executive and the 8th National Assembly was frosty almost throughout the first term of the Buhari administration. This was largely on account of the fact that Senator Bukola Saraki and Honourable Yakubu Dogara, Senate President and Speaker, emerged against the preferred candidates of the ruling APC in 2015. The concomitant effect of this was seen in the fact that although many bills were passed, a number of them were not given assent by the President.

As many commentators observed, there was no mutual trust between the two arms as well as the loss of stability and focus of the National Assembly. So much time and energy were dissipated on how to effect leadership change rather than focus on serious legislative duties. It is against this backdrop that Nigerians were deeply worried about how the leadership of the 9th National Assembly will emerge. Fortunately, those candidates that were preferred by the APC but schemed out in 2015 have finally emerged as leaders of the 9th National Assembly in 2019. By this, the National Assembly has now been brought effectively under the full control of the ruling APC.

Based on the comments and analyses of Nigerians, the total control of the 9th National Assembly by the APC has two-fold implications. First, Nigerians expect to see effective delivery of democracy dividends. Nigerians want to see an end to the myriad of security challenges bedevilling the country; they want to have food on their tables; they want jobs, good education and healthcare; in fact they want to see good governance anchored on justice, equity and accountability. The 9th National Assembly must be aware of these expectations and make laws that will support the Executive deliver promises made to Nigerians.

The Nigerian Constitution gives the National Assembly powers to make laws for the "peace, order and good governance of the federation." Aside from this, the legislature is expected to check any perceived excesses of the executive through oversight function. In carrying out these responsibilities, the National Assembly should subject government policies and actions to rigorous intellectual and legal analysis, and oversight.

The 9th National Assembly must live up to expectation and provide legislation that will foster growth and development. Second, not a few Nigerians believe that the 9th National Assembly will simply be a rubber stamp of the Executive especially with the misconception that the legislature is the weakest arm of government. It is salutary to note however that both the Senate President and Speaker have noted this concern and have assured Nigerians that the 9th National Assembly will not in any way be a rubber stamp.

These two issues have raised the question of whether or not the 9th National Assembly can maintain the delicate balance between its independence and co-operation with the Executive. The doctrine of separation of powers is well entrenched in our Constitution to ensure checks and balances. The independence of each arm is therefore sacrosanct. However, separation of powers does not necessarily mean that each arm should be totally supreme in its sphere of authority.

Power must create room for overlapping, co-operation and coordination among the arms so that government business will not be jeopardised due to rigidity and opposition. To achieve the required balance, the following recommendations will suffice. First, the overriding interest of Nigerians should be the most important guiding principle for the national Assembly. If public interest requires co-operation with the executive on any matter, the National Assembly should not hesitate to do so.

If on the other hand, public interest requires the National Assembly to assert its independence, it should not hesitate to do so. Second, the National Assembly must connect with the people through robust and constant engagement in order to appreciate their views and feelings on national issues, and enjoy their support. Members of the National Assembly should make their constituency offices effective, functional and accessible to their constituents. They should avoid being absentee representatives. Third, the principle of dialogue must be given serious consideration in the relationship between the legislature and the executive.

In legislative parlance, it is called lobbying and this is allowed in democratic practice. Dialogue ensures that any legislation done is the product of consensus reached in the best interest of the people. The 9th National Assembly must do every possible to build public confidence which was at its lowest ebb for the 8th National Assembly. To achieve this, it should carry out its duties in a manner that commands respect from other arms of government and from the people. We therefore expect the 9th National Assembly to demonstrate character, vision, patriotism, commitment to the people and loyalty to the nation. God bless Nigeria.

News Update

The Minister said these after a meeting of the FCT Security Committee which comprises heads of the police, military and para-military formations in FCT as well as Area Council Chairmen and religious leaders.

The cheery news is coming as Minister of State, FCT, Dr. Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu will headline a distinguished galaxy of stakeholders for the FCT pension stakeholders retreat this week.

Finally last week, Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) took over managing and operating the newly- completed Nigeria-Korea Model School in Abuja.

President Muhammadu Buhari has said that his Administration will continue to fashion policies designed to ensure employment and security of all citizens, especially the youth.

Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Malam Muhammad Musa Bello has decried the lynching of three suspected traffic robbers popularly known as 'One chance' in Dutsen Alhaji area of Abuja last week.

Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) always makes public the allocations in line with President Muhammadu Buhari's Change Agenda which harps on transparency, anti-corruption and accountability, tenets which FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello has made his beacon.


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