The leadership of the National Assembly has hailed the inauguration of a consultative forum comprising the executive and legislative arms of government as well as the governing party, the All Progressives Congress APC.
Speaking to State House Correspondents soon after President Buhari inaugurated the committee, President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan said the committee would enhance governance in the country.
According to him: “Today is a historic day for us as an administration. The essence of this consultative forum is for governance to be enhanced. The legislature, the executive arm of government and of course the party in power, have seen the need to bring everybody on board so that we are able to consult widely before major issues are table before the citizens of this country.
“Specifically, what we intend to achieve is to improve the quality of governance and service delivery to Nigerians. We have promised Nigerians and Nigerians voted for the All Progressives Congress at all the levels, so it is incumbent upon us at all levels and as a party to ensure we meet the expectations and aspirations of Nigerians.”
Lawan however stressed that the committee will not usurp the job or powers of the legislature as some might insinuate.
“Just like Mr. President expressed, we believe that the constitution rightly provides for the separation of powers and we believe in that. The legislature will always on its own ensure we oversight and we check possible excesses of the executive arm of government.
“But we also believe that separation of powers also means there should be cooperation, consultation, coordination and partnership for the benefits of the people of this country. This is not in any way to compromise the different functions that we are tasked and scheduled to discharge.
“The party is our platform, it has a sense, direction, manifesto, programmes and projects and we elected on both sides of government, executive and legislature will always ensure we stick to what the party provides for us to do.
“But I want to ensure that this is not in any way to compromise the legislature, if anything, it is to strengthen the legislature. Because, with first hand, the legislature is to advise on any bill coming from the executive arm of the government, we will ensure we receive bills that will meet the expectations of Nigerians,” he said.
The President of the Senate stressed that all those involved in the work of the committee will harmonise their ideas for the betterment of the society.
“We will always have different perspectives because we are a legislature by design and orientation and the executive may bring a bill which it thinks in its judgement will enhance governance but when the legislature brings its perspective and we advice, I think it will enrich it.
“And when it comes to the National Assembly, it is not an APC National Assembly, it has a representation of other political parties and we have so far enjoyed support and cooperation and partnership of our colleagues from other political parties, particularly the PDP and we commend them for that, we are grateful for that, we have done that for them before.
“And we expect that for this, the cooperation and the partnership in the National Assembly with different political parties will continue. Because, we are going to serve Nigerians with different political parties’ persuasion,” Lawan said.
He said the essence of the committee was to ensure there is consultation on all major issues that require legislation and maybe policy to ensure the citizens are the beneficiary at the end of the day.
On presidential aides knocking heads with the legislature on behalf of the executive, Lawan said: “I believe that should be the end of it. We believe that we should work together. Mr. President made it very clear that he is not going to tolerate any of his appointees doing things that are not respectable, things that has no dignity to the National Assembly.
“For us in the National Assembly, I think what has happened has happened, we pray nobody goes to the National Assembly to do the kind of things that disrespect the president and of course abuse the National Assembly, we are not going to tolerate that. Because anyone who wants to see Nigeria progress will continue to ensure that this consultative forum produces the kind of result and outcomes that will make Nigeria better in terms of governance.”
Also contributing, Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila reacted to the allegation made by Civil Society Organisations that the National Assembly is shying away form its oversight functions by embarking on a break.
He said: “There has been a lot of misunderstanding and misconception. First of all, whatever form of democracy you practice anywhere in the world, there is always an annual recess. We are not re-inventing anything.
“Recess has only one meaning in the dictionary. You are either on recess or you are working. I have perhaps been one of the longest serving members in the House. I have never known of a situation, I’m yet to be proven wrong, when on an annual summer recess, members are working, conducting public hearings, doing investigations.
“I’m not talking about any other recess. It’s a different thing when you close plenary and committees are still working. There is a big difference. But in the summer, we go on recess.
“Now, because there is Covid-19 and people are forced to stay in, it’s no excuse to continue work the way we continue. Unfortunately, sometime, you hear of investigative hearings that even the leadership is not aware about. Investigative hearings that have not been backed by resolutions of the House. That is a conflict in our procedure.
“Now, for the civil society to talk about why are you going on recess, we are always happy to look at advanced democracies whether it’s Germany, America, or England. We are always happy to compare Nigeria’s legislatures to those places. As I speak to you, the US Congress is on recess. It’s their annual recess.
“You won’t hear of any investigative hearing or public hearing. Just last week, the Speaker of the House of the US Congress had to call her members back through a zoom conference because of the issue of US Mayor and the impending elections. They had a zoom conference. That is the way it is done world over.
“On oversight functions, you can see that some members are on the road right now doing their work. That is a different kind of work. But it’s not a public hearing and investigative hearing. Members are actually out on oversight functions and that hasn’t stopped.”
Source: Voice of Nigeria