James Emejo in Abuja
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, on Monday said understanding the limits of constitutional powers by politicians and relevant stakeholders was critical for the success of democracy in the country.
In a veiled allusion to the ensuing debate over the power of the legislature to alter projects in the appropriation bill, he argued that governance would be more effective when every player in the three arms of government have clear understanding of what powers the constitution grants to their offices and where those powers end.
Speaking in Abuja at the public presentation of a book titled â€œSave Our Constitutional Democracy From Emasculationâ€™, which was written by Prof. Ben Nwabueze, Dogara said there should be proper understanding of the provisions of the constitution, which was drafted along the lines of that of the United States.
He said the concept of limited government and limited powers must be understood by all the arms of government.
He said: â€œTo be candid, majority of us do not even know what constitutional democracy means or entails. Some of us in the system have not even studied the Constitution.
â€œWe come to Nigeria, where, for instance, the executive, or the President determines the priority of the nation or of his government but parliament can say no as representatives of the people.
The speaker said:â€And we have seen some of these contradictions played out in a country like the United States. We borrowed almost everything in our constitution from the US but there, the president ran for election on the premise that he was going to build a wall, it was one of his cardinal promises. As a matter of fact it was one of the basis for which he had appeal.
â€œOn the healthcare bill introduced in Congress, most members said, well, that may be the priority of your government but we donâ€™t think that is the priority of our people, and it stalled. And he promised that from day one, he will repeal and replace ObamaCare, if not the same day, if not the same hour after taking office but Congress sat and said no, that may be the priority of your government but it isnâ€™t the priority of the people we represent, and the bill has not been passed. If it were in Nigeria, imagine the kind of discussion it would have generated such as parliament is frustrating the president, they donâ€™t want him to succeed and so on and so forth.â€
Meanwhile, in his view, Dogara had cited the case of the former governor of Rivers State, Chief Rotimi Amaechi and describing it as an instance where the judiciary elected a governor who did not participate in an election.
He then posed the question, â€œWho can save our constitutional democracy from emasculation. Is it the executive or legislature or the judiciary?
However, Nwabueze, in answering the poser by Dogara, maintained that the National Assembly was the only institution which could salvage the constitutional democracy from emasculation in the country.
The renowned jurist said due to the tendency of the Supreme Court to have â€˜special interestsâ€™, the judiciary can no longer be trusted with that role.
Nevertheless, the speaker in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Hassan Turaki, encouraged people to read the book and understand constitutional roles each arm of government has to play in a constitutional democracy.