Executive, Legislative Rift: Issues and Reasons


Mohammed Isa

The hallmark of any democracy is the existence of the legislature. Remove it and you are left with civilian dictatorship.

By its nature and responsibilities, the legislature, as an independent arm of government was meant to offer a check on the executive, make laws for good governance and ensure equitable and fair distribution of the nation’s resources through its power of appropriation.

With that enormous and clearly defined responsibilities, an occasional friction and struggle for supremacy between the legislature and executive that is always seeking to dominate and have its way in governance is considered normal.
However, such envisaged disagreements when occurred are expected to be resolved in favour of national rather than self, group or partisan interests, using mutual and legally acceptable conflict resolution mechanisms.
Since the return of democracy in Nigeria 18 years ago, the nation has at various times witnessed such bickering between the two arms, with many of them resolved amicably to move the nation forward.

However, the current face off triggered by several issues had become a source of concern to many, not because it came up at all but rather the way and manner it is being handled by the Executive and its external instigators.
Some of the current contentious issues are but not limited to the rejection of the nomination of Ibrahim Magu as chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by the Senate and the “restructuring” of the 2017 budget to ensure a balanced and equitable distribution of projects.

While those issues could be argued one way or the other to favour any of the contending arms of government, also with or without substance, some online warriors and sympathetic commentators on the side of the executive already putting several spins on the disagreement. One of their spins is the alleged plot to impeach the Acting President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, and install the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, either as Vice President or as the Acting President’s replacement.

These could at best be described as nonsensical as they are merely designed to rattle’ or distract the legislature. The sycophants behind these fabrications include those desperately seeking to create an ‘Osinbajo’s cabal’, since that word is now the fad in governance now.

Magu’s Rejection
The Senate in rejecting Magu had not done anything new to warrant the blackmail and name calling being heaped on it. Those attacking the legislators are venting their anger on the messenger, rather than the message.

What was the reason that cost Magu his confirmation? Is it not an indicting reports by the constitutionally charged agency for vetting and clearing any nominee; the Department of the State Security (DSS)? Was there any nominee indicted in the past by DSS that was confirmed by the Senate? Is there any instance anywhere in the world where a man with such record as painted by the equivalent of DSS eventually got the job without a change of the report? By going ahead to confirm Magu for that sensitive job, what message is Senate passing about the credibility of the nation’s security and intelligence agency?

A fair minded person, while looking at the issue dispassionately would have appreciated the stand of the Senate for standing on the side of an institution rather than bootlicking for the executive by turning a blind eye to the DSS reports and confirming Magu to please those who want him for their parochial motives. If the executive believe that without Magu its anti-corruption fight would fail why don’t they simply get the DSS to change their report and then resend the name of the indispensable anti-graft Tsar.

2017 Budget
On budget, as contentious as the issue since 1999, the current face off is a different one that gave the lawmakers a moral edge over the executive. Passing the 2017 budget proposal in its original proposal the way the presidency wanted it would have amounted to a shortchange of majority of the sections of the country in favour of one or two others.

As the spokesperson of the Senate, Sen. Abdullahi Sabi, noted, “the National Assembly acted in the national interest to ensure equity and fairness is achieved in the distribution of projects and to ensure that all sections of the country have representation in the national budget as guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution”
Sabi had explained that, “in the spirit of consensus building and effective stakeholder engagement, the leadership of the Senate met with key relevant stakeholders, including the Ministries of Works, Power and Housing as well as Finance. It was agreed that we should give the Private Finance Initiative a chance to complement government’s resources in the delivery of critical infrastructure assets across the country”.

He added that, “hence, in this year’s budget, we have engaged with the government and private sector groups who have assured that they will resume funding of the project. So, we only provided the fund in the budget that would ensure work does not stop before the funds from the private sector start coming in.

“What we reduced from Lagos-Ibadan Expressway in the 2017 budget estimate was spread on Oyo-Ogbomoso road in the South-west, Enugu-Onitsha road in the South-east, and two other critical roads in the North-East and North-West; and this was done to achieve equity. The Minister should realise that he is Minister for the entire country and not just that of Lagos State.”

While shedding more light on the highlights of the budget, he noted that when Fashola accused the National Assembly of importing projects into the 2017 budget, he did not mention that these included the 26 projects which the Federal Government had approved in the 2016 budget, awarded contract for them in January 2016, but were totally omitted in the 2017 budget.

On this note, he cited the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano road as one of the projects, saying “these ones would have become abandoned projects. We reduced funds across board to make provision for these omitted projects that are of critical importance to the socio-economic development of the country in line with equity and fair play.

Phantom Plot To Impeach Osinbajo
On the laughable phantom plot to impeach the Acting President, one would not dissipate his energy refuting it as those who are fabricating such claim were only out for mischief and painting themselves as promoters and defenders of the acting President. These people are toying with the emotions of Nigerians who they believe are gullible and will believe anything.

Impeachment, as a constitutional matter, had been adequately addressed by the constitution on why, when and how to execute it and none of the prescribed conditions exist for now. The Acting President as an elected official enjoy mutual respect from members of the National Assembly. In any case, the legislators would not want to create panic, raise national tension or foment crisis by thinking of anything like that.

It is high time Nigerians called on these mischief makers to allow the elected officials both in the legislature and the executive to focus on issues that have bearing on the welfare of Nigerians.

For the smooth running of government that will actualise the campaign promises of the Federal Government, it is imperative for the executive, particularly the acting president to caution those mischief makers who are masquerading themselves as his defenders and promoters and allow the principle of separation of power to prevail and refrain from further denigration of the National Assembly.

For our democracy to survive and grow, Nigerians must not only acquaint themselves with the role of the legislature in enthroning good governance, but they must also be ready to support and promote an independent legislature in the sprit of rule of law, which the present National Assembly is struggling to uphold.

Isa is a Special Assistant to the Senate President