â€¢ Says weak legislature bad for democracy
James Emejo in Abuja
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, on Monday bemoaned the constitutional provisions which currently made it impossible to remove a president or vice-president through simple procedure.
Specifically, he lamented a development where he had sponsored a bill which sought to simplify procedures for impeachment of the president and vice-president during the seventh assembly but only for the legislation to be defeated during the constitution amendment exercise.
Dogara decried the provisions of Section 143 of the 1999 Constitution which according to him makes it impossible for theÂ National AssemblyÂ to remove the president or vice president, describing it as â€œsatanic versusâ€.
Noting that democracy highlights a government of laws and not of men, he argued that with the provisions of Section 143 in place presidents could choose not to obey the law as they could â€œchoose the laws to obey without any retributionâ€.
He said it was in view of the fact that a weak legislature is antithetical to good governance and consolidation of the countryâ€™s hard won democracy, that the National Assembly, through various legislative measures, intervened to specifically strengthen the legislative institution in order to position it to play its prominent role in the constitutional democracy.
Speaking on â€˜Deepening Democracy: Role of the Legislature,â€™ at the 3rd Public Lecture series of Nasarawa State University, Keffi, the speaker, however, noted that the Nigerian parliamentâ€™s contribution to deepening democracy through its various functions had helped to stabilise democratic structures.
He said the National Assembly has contributed a lot in stabilising and deepening the countryâ€™s constitutional democracy through strengthening of due process and the rule of law.
The speaker maintained that democracy cannot thrive without citizensâ€™ active participation as it is the responsibility of the people to protect democracy and hold leaders accountable.
According to him, â€œThe legislature in Nigeria has contributed immensely in deepening the practice of constitutional democracy in Nigeria, especially since the introduction of the 1999 Constitution, in its various functions. If democracy rests on the due process and the rule of law, it therefore means that our democracy can only be as deep as the laws upon which it is built.â€
The speaker also noted that the eighth House of Representatives under his leadership has made outstanding contributions to deepening democracy through the faithful implementation ofÂ its legislative agenda, which serves as a compass of its legislative activities for four years (2015 to 2019) to deepen democracy.
He added that the eighth assembly achieved this by providing leadership in the areas of accountable and transparent government, citizens engagement, constituency representation, collaboration with its counterpart in the Senate and other arms of government to legislate for the common good of the Nigerian people, legislation to create reforms in Nigeriaâ€™s national economy and development, tackle poverty, unemployment, confront the scourge of corruption, terrorism and security challenges in the country, environment and reduction in the cost of running government, reduce wastage and tackle national revenue leakages.
He said the House has committed to playing its part in rescuing Nigeria from the clutches of hunger, poverty, disease, social, economic, political and infrastructural quagmire and ensuring transparency and accountability, not just by the House of Representatives but also by government at all levels.
He said: â€œEven the most casual observer of Nigeriaâ€™s democracy in the last three electoral cycles would admit that despite perceived gaps in the exercise of its oversight mandate, the legislature at the national level has achieved a modicum of institutional growth. At the national level, the legislature is increasingly becoming more assertive in the process of law making.â€
â€œThe National Assembly amended the Constitution in 2010 that placed it on the first line charge, thereby ensuring its relative financial and administrative autonomy.
â€œFurthermore, the National Assembly set up the National Institute of Legislative Studies to provide crucial capacity enhancement for legislators, legislative staff and the institution as a whole.â€
On issues of national unity and resolving crises and stemming centrifugal forces in Nigeria, he appraised the legislature as outstanding, citing, among others, examples of the enactment of The Niger Delta Development Commission (Establishment) Act 2000 and the Revenue Allocation (Allocation of On Shore-Off Shore Dichotomy) Act, 2004 for which the National Assembly overrode presidential veto, and the North East Development Commission Act, 2017 to rehabilitate, reconstruct and re-develop the zone.
Among other things, the speaker also said the House has exposed corruption through hundreds of investigative hearings on economic crimes in the country over the years, with the 8th House of Representatives conducting over 50 Investigative hearings.
According to him, â€œThese include investigations on the award of contract for the rehabilitation of Nigerian Railways; Installation of CCTV Cameras in Abuja and Lagos, allegedÂ $17Â billion stolen from undeclared crude oil and LNG exports to global destinations; The investigative hearing on Centenary City Project; Pre- Shipment investigation, Amnesty programme and Several anti- corruption investigations have also been conducted by the eighth House of Representatives.â€