Presidency Accuses National Assembly of Sloppy Legislation

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Senator Ita Enang

• Saraki, Dogara commend lawmakers for saving Nigeria from collapse

Shola Oyeyipo, Oghenevwede Ohwovoriole in Abuja

The presidency has blamed the high number of returned bills by the executive on the legislature, accusing the lawmakers of sloppiness in their legislative works.

The Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, stated this recently while addressing the newly inaugurated working group on the actualisation of the four anti-corruption bills before the National Assembly.

He said the National Assembly was only making decrees and not laws, saying the president should be commended for not assenting to those bills that would have caused confusion in the law books.

According to him, “One of the things is how do we ensure that the president does not return bills because of drafting issue? I have continued to fight this from 2003, as a former member of the National Assembly. But the National Assembly we have today is working as if it is a body that is being worked for by consultants.”

“And the laws that are passed do not seem as if they are laws that enjoy the blessing of the gavel. Because after the bills have been passed in perhaps, some imperfect form; they pass them onto the legal department and the legal department redrafts the bill and then forward them to the legal department before they are sent to the president for assent.

“In 2006 or 2009 I had the opportunity of going with Sani Omolori, who is now the Clerk of the National Assembly, who was then Director of legal drafting, to Ogunyomi, who was the Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly. And I went to advise Ogunyomi that we should attach lawyers to every bill so that a lawyer will draft; he doesn’t need to be a secretary of a committee.

“I said that for every bill you attach a lawyer, he takes responsibility for the drafting at every stage before it comes up for consideration on the floor. And Secretaries (Clerk of Committees) protested that the lawyers want to take their jobs and I said no; that all I need is that let there be particular cleansing of these bills legally before forwarding to the executive.

“Ogunyomi told me and Sani Omolori to walk out of his office because he didn’t agree with me. And this is why we are still having problems of incoherent bills imperfectly drafted and even different from the ideas of the promoters of the bills or what the legislature thought about.”

He added that the legislature and not the executive should be blamed for the high number of bills that are returned by the president.

The senior presidential assistant further explained, “Somewhere yesterday, a legislator joked about the president being the president that had returned the highest number of bills; it is not the president that should be taking as wrong in this case but it should be to the credit of the president that bills are returned. Because if a bill is wrongly drafted and president assents to it, he has created confusion in the law.

“Because the chief executive cannot correct a coma or put a full stop or apostrophe but say I accept or I withhold assent. So if the president returns bills for drafting errors or for some other reasons, the president should be commended. And the legislature should go back to its working system and really work itself.”

He also blamed it on lack of experience as most members of the legislature do not come back or spend longer period acquiring legislative procedures, saying this may have caused confusion to judges in the interpretation of the laws.

He further stated, “There is something very dangerous that may happen in the future about the interpretation of laws; under the Evidence Act. When a judge at Federal High Court, Court of Appeal or Supreme Court is looking at the law and confused about either the drafting or presentation or a particular section or the arrangement, he will go to the answers and say: ‘what was the intention of the legislature in making this law?

“As at today you go to second reading and the consideration in committee of whole you will not see any debate about any of the sections to know what was the intention of the legislature. Which now appears that the legislature is not expected to think whereas; law making is a very cerebral matter. You are called an honourable: honourable because you have passed the stage of (wetin children go chop), honourable because in your career of profession you have attained the zenith of intellectual calculation.”

He also advised legislators to do more thinking before making laws, adding that the legislature should reason before it makes a law.

Saraki, Dogara Commend Nigerian Lawmakers

Meanwhile, the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, have underscored the important roles the National Assembly has played in helping to save Nigeria from collapse.

The two leaders, who spoke yesterday at the convocation ceremony of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS)/University of Benin Post Graduate Programmes for the 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 academic sessions, held at the National Assembly premises, said lawmakers in the eight assembly, especially have committed themselves to improving the life of Nigerians.

According to Saraki, who is the chairman, NILD governing council, the core legislative, oversight and representative functions of the legislature is to contribute to the quality of governance.

He said, “In the eighth National Assembly, the legislature has played a greater role in policy formulation and has engaged more robustly with the executive at the various stages of policy formulation. This stems from our conviction that the task of nation-building must be a collective one, and this sometimes requires sacrifices on the part of the individual.

“Many of the legislative measures we have pursued since 2015 have been targeted at driving productivity, easing access to finance, creating jobs and improving livelihoods. Legislative proposals in this area are focused on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), particularly in reducing regulatory burdens and easing access to capital, with the objective of having a large number of sustainable fast-growing small and mid-size businesses. We have also taken legislative action to tackle tax avoidance and evasion, to encourage compliance with tax obligations by all persons.”

Also listing aspects of basic healthcare and human capital development as areas that have attracted the attention of the lawmakers, Saraki attributed the successes recorded by the legislators to the professional permanent staff and legislative aides, describing them as the “main resource for continuity and sustainable change in a legislature is the legislative bureaucracy.”

Also noting that the National Assembly has helped save Nigeria from collapse, Dogara said to attain stable, strong and effective governance in Nigeria, the National Assembly must receive priority attention in terms of capacity building.

Arguing that the legislature is the true face of democracy, especially in maturing democracies such as in Nigeria, where it serves as the stabilising force with robust constitutional powers to check-mate the executive misuse and abuse of power, Dogara said it was preferable to build healthy and strong institutions like the legislature than strong personalities.

He said, “It is our considered opinion that if there is any institution of government that should receive priority attention in terms of capacity building, it is the legislature. This is because the legislature is the true face of democracy. In our maturing democracy in this country, the legislature is the stabilising force as it has robust constitutional powers to check-mate the executive misuse and abuse of power which occasionally rears its head.

“Credit must be given to the Nigerian parliament, which has continued to make laws, perform its representative functions and make robust use of the power of oversight in order to preserve our hard-won democracy and achieve good governance.”