A Legislative Agenda for the Ninth NASS  

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Saturday letter1

The legislature is an institution of democracy which allows for the participation of all in governance through representation. It is that institution which distinguishes democracy from dictatorship. It is the arm of government which acts as check on the executive. Its functions include law-making, budget control, control over the executive arm, amendment of the constitution and impeachment. With this, it is all too clear that the legislature determines the pace at which the vehicle of a democratic government moves.

 

If a legislature views matters through a prism different from that which the executive arm uses, a nation is bound to suffer unnecessary political, social and economic tensions. This is to suggest that the level of cordiality between the legislature and especially the executive arm of government is directly proportional to the effective and efficient implementation of developmental policies and programmes by the latter. 

 

As the ninth NASS convenes, it is therefore significant that it has as one of its topmost priorities to work with the executive arm harmoniously and with understanding in the name of a greater Nigeria. This is not to submit that the NASS makes itself a rubber stamp. Rather, it should carry out its constitutional functions without deliberately making itself a clog in the wheel of government. 

 

Both the ninth NASS and the Buhari- led executive arm should know that Nigerians do not wish to witness again the kind of sour executive-legislature relationship witnessed in the last four years. Thus, whenever there is conflict, both arms should show willingness to dialogue so as to reach common grounds to facilitate the effective administration of public trust. 

With a cordial relationship between the executive and the legislature, a fertile ground to sow the seed of good governance would be in place. And hence the legislature will be able to successfully amend or make laws, as the case may be, on matters that appear to slow down the pace of development in Nigeria. For instance, the State Local Government Joint Account financial policy which has made local governments virtually non-existent despite being the third tier of government needs to be abrogated.  

 

It is known fact that most local government councils in Nigeria have no capacity to generate Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) that is enough to cater for its constitutional functions as a third tier of government. They therefore rely mostly on federal allocation.  However, given that Nigeria operates a federal system, it is seen that it is impossible for the federal government to relate directly with the local governments on matters of revenue allocation. 

So it was decided that local governments` monthly allocation should be sent through state governments in a financial policy known as the State Local Governments Joint Account System to hinder any possible manipulation of the funds. The financial policy of the joint account system first appeared in the constitution in 1979 following the 1976 local government reforms. However, the Babangida administration abolished it in 1989 because it was not being implemented effectively by state governments. Following the return to democracy in 1999, it was reintroduced by the 1999 constitution.    

 

Section 162(5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) states that “The amount standing to the credit of Local Government Councils in the Federal Account shall also be allocated to the state for the benefit of their Local Government Councils on such terms and in such manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly.” And Section 162(6) states: “Each state shall maintain a specific account to be called “State Joint Local Government Account” into which shall be paid all allocations to the Local Government Councils of the state from the Federation Account and from the Government of the State.”

 

Regrettably, rather than hinder possible manipulations of the funds either by state governors or local government chairmen, the duo connive to either divert or delay release of local government statutory allocations  or even illegally deduct money from local government statutory allocations thereby halting developmental growth. 

Mukhtar Jarmajo, dattuwamanga@gmail.com