Lawan: Senate Committed to Constructive Engagement with Executive

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Ahmad Lawan

Deji Elumoye and Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, Wednesday in Abuja assuaged the minds of Nigerians of the belief that the Senate under his leadership would be a rubber stamp, saying he will not preside over a rubber-stamped parliament.

Since his emergence, there have been assumptions that the Senate under his leadership would be a stooge of the executive in view of his notable opposition to some motions or resolutions of the eight Senate criticising the Muhammadu Buhari presidency.

The assumptions have only been rifer after his election on June 11, following his regular refrain that his ultimate goal is to lead the Senate to support the president. The assumptions were further strengthened when a photograph showing the Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege, kneeling for the president in the State House, was circulated on social media.

But Lawan was swift to dismiss such insinuations while answering questions from journalists in the State House yesterday, after holding a meeting with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, arguing that the Senate is not a primary or secondary school where the school head dictates to students what to do.

He acknowledged that the legislature is rather a body of people of equal status, while he is only privileged to be first among equals and hence, has no right to dictate to his colleagues because he is not their boss.

Lawan who further said there had been no assembly of the National Assembly that has been rubber-stamped since 1999, promised that the Senate under his leadership will hold the executive accountable by effectively carrying out its oversight functions.

Reiterating that the ninth National Assembly will cooperate with the executive to deliver good governance, the Senate president said Nigerians would witness a complementary executive-legislative relations that will deliver good governance to them in the end.

His words: “A parliament is not a primary school or a secondary school where you have a headmaster or principal that will dictate to his students. Parliament is an aggregate or an assemblage of people that have equal status.

“Being elected as Senate President does not mean that I’m the boss of the other senators. I’m simply to coordinate and aggregate views and lead debates. Whoever is in the majority, that will be the decision of the Senate appropriately and accordingly. “So, there will be nothing like rubber stamp. So far, I have never seen a National Assembly that had a rubber stamp leadership and I have been around for 20 years to know that. But one thing I must tell you is that while there is desire to remain sufficiently on track, we will ensure that oversight function is properly carried out but we will cooperate fully and give total support to the administration to ensure that there is good governance.

“There is no need for any fear that we will be a rubber-stamped National Assembly. Perhaps and probably with time, Nigeria will come to see that what we desire and what will happen by the grace of God, will be a working relationship that endears the entire administration and government to the people of Nigeria. So, there is no cause for alarm.”
Lawan disclosed that he was in the State House to thank the vice-president for his support during the race for the office of the Senate president and simultaneously discuss the nature and composition of the ninth National Assembly with him.

According to him, having received the support of members of the National Assembly across party lines during the leadership elections, the All Progressives Congress (APC) caucus believes that it is only necessary to maximise such support to secure a united legislature.

According to him, such unity and focus are necessary for the delivery of good governance to the people through cooperation and collaboration with the executive.

“As the new National Assembly, we have received a bi-partisan mandate from across the parties. The PDP, the YPP voted for us and we believe that this is the time and opportunity for us to consolidate on the kind of support that we received across the political parties that we received in the National Assembly.

“We believe that we must remain united in the National Assembly. We must remain focused for us to be able to deliver those legislative interventions that will be necessary for good governance in the country. We also believe that we must have a relationship with the executive arm of government that is based on cooperation and collaboration,” he added.

Speaking earlier to journalists in his office, Lawan has hinted of a better working relationship between the executive and the legislature, saying the National Assembly has no basis to compete with the executive.

According to him, the legislative arm is not and will not be in contention with the executive arm of government “as we are meant to serve the same people.
“We are meant to ensure that Nigeria get the services that they required and vote us to deliver and that is exactly what we would do.

In the process of governance, we are expected to work with the executive, in complementary type of relationship that is based on cooperation, collaboration, synergy, and partnership,” he explained.

Lawan further emphasised, “We are not going to have unnecessary rancour, or go to the market place with stones. We are going to be absolutely focused, absolutely determined to ensure that Nigerians are taken to the next level of development “

The Senate president was however quick to stress the need for the Senate to oversight the executive better than it did in the previous Senate.

“As a legislature we also have that enviable role of over sighting the executive. We would even try to stretch out our oversight process not as we did before but we want to see an oversight that is structured from conception to the presentation of reports by our committees to the plenary of the senate at all times.

“We want to ensure that whoever is given a responsibility on the side of the executive discharges that responsibility. When the president appoints a minister he is expected to help the President perform those duties assigned to him to ensure that those who are to work with us should do it in such a manner that we are to work together to deliver the services”.

Meanwhile, the Senate president yesterday retained five political aides of his predecessor, Dr. Bukola Saraki, to help in the discharge of his duties.

The appointment of the aides, which was contained in a one-page letter titled: ‘Appointment of Political Aides to the President of the Senate’ issued by Chief of Staff, Alhaji Babagana Aji, was addressed to the Clerk of the National Assembly, Mr. Mohammed Sani-Omolori “to direct that their letters of appointment be issued accordingly.

The re-appointed aides are Special Assistant on Administration to the President of the Senate, Dr. Betty Okoroh; Special Assistant on Media & Publicity, Mohammed Isa; Special Assistant on New Media, Mr. Olu Onemola; Senior Legislative Aide on Publicity (Photography), Mr. Tope Brown Olowoyeye; and Senior Legislative Aide on Schedules & Events, Mr. Ogechukwu Nwankwoh.

The Senate president had on Tuesday appointed Aji as his chief of staff and Dr. Festus Adedayo as his media adviser.