Osinbajo: Strict Separation of Powers Will Impede Development, Governance

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Yemi Osinbajo

By Adedayo Akinwale

ice President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday warned that any strict separation of powers among the three arms of government will impede development, governance, and short-change people.

According to a statement issued yesterday by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande, the vice president said procedural nicety is a luxury the government cannot afford, stressing that as leaders of the executive and legislative arms of government discuss how to interact better as co-equal arms of government, collaborating to serve the people at all times must be put above procedural niceties.

Making reference to practices in other climes to which Nigeria’s system is often compared to, Osinbajo stressed that there is no pure practice of the doctrine of separation of powers.

He said: “The Anglo-American traditions that we hold on to in support of the separation of powers are not pure. For example, the US vice president serves as the president of the Senate and presides over the Senate’s daily proceedings. In the absence of the vice president, the Senate’s president pro tempore (and others designated by him) presides. As one of the Senate’s constitutional officers, only the vice president has the authority to cast a tie-breaking vote.

According to him, “So, even in the country that has the most advanced jurisprudence on the separation of powers, they are wise enough to provide for a concrete bridge between the executive and the legislature.

“In the UK, the convention is that every minister must be a member of the House of Commons or the House of Lords, and every minister must be a legislator.

“So, if that were in Nigeria, all the ministers would be either senators or members of the House of Representatives.

“So, these countries we look up to, recognize that any strict separation of powers will impede development, impede governance, and short-change the people.”

Osinbajo emphasised: “An effective system is one where the good legislator or good minister is not the one who is waving the law, the procedure, and doctrines but it is the one who says the spirit of the constitution is that maximum welfare, freedom, and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity is secured.”

The vice president pointed out that the good legislator and minister is the one who will do all in his or her power to serve the needs of the people, even if it means walking the fine lines between the law and reality.

He said: “Every generation of leadership must understand the context. Law itself must be interpreted and implemented in context. What is the reality of the context that we operate in today? We all know, our nation has millions of extremely poor people, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened unemployment and poverty.

“We have huge deficits in infrastructure, many children are out of school. If that is our context, we will be callous and irresponsible if we don’t come together, work together to sort out these grave life-threatening problems our people have to confront every day. The dogmatic emphasis on procedural niceties is a luxury we cannot afford,” he said.

Osinbajo said the law and practice between parliament and executive is a means to an end and not an end to itself, stressing that the means must not jeopardize the end.