President Muhammadu Buhari has urged Nigerians to be patient and seek reform of laws and bills they have some reservations about through established democratic processes.
Speaking Monday at a two-day Joint Executive-Legislative Leadership Retreat held at the State House Conference Centre Abuja, the president said Nigerians should engage the process for review of such laws in line with democratic processes.
The two-day Joint Executive-Legislative Retreat was themed: ‘Promoting Effective, Legislative Partnership and Finding a Middle Ground.’
The controversial Act & Bill
Although the president was not explicit on such Laws/Acts, the recently enacted Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) came under attack from some individuals and groups who suspected that the government was attempting to hijack the running of their groups and organisations.
Similarly, the National Water Resources Bill 2020 was recently thrown out by the House of Representatives following strong criticism from some sections of Nigerians, who among other things, believed it was a ploy by the federal government to acquire land in every part of the country for pastoralists.
In throwing out the bill, the House said it did not follow due legislative process, even as government consistently debunked the claims by opponents of the Act and bill.
While saying the new CAMA Act was to deepen the fight against corruption, the government said the water resources bill was to regulate the sector and save the environment all in the interest of Nigerians.
Addressing participants at the retreat, however, President Buhari pleaded with Nigerians to route their complaints on any law they are dissatisfied with, through democratic processes.
“Let me also remind our fellow patriots, countrymen and women, that the process of law-making and governance are dynamic and ever evolving. I will seek their indulgence to be patient with any legislation or law which they have certain misgivings about, and engage the process for reviewing such laws in line with democratic practices,” he said.
Appreciating members of the ninth National Assembly for understanding, support and quick response to policy directions of the government, the president called for more synergy to consolidate on the gains recorded, particularly the ongoing effort to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.
He said the collaboration enjoyed from the leadership of the National Assembly had made it easier for the government to set and realise development goals, and respond to changes in the economy faster, like the Coronavirus pandemic that necessitated review of the 2020 Budget.
Buhari listed some of the gains recorded from working together to include the accelerated passage of the 2020 Budget and its review in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, timely confirmation of nominees, and passage of critical legislations by the National Assembly.
“This retreat provides us another opportunity to interface, reflect, brainstorm and engage as One Government. I use the word One Government because there can only be one Government in a nation at a time and officials both elected and appointed in the Executive or Legislative arm must all be working for the peace, unity and development of our country.
“This Retreat named: “Promoting Effective Executive-Legislative Partnership: Finding a Middle Ground” is apt as it reflects the peculiarity of a Presidential system of government like ours.
“The experience of the last 20 years of steady democratic practice in Nigeria has underlined the need for effective partnership and collaboration between the executive and legislative arms of government to deliver on our mandate,” he said.
The president said the Federal Executive Council had already streamlined its priorities to nine areas of development, and ministers had been mandated to align their targets with the bigger picture of making life better for all Nigerians, urging the legislature to align its priorities as well.
“While all members of the Federal Executive Council have been given clear mandates and yearly targets towards achieving the set indicators and goals, I recognize the critical role of the National Assembly in helping to deliver this Agenda and the strategic goals set by this Government.
“We cannot do this alone without your support and collaboration. I am equally aware that both the Senate and the House of Representatives have adopted the new Legislative Agenda for the current Assembly. I must thank the Senate President and Rt. Honourable Speaker for the updated version of the Legislative Agenda of the 9th National Assembly.
“The urgent need for aligning the 9-Point priority Agenda and the Legislative Agenda of both the Senate and the House of Representatives cannot be over-emphasized. I will therefore suggest that a Technical Committee be established after this retreat to harmonise these critical and strategic documents to help improve synergy and coordination,” the president further said.
The president said he had already inaugurated a National Steering Committee, co-chaired by the Minister for Finance, Budget and National Planning Zainab Ahmed, and Mr. Peterside Atedo with representation from the National Assembly, to oversee the development of the Nigeria Agenda 2050 and Medium-Term National Development Plan (MTNDP) to succeed vision 20:2020 and the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017-2020.
He said the National Steering Committee would facilitate the linkage between policy-plans and budget in a manner that would help lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty within the next 10 years.
“Similarly, I unveiled a (9) Nine-Point Priority Development Agenda of this administration aimed at improving the livelihood of Nigerians within the next three years. These include: building a thriving and sustainable economy; enhancing social inclusion and reducing poverty; enlarging agricultural output for food security and export and attaining energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products.
“Expand transport and other infrastructural development; expand business growth, entrepreneurship and industrialisation; expand access to quality education, affordable healthcare and productivity of Nigerians; build a system to fight corruption on a permanent basis, improve governance and create social cohesion and improve security for all,” he said.
He recommended the establishment of a Technical Working Group to synthesise the outcome of the retreat and make appropriate recommendations to the leadership of the FECl and the National Assembly in order to drive effective implementation of the resolutions or agreements reached.
He thanked the ninth National Assembly leadership and legislators for the cordial and warm relationship enjoyed in the last one year.
Speaking at the event, Senate President Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan declared that the National Assembly was ready to live with the rubber stamp tag if that would translate to good governance for Nigerians.
Senator Lawan expressed delight that the legislature was in harmony with the executive in ensuring good governance for Nigerians.
He said it was time to review the partnership between the two arms after 12 months.
“In fact, this relationship is misunderstood. Some, out of mischief they describe the National Assembly as rubber stamp. What is utmost in our minds as members of the National Assembly is how do we work with the executive to make Nigeria better.
“If the price to pay is the names that we get, then let it be the price, because we believe that Nigerians deserve better service, better infrastructure development in the country and it is difficult if not impossible in this country or indeed in any democracy without understanding and harmony in the way and manner the two arms of government work,” the lawmaker said.
Gbajabiamila on legislative/executive feud
Also in his speech, Speaker House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila blamed the frequent friction between the legislative and executive arms of government on misconception of roles of the parliament.
The speaker said attempt by the parliament to strictly adhere to its legislative responsibilities often leads to friction with the executive, especially on the constitutional responsibility of oversight of government’s Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
To address the issue, he said a better understanding of the legislature and its constitutional duties and the dissemination of legislative activities by the Nigerian media would enable Nigerians to appreciate their representatives more, as well as have a full grasp of issues at stake from an informed position.
He said as long as the nation’s system of government rests upon a partnership between the two arms, the most important of their functions is the obligation to check and balance each other.
Presenting an address on building effective partnership for good governance and delivery of government’s priority agenda, Gbajabiamila said for the delivery of good governance, legislative oversight must not be seen as an attempt to usurp the authority of the executive, but instead, a good effort at ensuring that the government lives up to its obligations under the law.
“The misconception of the legislative function in a democracy is one of the biggest threats to effective cooperation between the Executive and the Legislature.
“One of the greatest of such misconceptions is that the Legislature exists only to make laws. The media and indeed large sections of the public assess the performance of individual legislators against this index of the number of bills sponsored and passed into law,” he said.
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