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Executive’s contempt for legislative motions and resolutions, By Benjamin Atu

By News Express on 01/04/2017

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•National Assembly Complex.
•National Assembly Complex.

The worst nightmare to an arms dealer is for a government to make move for a peace deal. The same is true with importers. And today, that has become the case of the executive arm of the present administration. The move by the National Assembly to do their legislative business has suddenly become a threat and a nightmare to the executive arm of government, who perceive the National Assembly as a spy to their activities. The work of the legislature is beyond mere talking. It also includes monitoring of the budget, which is their oversight. A decision by the National Assembly by way of motions or resolutions should be a matter of urgent public importance that the executive must move to implement. This is because the National Assembly does their job through motions and resolutions. But today, the resolutions of the National Assembly are not being implemented as expected by the executive, who has erroneously perceived the National Assembly as a mere talking factory.

Bills and resolutions are the legislative framework that calls for executive action for the purpose of making life more meaningful for the electorate. These bills and resolutions by the National Assembly are usually ignored and never implemented by the executive arm of government, without explanation. Motions have no legal but moral force. Therefore, poor implementation of these motions renders naught the collective wisdom of the Senate. No matter how wonderful a bill or motion may be, the executive always perceived matters of urgent public importance and legislative resolutions as a threat and mere expression of the opinion of parliament. This is not common in the National Assembly. Most State Houses of Assembly’s resolutions have never been implemented by the executive, apart from executive bills that emanate from the governor.

Since the inception of Democracy in 1999 till date, one crucial cry of the public has been the need for an effective and a truly independent legislature that has the courage to checkmate the actions and inactions of government. Today, like never before, Nigerian legislators have woken up to do the legislative business, as it ought to be done. However, the executive cabal in the Presidential Villa has vowed to frustrate the efforts of parliament by not honouring their terms of invitation. The executive arm of government has eaten deep into the system, such that they now perform some major tasks of the National Assembly. A resistance to this crude anomaly is the reason for the ongoing crisis between both arms of government.

The executive arm of government has always performed some constitutional functions of the Senate. A clear example is the domestication of treaties. Several treaties have been entered between Nigeria and the international community. But such treaties were either done without the knowledge of the Senate or it has never been made available to the Senate, for domestication. Of what use is it entering into treaties with other nations when such laws are never domesticated, for Nigerians who are longing to benefit from them?

Mr Rotimi Olawale once noted that, “International treaties will remain mere documents if their significance is not felt by people in those countries.”  Yet, over the years, Nigeria has ratified several international treaties on environment, violence, child right, trade, etc. But many of these treaties are not operational in the country because they have not been domesticated. This makes them ordinary documents. The question could rightly be asked: Whose duty is it to domesticate treaties: the executive or the legislature? Is it the duty of the legislature to go to the executive to retrieve treaties or the function of the executive to present treaties to the National Assembly for domestication? The Nigerian Constitution will assist us in answering these questions.

Section 12(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) has it boldly written that: “No treaty between the federation and other country shall have force of law, except to the extent to which such treaty has been enacted into law by the National Assembly.”

 But what we have experienced since 1999 is the signing of treaties by the executive and domesticating such treaties by themselves. A refusal to make treaties available to the National Assembly can be assumed as self-domestication. As at today, the National Assembly has no full knowledge of the number of treaties that the Federal Government has enter into with other nations of the world. That is a major reason why we have never benefited from various international treaties. No matter how important the issue a treaty addresses, it is not applicable in the nation's domestic law or legal system, until it is domesticated by the National Assembly.

A typical example is the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of International Displaced Persons in Africa. The convention was adopted in October 2009. Mr Olawale further noted:  “As of 2015, it has been signed by 40 and ratified by 24 of the 54 member-states of the African Union. Article 5(4) specifically established the responsibilities for protection of internally displaced persons whose displacement is as a result of natural or man-made disaster, including climate change. However, Nigeria, among other nations, signed and approved the ratification of the African Union's Kampala Convention for the Protection and Assistance of IDPs in Africa on 12th April, 2012. Yet, this convention has not been domesticated in Nigeria. The National Assembly must renew its vigour with the executive, in order to reduce the burden on the finances of the nation through international interventions and assistance.

“This is a critical issue because millions have been sacked in Nigeria due to violence and climate change between July and October 2012 alone. According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), in a published report, 7.7 millions out of 2.1million people were internally displaced. Despite the large number of displacements in Nigeria and the challenges confronting us, the National Assembly is yet to domestic the Kampala Convention on IDPs. We must wake up as a nation to seek international assistance for our dying brothers and sisters.

The sudden disregard for the National Assembly has become a thing of concern to all Nigerians. The present administration has made us to know that all Nigerians are not equal. Some are more Nigerians than the others. The SGF and the CG of Customs and others are more Nigerian than the rest of us. Even the Senate president, Bukola Saraki, was summoned to appear by the Senate Committee on Ethics and Public Petitions, on allegations against him for alleged imported jeep. At his level, he obeyed the invitation to clear his name. Yet some Nigerians are above the same Senate.”

On the significance of responding to the invitation, Saraki said: “We must protect this institution. That is why I took my time to be here to clear my name and charges against me.”

 Senator Dino Melaye was accused of certificate forgery. He also humbled himself and appeared before the same Senate committee. If, according to the Bible, the righteous shall scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly be?

Every act a reward itself! The current attack on members of the National Assembly and religious leaders has taken a demonic dimension and needs divine intervention. This was why the Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, in his recent publication urged Nigerians to resist what he described as the rascality of Presidency officials, whom he said are bent on destroying our hard-earned democracy and emasculating the National Assembly.

His words: “The major difference between democracy and dictatorship is the presence of the legislature in democracy. Its absence is a dictatorship. Effort by this administration to hand-cuff the National Assembly is a subtle plot to foist full-blown dictatorship on Nigerians.” He, therefore, charged Nigerians to resist such development, saying:

“In doing so, we shall be defending our democracy, and we shall also be defending ourselves and generations of Nigerians yet unborn. This democracy cost us a lot in blood and sweat. The labour and sacrifice of the heroes and heroines of our democracy must not be allowed to go in vain.”

As a media practitioner, we may not have the power to physically speak, but our poisonous pen will do the talking for us. Bob Nester Marley said: “You can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time; but you cannot fool all the people all the time. Stand up for your right.”

It is only in Nigeria that I have seen that it is wrong to stand up for one’s right. Simply because the 8th Senate stood for their right and refused to be rubber stamp Senate, that is the reason behind all these attacks and unnecessary investigations to unearth the past of senators. Those who are paid to embarrass others should remember the great words of the American philosopher and poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Every act rewards itself. The longer the reward is withheld, the better or the worse for you. Because, compound interest upon compound interest.......

Martin Luther King Jr once lamented: “If a man is called to sweep street, he should sweep street.” The only way the legislature makes their laws is by talking and deliberation. But Nigerians woke up recently with a surprise: that a member of the Buhari cabinet wrote a letter directing the Senate, by drawing a limitation for them to obey.
The fact that the previous Senate was controlled by the executive doesn't give the current executive the power to write such a memo to the Senate. Not even a president of a country can determine the agenda of an independent institution of government like the National Assembly. It is the same thing as writing a letter to the chief judge of a court to direct him or her to deliver what you have written as his judgment for a case based on your interest.

According to the Nigerian Constitution, “Whatever the National Assembly is empowered to make laws on, it is also empowered to oversight.” That singular sentence brings all Nigeria institutions under the National Assembly of Nigeria. This is because the National Assembly is empowered to amend the Constitution and the Constitution defines the limitation of all government institutions. If the office of the Customs CG, the SGF or Attorney-General are not operating under the Nigerian Constitution, then they can disregard the Senate, and we owe them apologies. But if the laws by the Senate include them, then the Senate has power on how to execute their oversight functions without interruption of any kind from the executive arm of government. This act of negligence by the presidential cabal is leading the Senate to take a drastic decision that will stop the appointment of politicians in holding public office. The general public is now going to suffer the offense of a cabal. We must try to separate the sin from the sinner.

The ongoing decision by the Senate to pass Public Service Efficiency Bill, to allow civil servants head government agencies and parastatals should be re-considered very well. I have nothing against the public service, but civil servants are worst and more corrupt than the politicians. Though public service is one of the most sustainable institutions of government, it has played and is still playing major roles in social economic development. However, the reputation of public servants have suffered from public trust and confidence in government.

In one of his many speeches, former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, lamented about public service. He said: “Members of the public had to bribe their way through in ministries and parastatals to get attention; and one government agency had to bribe another government agency to obtain the release of their statutory allocation of fund. The impact of official corruption is bad and has earned Nigeria bad name both home and abroad.”

 For example, in the immigration recruitment saga that caused the death of many Nigerians, many civil servants made millions from the death of others. Currently in Nigeria, the only way to get job is to pay money to a civil servants. Risks that a minister will be afraid to take, the lower rank public servant will take that same risk without considering any implications. A confirmed civil servant fears no one, because he or she has attained the status of a mini god.

The Senate should, indeed, consider the implications of the Public Service and Efficiency Bill once again. Rigid and uncritical application of principles to affairs of government by civil servants has created setbacks in giving value to government investment on projects. Truancy and the incidence of blundering officials have eaten deep into our civil servants. Lateness to work, absconding from work, deceit, stealing and hiding of files for various selfish reasons are detestable acts that will continue to characterise the service at the executive level, if that bill is passed. It is the civil servants in most cases, that usually teach the political class how to steal government funds.

The National Assembly should not forget in a hurry, that the appointment of politicians in government agencies is also one of the ways to settle political party members for their labour during election. Civil servants cannot build institutions without the political will and force of a politician. The timid nature and I-don’t-care attitude of most public servants will affect the performance of government, if they assume that status. The public are all aware that government is not good a businessman, and that is because civil servants are not good managers. Therefore, to effectively build our public service institution, we must start by making the public service more attractive through computerisation and training beyond daily routine that has weakened the sense of reasoning of most public servants, through poor human development.

As noted by Oweh, “Those opposing the National Assembly should go and improve on their marketing skill, because no amount of blackmail, propaganda or arm-twisting tactics by the executive will make the Senate compromise their stand in fighting corruption in the ministries and agencies of government.”

These are indeed tension-soaked times for the nation. Once we get it right now, we are on our way to become part of the world powers. But once we fail in building our institutions now, we may be returning to the dispensation where we are coming from. Oliver Goldsmith said: “All change is not growth and all movement is not forward.” If the institution that represents our symbol of democracy is disregarded by those who ought to know its worth, it means we are back to dictatorship. If this continues, the nation may be perching on the horns of dilemma and anarchy may be looming, because centripetal and centrifugal forces are contesting for the soul and direction of Nigeria.

In their recent debate at the Red Chamber, the deputy whip of the Senate and the senator representing Edo North, Senator Francis Alimikhena explained how Ibrahim Magu, Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has been allegedly terrorising senators. He accused Magu of sponsoring media scandals against senators. Alimekhena alleged that since the Senate rejected Magu’s confirmation, he has resorted to terrorising members of the upper chamber. The senator said President Muhammadu Buhari will be undermining the nation’s democracy if he keeps the EFCC chairman in acting capacity.
Finally, before I drop this poisonous pen that may have offended many, I wish to apologise to as many I may have offended by my opinion. Thomas Carlyle said: “Popular opinion is the greatest lie in the world.” I also wish to call on the National Assembly – both the Senate and House of Representatives, once again – to establish a strategy to make their motions and resolutions more forceful, with a view to giving them necessary bite. The budget of government ministries, departments and agencies that fails to implement National Assembly resolutions should be reduced and critically looked into, to serve as warning to others. Time frame should be given to ministries to implement National Assembly resolutions or be summoned to explain their neglect of such resolutions, as it affects them.

If the foregoing issues are examined the suggestions duly implemented by relevant arms and agencies of government, both chambers of the National Assembly will no longer be seen as a mere talking factory who express parliamentary opinion.

•Benjamin Atu, Personal Assistant to Deputy Whip of the Senate, wrote from Abuja. He can be reached on: 08038847596, panationalassembly@gmail.com

Source News Express

Posted 01/04/2017 8:55:40 PM

 

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