In a couple of weeks, the 8th National Assembly will become part of the nation’s history and the 9th National Assembly will be inaugurated. The doctrine of democracy postulates that the three arms of government – Executive, Judiciary and Legislature – must not only be independent but must also serve as a check on the excesses of one another. It is in this light that the role of the Legislature in any democratic governance all over the world cannot be over-emphasised.
Aside from the primary duty of making laws for the country, the legislature, especially at the national level, is expected to check any perceived excesses of the executive through its oversight functions. For any legislature to perform this expected role properly, it must be seen to be independent and should not be a rubber stamp of the executive. Sadly, since the beginning of this nascent democracy in 1999, the National Assembly has not been able to attain this lofty height because of what is seen as the frosty relationship between the two arms of government.
However, the emergence of Senate President Bukola Saraki as the leader of the 8th National Assembly marked a departure from the past. First, his emergence as the senate president purely by the grace of his colleagues across party lines may be the explanation for his successful tenure in office for the four years.
As a result, the initial response of President Muhammadu Buhari to Saraki’s emergence as senate president that he was ready to work with the National Assembly leadership despite opposition by the APC was then seen by many as a positive development for the nation’s democracy. Some analysts saw it then as a good development in the hope that for the first time, the country was to witness a virile legislature, independent and free from the control of the executive. Events in the last four years have shown that they were not wrong.
In the last four years, the 8th National Assembly under Saraki has tried its best to remain independent rather than being tagged a mere extension of the executive arm of government, which has also come with its consequences.
In trying to safeguard this independence, it is not unexpected that the executive would kick against what was mistaken as anti-party activism. Saraki and the 8th National Assembly, nevertheless, have remained resolute and determined to sustain the tenets of democracy. This they were able to do through legislations that were designed to add value and enhance democratic practice in the country.
In spite of the challenges the Senate leadership faced, the National Assembly has passed over 293 Bills as at May 7, 2019, and cleared 192 Petitions in the same period. There were major milestones in the area of the economy, with the passing of landmark legislation such as the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), which is undoubtedly the most comprehensive review of business laws in this country in 30 years. Other laws include Bankruptcy and Insolvency (Repeal and Reenactment) Act and the Credit Reporting Act.
To support the anti-corruption drive, the National Assembly has passed the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit Bill (NFIU), as a direct result of which Nigeria was readmitted into the Egmont Group. It has also successfully amended the Constitution, and this made progressive changes possible, such as the Not Too Young To Run law. Additionally, it has also seen to the implementation of the one per cent budgetary provision for primary healthcare, to make for a stronger Nigeria.
But one vocabulary synonymous with the current executive and the 8th Assembly is budget padding. However, apologists of the legislators argued that the Assembly could not be accused of padding a budget it had unquestionable constitutional power to review.
One clear point emerging from the achievements of the 8th National Assembly is the fact that Saraki, who even after defecting from the APC to the PDP, a minority party in the National Assembly, is still able to ensure effective control of the proceedings of the National Assembly. This is a rare quality of leadership that must not be overlooked.
It is the opinion of this newspaper that the incoming legislative session must be encouraged and cooperated with so as to build on the successes of the 8th Senate. We are also of the view that the anti-corruption drive of government will enhance its credibility in the eyes of well discerning members of the public when the searchlight is beamed on other arms of government and their agencies. In this way, this administration will achieve the purpose of restoring integrity to public governance.
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