By Orjime Moses, Abuja
The National Institute of Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) in collaboration with KAS, yesterday, organised a training for Speakers of State Houses of Assembly on operationalising financial autonomy, overview of legislative practice and procedure, committee systems and legislative ethics, among others.
Speaking at the event, the director-general of NILDS, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman, said as the institute commenced the series of training activities for the year, the benchmarking exercise becomes even more important, adding that the survival of democracy in Nigeria lies with the state legislatures.
“As leadership, it is vital that we review the performance of our Assemblies in the previous year with the view to identifying areas that we have made improvements and those that require more attention.
“My position has always been that the future of democracy in Nigeria lies with the legislature, particularly State Houses of Assembly. The National Assembly has made significant progress since 1999 in safeguarding its autonomy, asserting its independence and exercising its constitutionally granted powers.
“The journey has not been easy and the relationship between the executive and the legislature, even at the national level, is sometimes characterised by tension, infringements on powers of one arm by the other, executive overreach and occasionally outright hostility as seen in the 9th Assembly.
“The problem is even more pronounced at the state level where State Assemblies, in many cases, are mere appendages of the executive with the governors determining assembly budget, appointments to leadership positions, legislative agenda and on occasions which legislator gets re-elected,” Prof. Sulaiman said.
He added that years of such dominance has seriously weakened the institutional capacity of State Assemblies to exercise effective control over the executive as required by the constitution which vests on the parliament, powers of oversight.
“We cannot build strong and virile democratic institutions when one arm of government controls and bullies the other arms,” he pointed out.
He posited that with full independence, State Assemblies can better determine their own agenda, build human and institutional capacities, develop efficient systems and processes, recruit competent staff, equip the Assembly with requisite tools and engage the services of consultants and experts on important technical issues.
Those present at the workshop included the Speaker of Enugu State House of Assembly, Hon. Edward Uchenn; Speaker of Ogun State House of Assembly, Hon Olakunle Oluomo and the deputy speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon Wasiu Eshinlokun, among other participants.