Legislative autonomy: Why I won’t fight Buhari-Lawan
•Assures Nigerians on Constitution amendment
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has again faulted claims that the Senate under his leadership has subordinated itself to the Executive arm of government.
Senator Lawan said this on Friday in Abuja while speaking with newsmen on the occasion of the second anniversary of the ninth Senate.
The ninth Senate has been derisively labelled as a “Rubber Stamp Parliament”, by opposition parties politicians and members of the Civil Society Organizations who accused it of having lost its voice in the face of excesses of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
Senator Lawan who insisted that the focus of the National Assembly under his leadership was a sustained harmonious relationship with the Executive arm of government maintained that the larger interest of Nigerians was paramount to him rather than fighting a war for the Independence of the legislature.
He said: “I believe there is a price to pay for anything. Last week, I was 22 years as a member of NASS. As a student of Parliament, I understand that there is a need to achieve partnership, cooperation and a better working relationship between us and the Executive because it is multi-layered.
“When I was elected, senators across party divides voted for me. I didn’t take that for granted. That means they wanted a bipartisan house. So, we have achieved that. The next level is to achieve that with our colleague in the House of Representatives because the bills need concurrence.
“Having achieved that, the next level is the NASS working as a unit, as an Institution, working with the Executive arm.
“The eight Assembly was characterised by animosity over the War of Independence and who paid the price? Nigerians!
What is important is for the legislature to know its role and carry out oversight functions and know its boundaries. Of, course, the Executive must also know its boundaries. Before we took over we said we want mutual respect and a cordial relationship but not at the expense of our role. That’s what informed our relationship.
“But some people expect, stone-throwing, fight, insults and punching and that’s the kind of thing they wanted. But how does that give you what you need? It doesn’t. I can tell you that we disagree with the Executive but the difference between us and what had happened in the past is that we are able to talk. No, we aren’t rubber stamp and I haven’t been pocketed.”
Reacting to media reports of failure by heads of Ministries, Department and Agencies to give explanations on the use of public funds when summoned by the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, the President of the Senate assured that it would no longer be business as usual.
“We won’t fail to sign a warrant of arrest on anyone who refuses to account for the public fund. We won’t. But I can assure you that majority of public servants haven’t failed to come. Only a few and those few if we discovered their absence to be deliberate, we will take appropriate action.”
On the ongoing legislative process to amend the 1999 Constitution, the Senator representing Yobe North further assured Nigerians that the ninth National Assembly was committed to fundamental amendments of certain provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
“Coming to the question of a jamboree, we have a responsibility as a parliament to look at how we are governed at any time. When we pass bills and send them for assent, what we try to do is to promote good governance. That’s why we are here. This must be the focus and mandate of any Parliament.
“Constitution review is another because Nigerians are complaining. How do we serve Nigerians? We have to look at areas that aren’t there but Nigerians feel strongly about. That’s our responsibility to the yearnings and aspirations of the people we represent. So, this NASS and one that will come after it will do Constitution Review.
“But let me remind you that it isn’t the responsibility of NASS alone. It involves state assemblies. So, the process will be complete when it comes back to us and we pass it to the Executive.
“So, all of us including the citizens are in this together. So, it isn’t even correct to say it was a jamboree. In the past, there were amendments. Not too Young to Rule is an amendment. We should also look at state assemblies. We have instances when we pass laws for financial autonomy for local government but the State governors sat on it.
So, what is the fault of NASS there?. We also need to see that the State governors function properly in a democratic way.
“The local government are almost comatose and unless we allow their autonomy, we may not function well as a democracy.”