The title of this Blog post is the subject matter of the conference I attended at Ladi Kwali Hall, Sheraton Hotels & Towers, Abuja on the 30th of November, 2020. The event was convened by the National Orientation Agency (NOA) in collaboration with HallowMace Communications. It was indeed a partnership between an arm of government, the legislature, and the citizens for whom they 'formulate' laws.
Tuesday, 1 December 2020
LEGISLATIVE INVESTIGATIVE POWERS: EXPECTATIONS, CHALLENGES & WAY FORWARD
'We do not sing our own song, others sing for us' - Senator Sanni Abdullahi, Deputy Chief Whip & Representative of the Senate President at the event. The quote alludes to the fact that both the Upper and Lower Chambers of the Legislature do not have the opportunity to address the citizens directly, it is the media, the Fourth Estate of the Realm, that reports the goings-on in the National Assembly to the people. Sanni said in order to adequately disseminate information to the public, journalists should cross check facts. He said in addition to the investigative powers of the Senate, it also appropriates, legislates and oversights. Because resources are scarce, funds should be utilised expeditiously!
Some of the participants at the parley were:
*Senator Ahmed Lawan (Represented by Senator Sanni Abdullahi) - SenatePresident
*Dr. Garba Abari - DG National Orintation Agency (NOA)
*Sunny Anderson Osiebe - CEO HallowMace Communications Ltd.
*Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, SAN - Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC)
*Senator (Eng.) Adeleke Adeyemi Oriolowo - Chairman, Senate Committe on Legislative Compliance
*Hon Alhassan Ado Doguwa - Leader House of Representatives
*Dr. Dayo Oluyemi-Kusa - Independent Consultant/Conflict Transformation Expert, Abuja
*Clement Nwankwo - Executive Director, Policy & Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC)
*Idayat Hasan (Represented by Austin Aigbe) - Director, Centre for Democracy & Dvelopment (CDD)
*Hon. Mulikat Adeola-Akande - Former Leader, House of Representatives
*Dr. Sam Amadi - Director, Centre for Public Policy & Research
*Oche precious Edeh - Executive Director, YES Project Initiative
Senator Adeyemi Oriolowo, Chairman Senate Committee on Legislative Compliance was worried about trust deficit between the arms of government and the citizenry. For him, the Senate is about equality and equity, while the House of Representatives is more about representation. He cautioned that there could be 'tyranny of the majority'. Compliance to legislative nuances and procedure should be on the front burner. Compliance & Ethics Units should be established in all MDAs.
For Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, there are pitfalls of legislative investigation as stipulated in Sections 88 and 89 of the Constitution. How do you compel Ministers, DGs and CEOs of MDAs to comply with NASS summons? There should be consequences for not appearing before Committees as and when due. Section 4(2)(3) of the Constitution elaborates on the function of the legislature enact laws that engender good governance.
On the whole, a number of recommendations were made:
*The NASS should have subject matter experts to aid Committee work and ensure that laws are enacted from an informed position.
*Once legislators are voted into the NASS, they should automatically become nationalists who serve their fatherland and not only their constituencies.
*Laws should be enacted to check 'executive rascality', so that when members of the executive are summoned by the Senate or House of Representatives, they comply.
*Investigation is fact-checking and should be carried out with a high sense of responsibility, integrity and transparency.
*Legislatures should always communicate the heart of the people.
*'Constituency projects' are not necessarily in the purview of the NASS, it is more an executive function.
*Women, young persons and other marginalised groups should be included in laws.
*MDAs that do not submit their annual audited accounts should be recommended for sanction. 'No audited report, no new budget allocation' should be the new mantra.
*Performance evaluation for MDAs is vital.
*Eventual restructuring of Nigeria would solve many lingering problems.
*The high turn-over rate at the NASS calls for worry. It erases institutional memory.
*Thorough investigative hearings by the NASS keeps government on its toes.
The discussion continues in less formal settings...