By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
Nigerians Tuesday admonished the 9th National Assembly to do away from anything that would portray it as a rubber stamp of the Executive arm of government.
This they reasoned, will make its public perception positive which they opined, is seriously needed by the federal Parliament in carrying out serious legislative business like comprehensive constitution amendments and effective oversight functions on the Executive.
Submissions to this effect, were made by representatives of critical stakeholders in the polity, like the Civil Society Organisations, Pressure Groups , Religious bodies and journalists at a one – day group focused discussions on citizens’ expectations from the 9th National Assembly held at the temporary site of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), Abuja.
Specifically the Chairman of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), University of Abuja Chapter, Kassim Umar, cautioned the leadership of the 9th National Assembly on ‘the same page relationship’ it is running with the executive arm of government since the three arms of government in a presidential democracy, are meant to serve as check on one another.
“Harmonious working relationship among the three arms of government and in particular, between the Legislature and the Executive in a presidential democracy like Nigeria is a welcome development but taking it to the realm of subservience by being on the page with the executive on all issues, is dangerous for good governance.
“In the light of this, Nigerians will want the 9th National Assembly to be more assertive, thorough and resolute in exercising its constitutional duties as regards approval of proposals from the executive arm of government so as not to be seen as rubber stamp and invariably creating perception problem for itself.
“Effective oversight functions on the two other arms of government by the National Assembly is highly expected from them by Nigerians which will go a long way , in taking off whatever toga of rubber stamp many critics have put on them”, he said.
He added that the federal lawmakers should use the instrument of legislation to put the education sector in the front burner of funding and development being the cornerstone of development anywhere in the world.
In his own contribution, Barrister Daramola Bade who represented who represented the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Abuja Chapter, said for the 9th National Assembly to be taken seriously by Nigerians, far reaching constitution amendments that will make Nigeria, a development – driven federation and not an over centralized one , should be carried out by it.
“Approving all proposals forwarded by the executive without coming up with robust legislation that will transform the country for good, will make it’s public perception to be more of a rubber stamp than an autonomous arm of government”, he said.
The representative of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (SCIA), Mallam Akande Abubakar said once the federal lawmakers allow the fear of God to prevail in all their legislative activities, Nigeria and Nigerians will be better off and the problem of negative public perception on them will no longer be an issue.
Ernest Ereke of the Centre for Legislative Engagement however insisted that as long as the National Assembly continues fraternising with the issue of constituency projects, so long shall its image be low before Nigerians.
According to him, since the issue is not constitutional, it will continue to smear the image of members of the National Assembly whether they are directly involved in the execution of the projects or not , moreso, when President Buhari declared last year that over a trillion Naira have been cash backed for such projects within the last ten years without anything to show for it.
The Group focused discussions declared open by the Director General of NILDS, Professor Abubakar Sulaiman , was moderated by Professor Siyan Peter who stood in for Professor Attahiru Jega , the Chairman of the Committee set up by the Institute in October last year assessment of Nigerians expectations from the 9th National Assembly.