…Osinbajo laments failure of govt arms to cooperate
By Egena Sunday Ode
The Executive/Legislative retreat presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari ended on Tuesday with a recommendation that the ruling party should exercise more control over its members to enable it forestall or resolve any crises that may arise.
That was as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said given the poor economic conditions of Nigerians and the poor state of infrastructure, it will be callous and irresponsible for the arms of government not to work together.
In his closing remarks at the retreat, Osinbajo noted that the context within which the arms of government operate is important, noting that given the situation in the country, it will be callous and irresponsible if the different arms of government to work together to resolve the problems.
He said: “The fact that we have all been here for two working days demonstrates our common commitment to collaboration.
“Frankly, we have no choice if we are not to fail the Nigerian people who have given us this incredible opportunity amongst millions of our compatriots to serve at this high leadership levels we occupy today.”
While noting that “this is all about Nigeria and Nigerians,” he added: “This is the context for our operations. Let me say that every generation of leadership must understand context. Law itself must be interpreted and implemented in context. What is the reality of the context that we operate in today? We all know, our nation has millions of extremely poor people, the Covid 19 pandemic has worsened employment and poverty.
“We have huge deficits in infrastructure, many children are out of school. If that is our context we will be callous and irresponsible if we don’t come together, work together to sort out these grave life threatening problems our people have to confront everyday.
“The dogmatic emphasis on procedural niceties is a luxury we cannot afford. In any event, there is no pure practice of the doctrine of separation of powers. The Anglo American traditions that we hold on to in support of the separation of powers are not pure…so for example the US Vice President serves as the president of the Senate and presides over the Senate’s daily proceedings.”
In its recommendation read by Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mohammed Bello, at the end of the two day exercise at Banquet Hall of the presidential villa, Abuja, the parley also advocated respect for party leadership by its membership.
“The ruling political party should be encouraged to take ownership of its members to be able to reconcile them whenever conflict arises, and, members in both arms of government should show regard for the party and its leadership.” It said.
It called for a concrete understanding and working knowledge between both the Executive and Legislature just as it noted that an effective confidence building measure should be put in place in the governance process to ensure mutual respect and cordial relationship between the Executive and the Legislature.
The parley further recommended the creation of an effective conflict management and resolution mechanism in resolving areas of disagreement between the Executive and Legislature in the overall national interest.
Other recommendations are that there should be modalities for better access, interfacing and engagement between the leaderships of both arms of government, the NASS Committees and MDAs should be worked out by the SGF and NASS-Executive Liaison.
“There should be regular pre-budget consultations between the Executive and Legislature particularly between the MDAs and NASS Committees, Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning and the appropriate Committee in NASS.
“There is need for an effective communication and collaborative engagement to enhance and strengthen the relationship between the arms of government for the benefit of Nigerians.
“The relationship should not be adversarial but complementary, thus, more interpersonal and informal relationship between heads of MDAs and NASS members should be encouraged.
“Operators in the arms of government should act with moderation and limit their sense of entitlement by placing public interest over and above personal and parochial interest.
“The Presidency should strengthen the capacity of the Executive Liaison Offices in the National Assembly.
“There is need for an organic budget law which will optimize the budgetary process so as to deliver effective and efficient service to the citizens.”
The summation from the retreat highlighted what it referred to as weak mechanism for conflict management and dispute resolution between both arms of government and limited consultation between them on critical governance issues such as policy initiation, programme implementation, planning, and legislative processes.
Other issues that arose from the parley include lack of clarity in communication and poor feedback mechanism leading to different and subjective interpretation of intent and purpose of the message.
The retreat also pointed at limited understanding of the workings and internal processes of each arm of government by government operatives; lack of mutual respect between the Executive and the Legislature in the conduct of governmental business; and lack of and/or absence of pre-budget consultations and briefings between the Executive and Legislative branches of government making the budgetary process acrimonious.
Others observed issues according to Bello are “the pursuit of personal interest as against national interest; ill-equipped and poorly resourced offices of Presidential Liaison Offices in the National Assembly;
poorly defined channels of communication between the executive and legislative arms and weak utilisation of the Offices of the SSA-Ps to the President in managing communication between Committees of the National Assembly and MDAs.
“Limited participation of MDAs at public hearings organised by the National Assembly on critical bills to influence the process but choose to raise objections when the bill is transmitted for Presidential assent.
“The current operational budgetary process is sub-optimal; and political parties have not really played the fatherly role that is expected of it in managing the relationship between the Executive and the Legislature.”