By Christiana Ekpa and Umar Muhammad Pums
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara yesterday said that many Nigerians do not understand the functions of the Parliament in carrying out its constitutionally assigned roles and responsibilities.
Dogara said this Monday during the opening ceremony of the National Assembly Open Week in the National Assembly Complex, Abuja.
He expressed hope that the event will meet the expectation of informing Nigerians more of the workings of parliaments and other related activities.
The Speaker said,”It is my hope that the new phase of openness that is being launched today will afford the people of Nigeria the opportunity to better understand the workings of the Legislature in proper perspectives. I say this because many Nigerians do not quite understand the functions of the Parliament in carrying out its constitutionally assigned roles and responsibilities.
“The Parliament does its works through Legislation, Representation and Oversight. Through Legislation, we make Laws for the peace, order and good governance of the country. Through Representation, we advance the particular interests of the people of our constituencies and the interests of Nigerians generally, while through Oversight, we oversee or monitor the activities of the other Arms of Government.”
Hon Dogara also reiterated that the legislature is the paramount arm of government because the whole idea of limited government and representative democracy begins and ends with law making and execution of laws, stating, “This reality has not dawned on many Nigerians mainly because of our Military era experiences during which the elected Legislature was always disbanded, at the slightest sound of martial music.”
He also reaffirmed the resolve of the Nigerian Parliament to uphold the principle of Openness as contained in the declaration of parliamentary openness at the World e-parliament Conference in 2012.
“I wish to also note that the Nigerian Parliament has all the while been considerably open through our robust interface with citizens during our Committees’ Public Hearings, Oversight functions, on our websites and through effective coverage by the Print and Electronic Media, including live streaming and coverages of the sittings of the Senate and that of the House of Representatives. What is needed now, I believe, is to up the ante in all our platforms to further engage with the people of Nigeria in the spirit of the Declaration of Parliamentary Openness,” he added.
Stressing that good governance and development can only be achieved when the three arms of government work in an orderly, synchronised and complementary form, observe strict compliance with the norms of the rule of law, maintain mutual respect among the arms, and adhere to the principle of separation of powers, including checks and balances in order to check tyranny and secure the liberty of citizens, the speaker noted that any leader who does not understand this principle should have no business leading a democracy.
The speaker conveyed the commitment if the House to the Parliamentary Openness initiative by facilitating its practice, continuity and progressive improvement and called on other arms of government to imbibe the same practice.
“It is in pursuit of this that the National Assembly passed the Freedom of Information Act and other related legislation designed to ensure better citizen access to governmental information. The National Assembly has also opened its budget to the public within the ambit allowed by the Appropriation laws and process.
“May I also use this opportunity to call on other arms of government, particularly the Executive branch; to open its doors and activities to legislative scrutiny. Contrary to some mischief makers’ views, legislative oversight and scrutiny is very critical to good governance as the legislature remains perhaps the only arm of government imbued with necessary constitutional powers to obtain information necessary to shine light on any form of abuse, inefficiencies or waste in governance,” Dogara said.