OPINION: NILDS: STRENGTHENING DEMOCRACY THROUGH TRAINING AND RESEARCH
One of the world’s premier academic and research institutions, NILDS supports the sustenance of dynamic and effective Legislature in Nigeria (at Federal, State and Local level), and the ECOWAS sub-region.
The National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) is an organ of the National Assembly established by an Act of Parliament. The National Institute for Legislative Studies Act 2011 was signed into law on March 2nd, 2011 following the passage of the same by the Senate and the House of Representatives.
In 2016, the Institute’s Governing Council approved the establishment of new department of Democratic Studies as well as a Department for Post Graduate Studies. On January 26th, 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the National Institute for Legislative Studies (Amendment) Act, 2017. This expansion will enable the Institute to provide capacity development services to democratic Institutions and governance in Nigeria.
Some of the objectives for the establishment of NILDS are,
To act as a world class multi-disciplinary institution capable of providing training, capacity building, research, policy analysis and extension services for the legislature at the Federal, State and Local government levels;
To meet a long-felt need to provide the legislators and officials with institutionalized opportunities for problem-oriented studies and systematic training in the various disciplines of legislative institutions, processes and procedures;
To improve capacity of Legislators to sustain and consolidate democratic governance through deliberation and policy formulation. Improve the technical capacity of legislative staff, committee secretaries and political aides to process appropriation bills and policy oversight of the executive;
To stock and improve the quality of relevant information, for members of the national and state assemblies and the general public through the dissemination of research output and the organization of consultative fora for the public sector, as well as representatives of the private sector and civil society;
To promote and disseminate among Legislative Assemblies in Nigeria the practice of science-based methodologies of law-making;
To design, analyze and evaluate development policies in Nigeria, especially dealing with macro-economic, socio-political and cultural issues, as may be necessary from time to time;
To support networking arrangements involving parliaments and policy analysis units in the sub-region in order to share experiences;
To prepare such reports and information, as may be required by Special/Standing Committees in the course of their work;
To establish and/or consolidate a database on relevant development policy issues for utilization in deliberations on bills and drafting of legislation;
To promote best practices in legislative activities in Nigeria and countries in the sub-region;
To strengthen democratic processes, structures and institutions;
To promote and protect constitutional due process in legislative practices;
To assist the National Assembly and State Assemblies in their efforts to conceive and draft bills;
To conduct short-term training modules for members of the national and state assemblies and their staff; and
To monitor and evaluate the implementation of annual budgets and report to the relevant assemblies.
There is no doubt whatsoever that these laudable objectives would help in no small measures to stand democracy on sound footing and good stead, as training of political gladiators and backroom staff would immensely assist to deepen the democratic space and process across board. In the same vein, research would break new grounds that can positively aid democratic conduct and practice; it can equally grease the wheels of the legislature which is the arm of government responsible for making laws; to make reasonable and responsible laws for the good governance of the country.
One striking feature of this uniquely formed institution is that, it does not just train and retrain legislative staff at the federal level alone, but it has similarly avail the legislative arm of government at both the state and local government levels of its expertise and services. This is even as it has trained legislators from across the West African sub-region, hence, as it trains political actors outside the shores of the country, it can also draws inspiration from diverse experiences that can come in handy to Nigeria, which the country can leverage on, for purposeful all-round growth development.
It is imperative to underscore the fact that, the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), recently, it took its capacity building exercise to the last tier of government with 2- day training workshop for the 62 elected Councillors across the Six Area Councils of the federal capital territory. The training workshop which is took place at hearing room 034 of the House of Representatives wing of the National Assembly was also attended by clerks of each of the six legislative houses across various Area Councils. Declaring the Session open, the Director General of NILDS, Professor Abubakar Sulaiman, said for Nigeria to experience balanced and sustainable development, there was need for the bulk of the country’s population who live in the rural areas to benefit from dividends of democracy at the grassroots level.
According to him, this would be better achieved if democracy at the local government level is not only entrenched but also strengthened to provide the much needed goods and services for the general well-being of the rural populace. The workshop, he added, would help to develop the human resource skills and experiences needed to drive development agenda at the grassroots. “The need to ensure checks and balances at the local government level also demand that elected officials such as Councillors must be properly exposed to their constitutional mandate and international best practices in parliamentary management. “This will enable them provide quality representation, effective oversight and judicious use of resource at the grassroots level “, he stressed. The elected Councillors across the 62 wards in the Six Area Councils, were led into the 2- day training by the Chairman of their forum, Hon Abdulkadir Sidi Ali.
It is also gratifying to note that, Director General, National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, Professor Abubakar Olanrewaju Sulaiman, has explained that the institution has introduced additional courses of study to the existing six for various post graduate degrees by interested knowledge seeking Nigerians.
Prof. Sulaiman listed the new course of study as Masters in Constitutional Law and Constitutional Development. The director general, who spoke at the sixth matriculation ceremony for 79 new students admitted for the existing courses, however, lamented that space constraints at the Institute’s temporary site in Maitama, Abuja where it presently operates from, hindered it from running the new course for the 2018/2019 academic session.
“Our newly introduced programme that is, Masters in Constitutional Law and Constitutional Development as approved by the National Universities Commission (NUC), is hotly being applied for by interested knowledge seekers but space constraints in our temporary office, prevented us from running it for now. “It is our hope that by expected completion of our permanent site along the Airport Road Abuja, this year, the new course will be run along with the six others in the next academic session,” he said.
The six other courses as stated by the DG are Masters in Legislative Studies, Parliamentary Administration and Masters in Elections and Party Politics. Others are Master’s degree in Law (LLM), Legislative Drafting, Post Graduate Diploma in Elections and party Management and Postgraduate Diploma in Legislative Drafting (Distance Learning).
Professor Sulaiman in stressing the importance of the programme said: “Competent technical legislative staff are essential to the effective functioning of the legislature and by extension in building a strong and virile bureaucracy.
“It is in realization of this need and in response to the manpower gap identified through a personal audit instituted by the National Assembly management that NILDS has been at the forefront of developing qualitative and targeted training and educational programmes that will address the skills gaps identified in all aspects of legislative operations.”
Furthermore, the, Director General, National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, NILDS, Prof. Abubakar Olanrewaju Sulaiman has expressed optimism that the Institute can start operating from its permanent site before the year winds down. While on an inspection tour of the site on Friday, June 7, 2019, the DG said that the site is a key resource that needs to be well utilized, maintained and continually improved upon in order to support the achievement of the Institute’s priorities in teaching and learning, research and knowledge exchange. Progress of work on the ultra- modern training centre has slowed down drastically as a result of dwindling funds; Suleiman, however, made a passionate appeal to Julius Berger, Nigeria Limited to return to site and accelerate the speed of work in order to make good their assurances. “Apparently the budget has just been signed, very soon, I hope releases would be made, what really takes chunk of the time is implementation; but we’ll see what can be done” he stated. On completion, the NILDS’ permanent site will be in the league of Dubai Knowledge Park which is a human resources management, professional learning and educational free trade zone campus.
It is instructive to note also that, Africa’s foremost capacity development Institute on democratic studies, the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, NILDS, has yet again, broken new grounds with the epoch making inauguration of Members of NILDS Academic Advisory Board.
At a brief ceremony at the temporary site of the Institute, the Director General NILDS, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman, charged the seven-man Board, led by Prof. Nuhu Yaqub to discharge its assignment with commitment to excellence, national interest, and focus on the realization of NILDS Institutional mandate and sustenance of democracy. “The vision of the Institute is to be a world-class multi-disciplinary policy-oriented research entity, capable of improving the quality of legislative practices and procedures and strengthening democratic institutions through post graduate teaching, research, policy analysis, training and provision of legislative support services. It is in light of this vision, that it is imperative to refocus the institute by establishing an Academic Advisory Board, comprising seasoned experts outside the institute’s pool of experts that can help us achieve the objectives as captured in your Terms of Reference.” The Academic Board, comprising 7 Professors from diverse fields has a two-year term, renewable, subject to satisfactory performance, with Prof Nuhu Yaqub as Chairman, Prof. Mohamed Tabiu, Prof. Yusuf Zoaka, Prof. Adigun Agbaje, Prof. Jamila Nasir, Prof. Peter Chukwuyem Egbon and Prof. Badayi Sani as members. Their appointment takes effect from today, 20th September 2019.
It very important to point that since Professor Sulaiman took over the mantle of leadership at the institute in June 2019, the fortunes of the capacity building organization has been looking up, chief of his reformative agenda is staff welfare, to this end, he has ensured the confirmation of appointments of those that have been on probation for long, also, he made sure that staff entitlements were promptly paid; he has helped greatly to foster peace, unity and understanding amongst all cadre of staff, he put in place overseas training for those deserving of it; he has also seen to it that all forms of marginalization and discrimination were squarely addressed, all pending promotions were decisively dealt with, hence, there is a new lease of life at the institute and Professor Sulaiman is not resting on its oars.
*** Written by Jide Ayobolu.
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