NILDS as the backbone of the legislative arm of government

  • Thursday December 5, 2019 16:16 PM
  • NILS Press Corps

The legislative arm of government is a very important institution of government that is pivotal to the success of any democratic order; any democratic order that does not accord a place of prominence to parliament will surely end up as an unmitigated fiasco. It is the arm of government that is responsible for making good laws for the good governance of any country. It also serves as a watchdog and checkmate the excesses of other arms of government especially the executive. However, it is very important to point out that under the military, which incidentally has dominated the country’s political landscape since the attainment of independence, the legislature is subsumed in the executive, while the executive and the judiciary continue to function at optimal capacities; this has somewhat led to the underdevelopment of the legislative arm of government; since its institutional capacities has been etiolated and enervated by years of authoritarianism.
It is for this reason that under the military, we witnessed draconian and obnoxious laws and the human rights of the individual were wantonly violated, this is in spite of the fact that the judiciary was functioning, but the generality of the people had nobody to genuinely represent them and their variegated interests across board. It is important to point out that, according to there are different functions the legislature which includes,

1. Legislative or Law-making Functions:

The first and foremost function of a legislature is to legislate i.e. to make laws. In ancient times, laws used to be either derived from customs, traditions and religious scriptures or were issued by the kings as their commands. However, in the contemporary era of democracy, the legislature is the chief source of law. It is the legislature that formulates the will of the state into laws and gives it a legal character. Legislature transforms the demands of the people into authoritative laws/statutes

2. Deliberative Functions:

To deliberate upon matters of national importance, public issues, problems, and needs is an important function of a modern legislature. Through this function, the legislature reflects the public opinion over various issues. The debates held in the legislature have a great educative value for the people.

3. Custodian of National Finances:

A near-universal rule is that “the legislature of the state is the custodian of the national purse.” It holds the purse of the nation and controls the finances. No money can be raised or spent by the executive without the approval of the legislature. Each year the executive has to prepare and get passed from the legislature the budget for the coming financial year. In the budget, the executive has to place the account of the actual income and expenditure of the previous year and estimated income and expenditure for the New Year. Not only the legislature passes the budget but also it alone can approve the imposition or repeal or collection of any tax whatsoever. Further, the legislature maintains control over all financial transactions and expenditures incurred by the executive.

4. Control over the Executive:

A modern legislature has the power to exercise control over the executive. In a parliamentary system of government, like the one which is at work in India, for all its actions, decisions, and policies, the executive is collectively responsible before the legislature. It is accountable before the legislature. The legislature has the power to remove the executive by passing a vote of no-confidence or by rejecting a policy or budget or law of the executive. The Prime Minister and all other ministers are essentially the members of the legislature. They are bound by the rules and procedures of the Parliament. (b) In a Presidential form of government, like the one which is at work in the USA, the legislature exercises some checks over the executive. It can appoint investigation committees to probe the functioning of government departments. By the use of its power to legislate and pass the budget, the legislature exercises a fair amount of control over the executive. Thus, whether a political system has a parliamentary system or a presidential system, the legislature exercises control over the executive.

5. Constituent Functions:

In almost every state, it is the legislature that has the power to amend the constitution. For this purpose, the legislature has to pass special laws, called amendments, in accordance with the procedure laid down in the Constitution. In some states, the requirement is that the legislature must pass the amendment with 2/3rd or 3/4th or an absolute majority of votes.

6. Electoral Functions:

A legislature usually performs some electoral functions. The two houses of the Indian Parliament elect the Vice-President. All elected MPs and MLAs from the Electoral College which elects the President of India. In Switzerland, the Federal Legislature elects the members of the Federal Council (Executive) and the Federal Tribunal (Judiciary).

7. Judicial Functions:

It is customary to give some judicial power to the legislature. Usually, the legislature is assigned to act as a court of impeachment i.e. as an investigating court for trying high public officials on charges of treason, misdemeanour and high crimes and remove them from office. In India, the Union Parliament can impeach the President. It has also the power to pass a resolution for the removal of Judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Court’s on the ground of misbehaviour or incapacity.

8. Ventilation of Grievances:

A legislature acts as the highest forum for ventilation of public grievances against the executive. Besides representing every interest and shade of opinion, the legislature acts as the national forum for expressing public opinion, public grievances and public aspirations. Parliamentary debates and discussions throw a floodlight over various issues of public importance.

9. Miscellaneous Functions:

Some legislatures are assigned specific executive tasks. For example, the US Senate (Upper House of US Legislature) has the power to confirm or reject the major appointments made by the US President. Likewise, it enjoys the power to ratify or reject treaties made by the US President. In India, the Rajya Sabha has been given the power to establish or eliminate any All India Service. Legislatures also perform the function of approving or rejecting or amending all the policies and plans made by the executive. In the US Constitution, the Congress (Legislature) enjoys the power to declare war. Thus the legislative organs of the government play a very important and active role in the exercise of the sovereign power of the state. In fact, the legislature is the legal sovereign in the State. It has the power to transform any decision of the state into law. Legislature is the chief source of law. It is the mirror of national public opinion and the symbol of the power of the people.

However, all these functions amount to nothing and pales into insignificance, if there is no institutional capacity to develop, mould and train human resources to be able to function effectively and in sync with other contributory factors to carry out these functions, this is where NILDS comes in as a research and training institution to give support and back up to the legislative arm of government in the three tiers of government in the country and beyond.

It is instructive to underscore the fact that, some of the reasons for which NILDS was set 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 the 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.

To this end, for instance, the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) has been encouraged to drive the process of ensuring swift implementation of financial autonomy granted the State Houses of Assembly in Nigeria.
The Director-General of the Institute, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman made this known recently in Abuja when he played host to a delegation from NTA-Parliament.
Addressing the broadcasters, the DG informed that critical stakeholders including members of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum are being engaged in a bid to ensure compliance with the provisions of the law which grants financial autonomy to State legislatures. He informed the visitors that NILDS has been prominently on the news in recent times because it has been doing a lot in advancing democratic governance.
He expressed appreciation for the unwavering support the NTA has extended to NILDS. “No government Ministries, Department or Agencies (MDAs) can now compete with our Institute in terms of being on the news for the right reasons” he stated.

Prof. Sulaiman informed that the amendment of the 2011 Act that established the Institute has further expanded its scope and mandate to extend its services to democratic institutions, Civil Society Organizations and other relevant bodies. He solicited more support of the media, particularly now that NILDS has the nod of the leadership of the National Assembly to work out modalities towards improving the visibility and public perception of Legislative institutions in the country. “We know that Organizations have since moved from the era of free services to a period of commercialization and market economy; today, if you want to reach in terms of networking, you must put money on the table for it” he agreed with the delegation.
He implored the Parliamentary and International channels of the NTA to gear up for a serious partnership with the Institute, noting that the next year’s work plan of NILDS would capture possibilities of collaborating with select media Houses on commercial bases, informing that NTA tops the list of the media outfits to be engaged.

Earlier, the leader of the delegation and General Manager, NTA Parliament, Mr. Iorhen Kwange solicited technical support from NILDS in the area of assistance with a camera chain or other cogent tool, assuring the DG of prompt response in terms of coverage of the activities of the Institute. He informed us that the NTA-Parliament is now available on both GOTV and DSTV channels.

Furthermore, in a bid to reposition NILDS to excellently deliver on its mandate; improving the synergy between the management of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) and National Assembly (NASS) has shaped the discussion at the very first retreat organized between the two.
In his address, Clerk to the National Assembly, Alhaji Sani Omolori acknowledged the consultative leadership of the Director-General of NILDS which he said will go far in transforming the Institute into a leading brand in Nigeria and indeed Africa.
He reiterated the need to deepen the interrelationship between stakeholders in the legislative arm of government in the areas of research, capacity building initiatives and overall administration.

Omolori further informed that the unity of purpose being forged will create the conducive atmosphere required for a robust performance of the Nigerian Legislature.

In his remarks, the Director-General, National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman extolled the leadership qualities of Alhaji Sani Omolori, which he said is key in repositioning and modernizing the legislative bureaucracy to make it attuned to contemporary realities and challenges. He expressed his strong belief that a harmonious and productive working relationship between NILDS and NASS bureaucracy is the only way in which the Institute can better serve the legislature at the national level. Prof. Abubakar outlined the avenues for collaboration as training, provision of technical support to committees, conduct of professional teams, policy research, continuous capacity building of legislators and legislative aides as well as development of useful resource materials and templates for committee activities. He assured that the coming years will open the vista to the improvement and standardization of the quality of committee reports and outputs. The Director-General expressed hope in the areas of improvement on bills drafting and ascertaining the highest quality before transmission to the President for assent. He calls for frank, constructive and mutually beneficial discussion on ways to partner towards the provision of more robust support to the National Assembly.
The National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, under the leadership of Prof Abubakar Sulaiman, is determined to add value to the National Assembly for the realization of its functions geared at delivering on democratic dividends.

There is no doubt that NILDS is the backbone of the National Assembly by giving it the much needed intellectual width and bite; as well as empowering the very germane arm of government to make right and needful decisions in very critical and crucial moments of our national history.
The training and retraining elements of the objectives of NILDS and its research components are very important because they provide the parliament with the appropriate and suitable calibre of workforce; it requires to clinically carry out it’s constitutionally spelt duties and responsibilities which are straightforward but also technical and therefore requires adroit and specialized hands to painstakingly handle.

The DG of NILDS, Professor Abubakar Sulaiman is bent on recalibrating and upping the ante in the institution through constructive engagement and management by objective strategies; he is creating the proper environment for maximum productivity and result-oriented service delivery processes. He operates an open-door policy, as he is very receptive to creative and innovative ideas. He has a listening ear but does not suffer fools gladly. He has been working conscientiously and assiduously to ensure that the story and fortune of the organization continue to move higher and for the institute to achieve greater success with a relatively short period of time.

Jide Ayobolu