PROF. ABUBAKAR O. SULAIMAN: ONE YEAR OF TRANSFORMATIVE LEADERSHIP AT THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR LEGISLATIVE AND DEMOCRATIC STUDIES (NILDS)


  • Friday July 10, 2020 09:46 AM
  • NILS Press Corps
ABOUT THE INSTITUTE
Strong dynamic support institutions are integral parts of nation-building as well as democratic consolidation. The establishment and successful functioning of any institution is critically dependent on several factors that include political stability, good governance, transparency and accountability.

The National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) was founded specifically to provide support to the legislature and other democratic institutions in Nigeria and to build capacity of elected officials and political office holders for the purposes of good governance.

NILDS was established by an Act of the National Assembly on March 2nd 2011. It was preceded by the Policy Analysis and Research Project, which was funded by the World Bank through the Africa Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) between 2004 and 2011.
The Institute’s core mandate is to build the capacity of legislators, parliamentary staff and legislative aides and provide technical support to the legislature in Nigeria, ECOWAS Parliament and national parliaments in the sub-region as well as the continent as a whole.
As such, the Institute provides capacity-building activities such as training, exchange of experience visits, postgraduate programmes and high-level policy advocacy. Additionally, the Institute provides legislative support services to the legislature through drafting of Bills, Motions, Briefs of Argument and technical outputs such as policy analysis, information briefs, research and statistics.
Other activities of the Institute include creating networks, internship and training programmes as well as mentorship. On January 26th, 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the NILS (Amendment) Act, 2017 which expanded the scope of the Institute to provide capacity development services to other democratic institutions and governance in Nigeria including political parties, CSOs, media organisations, political appointees and other political office holders. The amendment also renamed it as the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS).
From its humble beginning, the Institute has grown into a reputable capacity building institution expanding its reach beyond the National Assembly to extend to State Houses of Assembly and other national parliaments in Africa and beyond.

The pioneer Director-General of the Institute is Prof. Ladi Hamalai who midwifed the transition from PARP to NILDS. She successfully served two- terms of four (4) years each (2011-2019). Prior to that, she had equally spent eight (8) as Project Coordinator of PARP, the precursor to NILDS.
Through the support of past presiding and principal officers of the National Assembly as well as former Clerks, the Institute experienced rapid growth and expansion and became synonymous with excellence.

APPOINTMENT OF PROF. SULAIMAN AS DIRECTOR-GENERAL
On May 28th 2019, Abubakar O. Sulaiman - a Professor of Political Science and International Relations and a former Minister of National Planning and Deputy Chairman, National Planning Commission – was named as the new Director-General (DG) of the Institute.
His appointment remains one of the best moments in the life of the fledgling specialised academic institution. He is tasked with the responsibility of managing and providing leadership for the Institute. A technocrat and quintessential administrator, the cerebral professor has spent over two decades in teaching and research at the University of Abuja before ex-President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan spotted and appointed him Minister in 2014. His appointment as the second DG of the Institute was no doubt in consideration of his achievements, sterling qualities, doggedness and academic pedigree.
The justification for his choice was strongly underlined by the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, PhD, CON and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila who are the Chairman and Alternate Chairman of the Institute’s Governing Council respectively, at the inauguration of the Council, which was held on the 12th of December, 2019.
The pedigrees of the new Director-General as well as his intellectual and political perspicacity have equally been acknowledged by bureaucrats in the National Assembly. His trailblazing achievements in the last one year are directly attributable to his leadership acumen and the blend of academic and work-based experience he brought to his present national assignment.

THE JOURNEY SO FAR
The appointment of the new Director-General who is also the Chief Executive and Academic Officer happened at a historical time in Nigeria’s political history. It coincided with the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari and the inauguration of the 9th National Assembly with a new leadership under Sen. Ahmad Lawan, PhD, CON, President of the Senate and Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker, House of Representatives, respectively. It was a time of transition for the government at all levels and a time of transition at the Institute as well.
From the onset, he set out his vision for the Institute, which is to consolidate on the gains of the Institute in its first eight (8) years and to also expand its scope and activities to reach sub-national democratic institutions, improve visibility for the Institute and strengthen linkages with similar organisations and international and domestic development partners.

MILESTONES
In the last one year, the Institute has gone through an unprecedented period of growth and expansion in all aspects of its mandate as follows:

Re-Organization and Capacity Building
Any organisation is only as good as its work force including its technical capacity as well as the level of motivation and commitment. In line with the vision of the new leadership of the National Assembly and the Institute to position the Institute as an internationally celebrated centre of research, teaching and capacity building, there have been significant organisational reforms to improve the internal capacity of the personnel of the Institute. Additional departments have been created to enable the Institute to effectively deliver on its expanded mandate. These include the Departments of Training and International Cooperation, Library, Internal Audit and Postgraduate Studies. Existing departments have been streamlined, renamed and strengthened. Finance and Accounts Department was separated from Administration and Human Resources in line with globally recognized standards.

More importantly, the internal capacity at the Institute is now strengthened to position the staff of the Institute to perform better and improve the quality of the support they provide to the legislature. For the first time in the history of the Institute, a training calendar was drawn to ensure that all staff benefit from either local or international training in the core areas of their competencies.
Between 2019 and 2020, ninety-five (95%) of all staff of the Institute have been trained. The Institute has already begun to benefit from this policy of the DG as several staff of the Institute have utilised the knowledge gained through these programmes to impact on the training programme activities of the Institute.
The Institute’s Management has also addressed many of the lingering challenges affecting staff morale including those of promotion, proper placement, training and re-training, general staff welfare and incentives.
A Staff Audit Committee was inaugurated by the Director-General to examine in detail all human resources issues and make recommendations for implementation by the Institute. By tackling the deep-seated concerns and grievances of staff, the DG has been able to boost staff morale, improve staff and workplace harmony and a positive organisational culture at the Institute.

The DG has also supported initiatives aimed at promoting bonding between the management and the staff. These include the end of the year staff get-together, which provides opportunities for staff to meet and interact under a more relaxed informal atmosphere and meet families of each other and the monthly Staff Sports Day, which enables staff to participate in and enjoy some fun and teamwork games.
A monthly newsletter has also been set up to deliver information on the Institute’s activities to all staff through their e-mail addresses. In an effort to improve professionalism at the Institute and give it an international foothold, the Governing Council approved a holistic review and update the Institute’s Scheme of Service and Administrative Manual in line with good practices in both the Nigerian public service and internationally. He constituted a seven-man committee chaired by a prominent bureaucrat Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, a former permanent secretary in the Federal Civil Service and a former chief of staff to the former President of the Senate.
The recommendations made by the Committee will have major implications on the operations of the Institute and the National Assembly as a whole.

Scaling-Up
One of the key objectives of the Institute is to provide support services in the bill process with a view to enhancing the quality of legislation. To ensure the quality and effectiveness of laws, NILDS has been actively involved in the following: drafting of bills and motions, bill analysis and scrutiny as well as issue/sector/data briefs.
The Institute similarly provided legislative support to committees of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. In the past one year, the Institute’s capacity to solicit and process requests from lawmakers has been considerably strengthened.
The Institute’s Liaison Office in the National Assembly has been re-organised and strengthened towards the realisation of this objective. Owing to this reform in operational procedures, the Institute has so far drafted over 100 Bills and tracked another 125. It also analysed 226 Bills and scrutinised another 120. Experts at the Institute also drafted 64 Motions and over 100 Briefs of Argument/Lead Debates.

The Institute also provides analytical services to the legislature that include sound, unbiased, objective and authoritative analysis for legislators and committees. Given the academic background of the new DG, the scope of research in the Institute was expanded and the quality of the Institute’s analytical services has significantly improved. In the last one year, the Institute has conducted 24 policy analysis, 296 issue/sector/data briefs and 31 research papers. Through these activities, the Institute has contributed to building the knowledge of legislators and improving the effectiveness of the legislature as an institution and independent arm of government.
Other support activities of the Institute during the period included the following:
• Assisted the Appropriation, Finance and Public Accounts Committees in analysing the annual Appropriation Bills and Auditor General’s Reports
• Provided quarterly budget implementation reports to relevant committees.
• Review and monitoring of the Legislative Agenda of 9th Assembly;
• Support to strategic Committees in the National Assembly; and
• Review of the Steve Oronsaye Report on Rationalization and Restructuring of Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government.

Training and Empowerment
The Institute has developed a reputation as a foremost capacity building institution renowned in Nigeria, ECOWAS sub-region and beyond. Through its national and international training programmes, the Institute continues to enhance capacities of legislators and staff as well as other democratic actors to become more effective in carrying out their mandate.
In the last one year since Prof. Sulaiman has been DG, carefully thought out strategies have been implemented by the Institute to improve the quality of its training activities and to expand its reach especially to State Houses of Assembly across the country. In the last one year, 18 of such training activities were successfully conducted while 319 federal and state legislators (Senators, Members of the House of Representatives and Members of State Assemblies) have benefited from the Institute’s training programmes. Some of the high profile training activities for legislators included a Roundtable for Conference of Speakers, which had over thirty (30) Speakers in attendance and Retreat for Chairmen of Standing Committees of the House of Representatives. Over twenty (20) States have so far benefited from the Institute’s training activities in the past 12 months including Zamfara, Kwara, FCT, Delta, Kogi, Bauchi, Kaduna, Plateau, Benue and staff of the Office of the Governor of Borno State.
The Institute has also invested heavily in the training of parliamentary staff. A total of 399 legislative staff, including staff of the National Assembly and the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies have been trained.
These training consisted of workshops and seminars, short-term courses, conferences and retreats, exchange of experience visits and dialogue sessions. In realization of the role played by the National Assembly bureaucracy in providing essential support to legislators both in the chambers and in committees, there has been a renewed emphasis on capacity development for Committee Clerks and Official Reporters.
An important focus of the DG has been on strengthening the relationship between the Institute’s Management and the Management of the National Assembly headed by the Clerk to the National Assembly Mohammed Ataba Sani-Omolori.
One of the DG’s first actions was to organise a joint management retreat for the Institute and the National Assembly, which not only cemented the relationship between the two but also resulted in a far-reaching agreement on how best the Institute can provide better service for the National Assembly.
The DG has equally consolidated the Institute’s linkages and collaboration with the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC). In line with its mandate to provide capacity-building services to sub-national legislatures, the Institute’s linkages with governments at the sub-national level have been bolstered with the specific intention of strengthening capacity for good governance at that level.
The DG paid courtesy visits to several Governors and their Deputies including those of Lagos, Akwa Ibom and Plateau, and implored them to provide more support for the capacity development of the state legislatures. In addition, he reached out to all other governors pushing for the same.
As a result of these engagements, there has been a tremendous improvement of the Institute’s partnership with State Houses of Assembly. Other training organised and conducted by the Institute between 2019 and 2020 were the NILDS/NBA Workshop, Workshop for Councillors from the Federal Capital Territory and a Public Lecture on Debt Management.
All of which were well-attended by relevant stakeholders. One of the cardinal objectives of Prof. Sulaiman has been increasing visibility for the Institute and its activities beyond Nigeria. Consequently, the DG renewed old alliances with the ECOWAS Parliament and national parliaments in the sub-region as well as other parliaments in Africa.
This concerted advocacy and diplomacy resulted in several countries visiting and participating in the Institute’s training programmes in the last one year. These include legislators and staff from the National Assembly of Gambia, the Ugandan Parliament and Parliament of Ghana.

Enhanced Teaching and Research
The reputation of the NILDS rests equally on the quality of its teaching and research. The diversity and excellence of the Institute’s research is reflected in the quality of the teaching and in the range of its programmes.
The Institute runs specialised postgraduate programmes that include Master’s degree in Legislative Drafting; Parliamentary Administration and Legislative Studies, Elections and Party Politics. Other programmes of the Institute include Post Graduate Diploma in Elections and Party Management and Higher National Diploma in Official Reporting.
In view of his sound background in the academia, there has been a concerted effort to streamline, consolidate and expand the Institute’s postgraduate programmes. Some of the concrete measures taken in this regard include the hiring and posting of more staff to the Postgraduate School, setting up of an Academic Advisory Board, made-up of renowned academics and chaired by a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Abuja, Prof. Nuhu Yaqub.
The Board’s core function is to ensure that the Institute’s academic programmes are of the highest quality and in line with global best practices. The efforts of the DG and the special attention given to the Institute’s Postgraduate Programmes led to the renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Institute and the University of Benin (UNIBEN) and resulted in a surge in the number of students enrolling for programmes in the Institute both from the National Assembly and beyond. For the academic sessions 2018/2019 – 2019/2020, a total of 140 applications were received out of which 139 were found qualified and recommended for enrollment into the various programmes of the Institute.
These include legislators, legislative staff serving in various capacities (including committee clerks and staff, research staff, chamber staff and drafters, etc.) as well as legislative aides. The Institute’s Third Convocation was held on 28th October, 2019 where 65 students were awarded various degrees under the NILDS-University of Benin (UNIBEN) Postgraduate Programme.
In recognition of the importance of research to evidence-based policy making, research in the Institute has received renewed vigour. In the past year, the DG commissioned and directed several studies aimed at supporting the work of the legislature and other democratic institutions in Nigeria.
One of the first of such studies is that on the “Public Perception of the Legislature and Expectations of the 9th National Assembly” which was led by Prof. Attahiru Jega - a thoroughbred academic and former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The findings from this study have since been transmitted to the National Assembly to assist lawmakers in discharging their core functions in line with what the electorate expects of them.

The Institute has also kept pace with developments both in Nigeria and globally and has tailored its research to fit into finding solutions to contemporary challenges. For instance, faced with the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Institute set up a technical committee to examine the impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic and suggest areas for legislative action.
The output of the Committee’s work, which included a legislative framework for health and related emergencies and suggestions on phased re-opening of the economy were transmitted to the National Assembly and have greatly contributed to the debates and decision-making of both Chambers.
The DG has also commissioned a book project to serve as a reference point on all aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic and areas for reform and government action.
Advocacy towards appreciation of the legislative arm of government at secondary schools’ level through the FCT Quiz Competition for Secondary Schools was vigorously pursued. This tradition, which was started in 2012, has been maintained by the new DG and expanded to include more participating schools. In the 2020 series, 75 schools participated with 150 students. To further incentivise participating schools, students and parents to take interest in the legislature and issues of governance, the Abubakar O. Sulaiman Endowment Fund for annual winners was instituted to personally cover the cost of tuition in any public university in Nigeria.
The winners of the 2020 edition are the first beneficiaries.

Partnerships and Collaborations
One of key areas of reform and focus by the new Management in the last year has been the expansion of the Institute’s partnership with international and domestic partners, actors and organizations.
The DG has focused on identifying new funding opportunities and avenues for collaboration. He spent considerable time visiting international partners and discussing strategies for institutional strengthening in Nigeria.
These include meetings with the Executive Secretary of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), Country Representatives of UNDP, UN Women and the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and think-thank, Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS).
Several meetings were held between the Institute and other organisations that like the World Bank/IMF and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy where areas of collaboration were identified and discussed. The Institute has also reached out to other internationally prominent institutions including Johns Hopkins University in the United States.
High-level delegation from the Institute also participated in other robust programmes involving the Tokyo International Conference of African Development (TICAD), the Global Governance Summit in Singapore and the inauguration of ECOWAS Parliament, Niamey, Niger Republic.
Equal attention and energy were directed at building partnerships with domestic organisations and sister institutions in Nigeria including the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Since 2015, the Institute has participated in elections observation and this has been expanded to the observation of off-season elections.
The reports generated by the Institute have been shared with INEC and the leadership of the National Assembly. Other institutional linkages established in the past year were with the Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy and Development (SCDDD) founded and headed by Prof. Ibrahim Gambari (now Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari), the Aminu Kano Centre for Democratic Research and Training (aka Mambayya House), Kano, the Nigeria Natural Resource Charter (NNRC) Abuja, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), the Nigerian Army and media organisations such as the Nigeria Television Authority(NTA).

Completing and Relocating to Permanent Site

Since assuming office in May, 2019, Prof. Sulaiman has made completion and relocation to the Institute’s permanent site his cardinal priority. He embarked on a thorough inspection of the site in his first week as DG.
He also invited the new leadership of the National Assembly to familiarise themselves with the Project and ensure its timely completion. There is sufficient goodwill and support by the President of the Senate and the Speaker, House of Representatives for the Institute to relocate by 2021.
Once completed, this ultra-modern infrastructure will enable the Institute to carry out its mandate of building capacity among legislators at both the national and regional level and foster collaboration with other organisations and international institutions.

Prospects and Way Forward
There is no doubt that in the last one year, the Institute has successfully delivered on and exceeded its targets in all areas of its mandate bordering on training, research, teaching and the provision of support services to the legislature and other democratic institutions in Nigeria (including political parties and CSOs).
Indeed, the Institute has not only demonstrated its relevance to strengthening democratic governance in Nigeria but it has also lived up to the expectations of its founding fathers who envisioned an Institute with reach beyond Nigeria.

The new Management team at NILDS has worked hard to improve the overall quality of the Institute’s outputs. The success of the Institution this past year has largely been due to the guidance provided by the Governing Council led by the President of the Senate, Sen. Ahmad Lawan (Ph.D.) and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila but also the leadership and vision of its Director-General.

Given the support that the Institute enjoys from the Leadership of the National Assembly and the National Assembly bureaucracy, the coming years are guaranteed to bring about more successes to the Institute as it strives to achieve its ambitions of becoming a global hub of learning and centre of excellence.
The Institute’s permanent site is a key resource that needs to be completed and utilised to allow the Institute expand and actualise on its broad mandates of teaching and learning, research and knowledge development.
With the solid foundation laid by Prof. Sulaiman, NILDS is poised to remain a high value legislative service provider on the national, regional and international stages.