NILDS DG Seeks Autonomy for State Legislatures, Says it’s Good for Democracy

  • Wednesday September 16, 2020 10:50 AM
  • NILS Press Corps

The Director-General, National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), Prof. Abubakar O. Sulaiman, has called for full autonomy for state lawmakers across the country. Prof. Sulaiman made this known at the capacity building workshop for members of the Oyo State House of Assembly on Wednesday, 16th September, 2020.

Giving his opening remarks during the 2-day workshop jointly organized by the Konrad Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) and (NILDS). Professor Sulaiman says without full autonomy, states will be unable to address the myriad of institutional and capacity challenges they face and neither can they hold the Executive to account.

“To perform optimally, State Assemblies must be able to recruit highly qualified and competent people. They will also need other resources such as a functional library, research facilities, modern ICT tools and technical capacity on the part of Members to scrutinize executive proposals, policies, programmes and activities”.

“Legislators also need resources to undertake effective oversight and conduct investigations where they suspect cases of corruption or mismanagement.
Furthermore, one of the hallmarks of legislative practice is Exchange of Experience visits, which allow Members to share knowledge with their counterparts from other states or countries around the world. All these require financial independence that is currently missing in most states”; he stated.

He added that the pursuit of autonomy is, in fact, a quest for the very survival of Nigeria’s democracy. “It is not about individuals but rather predicated on the need to have strong institutions that can provide the needed checks and balances as enshrined in the Constitution”.

Furthermore, he urged the legislators to continue to perform their responsibilities with the highest level of professionalism in order to further justify the demand for full independence.

“First, it is critical that legislators, as representatives of the people, improve the way they are perceived by the public. Members occupy positions of trust, which have been delegated to them by their constituents. As such, you must be seen to be doing everything possible to represent the interest of your people. Anything short of this is a travesty and a breech of trust. This can be achieved by designing and implementing a Legislative Agenda that highlights your core areas of interests and strategies for achieving them”.

“By so doing, the House can narrow its focus and dedicate its energy to achieving those targets it has set for itself within a limited time.

Aspects of the Legislative Agenda can include improving understanding of legislative practice and procedure among Members to foster debate and the smooth conduct of legislative business. It can also include other strategic objectives such as strengthening the capacity of committees particularly in the area of oversight. After all, a legislature is only as good as its committees, which are its engine rooms”.

“Another important issue for consideration of State Assemblies is the need to develop a legislative code of conduct to regulate the behaviour of Members. As ambassadors of the people, Members must conduct themselves in strict adherence to the code of ethics of public officials as well as legislative code of conduct”.

“This is vital to building confidence and improving public trust in the institution of the legislature. Finally, State Assemblies should aim to build alliances with other partners and stakeholders including civil society organizations (CSOs) that can provide the much-needed technical capacity to enable the legislature deliver on its mandate. It is these issues, among others, that this 2-day workshop intends to address. I am hopeful that participants would gain from the depth of knowledge and experience of the carefully selected resource persons as well as from your interaction with each other”.

Meanwhile, Prof. Sulaiman has commended the Oyo State 9th House of Assembly for successfully passing 34 bills, considering 37 motions and recording other legislative milestones. The DG said the Assembly led by Speaker, Rt. Hon. Adebo Ogundoyin, has matched the energy and vision of an equally energetic Governor, Engr. Seyi Makinde. “I insisted on attending this opening ceremony because of my respect and admiration for the Oyo State House of Assembly.

“The Assembly has also developed a harmonious working relationship with the Executive thus highlighting the importance of cordial executive-legislative relations in promoting socio-economic growth and development”.

“Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, which has affected all aspects of our national life, Oyo state has demonstrated not only the preparedness but also the capacity to face this and other challenges facing the state. I commend Mr. Speaker and all the Honourable Members of the Oyo State House of Assembly for this unity of purpose in the pursuit of development and deepening democratic processes”, he posited.

The capacity building workshop is the third in the series of the first set of such training programmes lined up for State Legislatures across the country, the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) in partnership with the Konrad Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) has since administered same for Members of Delta State House of Assembly, Ogun State House of Assembly and the crescendo to be reached at the close of the week with Members of the Lagos State House of Assembly.