Amid criticisms and call for slashing of its funds, the governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal has called for more funding for the National Assembly to enable it perform its duties.
Tambuwal disclosed this on Monday while delivering a lecture at the Second Convocation and Awards Ceremony of the National Institute of Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) in collaboration with the University of Benin.
The former Speaker of the House of Representatives said that even though it is an unpopular argument, that so long as Nigeria operates a presidential system of government, the funding of the National Assembly remained meager.
Giving insights on how to boost the institutional capacity of the National Assembly, the Sokoto Governor stressed that for the committees of NASS to work effectively, more money must be allocated.
“The constitutional responsibilities of the National Assembly are enormous, especially in the areas of law making and oversight. Adequate financial resources are required for the Assembly to be able to discharge these responsibilities effectively in line with public expectations.
“A study by NILDS observed funding gaps in critical areas of committee activities including meetings, implementation of oversight visits and activities, holding interactive sessions and conducting public and investigative.
“Am sure this may not go down well with a large percentage of the populace but we cannot run away from the fact that the National Assembly requires more funding,” he said.
He said that the issue of funding and procurement of vehicles was strongly argued when President Yar’Adua began the moneytisation policy and wanted to deprive the National Assembly of project vehicles.
The former lawmaker said that building the institutional capacity of the legislature was very key to the development of the nation stressing that strong institutions define a nation.
He however decried that a major challenge facing the legislature was that of high turnover, stressing that the way new lawmakers were elected into office does not give room for professionalism and expertise.
Tambuwal added that interference of the executive in the activities of the legislature must cease so that the legislature can truly be free to carry out its functions.
He called on NASS to legislate on budget cycle in a way that compels the executive to submit the budget on time while also advising them to review the recruitment process for legislative aids to ensure that only professional were employed and not friends or allies of the lawmakers.
“Legislators-constituency relations should emphasise constituency-wide benefits. NASS should also invest in outreach programmes and strengthen linkages with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as they play key roles in civic education.
“Legislature must continue to cultivate public trust in the democratic system through high ethical standards. This underscores the need to strengthen the ethics and code of conduct regime at the National Assembly in order to develop a culture of high etiquette for legislators and to rebuild public trust in the political system,” he said.
The governor congratulated the students who had graduated from the various courses of the Institute.
In an address, Prof Peter Lewis of Johns Hopkins University, commended the 4th Republic Legislature, particularly the 8thNational Assembly for being the most independent legislature in the history of Nigeria.
Lewis, Director of African Studies and a Professor of Advanced International Studies, at the University in Washington DC, USA said that the first and second legislatures were basically instruments of the Executive.
He said that the second legislature for instance had only one member sponsored bill unlike the 8th National Assembly were most of the over 200 bills that had been passed were sponsored by members of the legislature.
“The National Assembly in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic – now in its fifth session since the inauguration of democracy in 1999 – is unlike any previous parliamentary institution since independence.
“This is not because of the design of the assembly, which has roots in the British parliamentary tradition rather, it is the roles and functions of the NASS that are distinctive. It is the first independent legislature in Nigerian history.
“In the First and Second Republics, the legislature had little autonomy from the executive, the Assembly was largely a debating chamber and an instrument of the executive.
“Since 1999, both the Senate and the House of Representatives have asserted roles in legislation, oversight and representation. More than 2100 bills have been shepherded through the Assembly during the span of the Fourth Republic,” he said.
For the President of the Senate Dr Bukola Saraki, who is the Chairman Governing Council on NILDS, he said that the National Assembly will continue focus on policies that would advance the people.
He said that the legislature would continue to be effective stressing that “an effective legislature is essential to democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and economic and social development.
“The core legislative, oversight and representative functions of the legislature provide an essential contribution to the quality our democracy and governance as a whole.
“In the 8th Assembly, the legislature has played a greater role in policy formulation and has engaged more robustly with the Executive at the various stages of policy formulation,” he said.
Saraki who presented the certificates to all 78 graduates of the various programmes of NILDS commended the graduands and the institution for the milestones recorded.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the postgraduate courses for which the convocation was held were Masters in Legislative Studies and Masters in Legislative Drafting.
Mr Omololu Phillip Ogunmade, a Journalist with Thisday Newspaper formerly assigned to cover the National Assembly, was awarded as the best graduating student for Masters in Legislative Studies.