By Henry Umoru
A recent two day conference on strengthening relations between the legislative and executive arms of the Federal Government was an insightful and useful voyage for players in both arms.
THE two day conference on executive-legislature relations was unprecedented in the fourth republic.
The members of the National Assembly and the executive arm of government was not about the presentation of the annual budget and it was not about the lawmakers summoning members as they were wont, presidency officials to explain one thing or the other about the affairs of government.
The conference designed to among others strengthen relations between the two arms of government was the brain-child of the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Joy Emodi, herself, a distinguished veteran of the Senate who in her days in the legislature was known as the Joy of the Senate.
The conference drew participants from both arms of government with experienced politicians and academics including veterans from other established democracies acting as facilitators.
Among them were Ms Baleka Mbete who incidentally was former Speaker of South African National Assembly and also a former Deputy President of South Africa and presently, chairman of the African National Congress, ANC,; Mr. Derrick Smith M.P, Jamaica; former United States Senator, Norman Coleman, among others.
Flagging off the conference, Senator Emodi noted the conference came at a time “when the executive and legislature show a genuine, sincere and active interest in working cooperatively to promote good democratic governance.”
She said: “This conference is part of our efforts to consolidate the gains of the past and to explore new and more meaningful ways of strengthening executive- legislature relations in Nigeria.”
President Goodluck Jonathan represented by Vice-President Namadi Sambo while declaring open the conference stressed the need for a robust relationship between the two arms of government saying that it was only through such development that the country could move forward.
Jonathan harps on collaboration
President Jonathan who was represented by Vice President Namadi Sambo said that if Nigerians must attain the much needed democratic height, there was the need for collaboration between the two arms of government and particularly noted that the Executive and the Legislature were not in a battle of supremacy or competition against the backdrop that the roles of both arms have been well established, adding that they must not be divided as the people of Nigeria expect much from them.
According to him, the disagreement often being witnessed between the executive and the legislature should not be misinterpreted for battle for supremacy, saying it was a normal thing in any democratic nation.
“That is the more reason we have to work as a team, even as every member of the team has different roles and power. The separation of power and check and balance are meant for massive reinforcement of ideals and goals in the national interest. We must always remember that we are here to make Nigeria far better than we met it, we just cannot afford to fail.
Earlier in his remarks, Senate President, David Mark noted that the two arms of government had not done anything to suggest that there was rancour between them, stressing that the leadership of the National assembly would always work with the executive for the progress of the country.
In his remarks, chairman of the occasion and former Senate President, Senator Joseph Wayas while hailing Senator Emodi for convening the conference stressed that the lawmakers will learn much at the end of the day, adding that there is nothing like Separation of Power in Nigeria saying if there was such, that there would be no government.
At the end of the two-day brainstorming exercise, both the Executive and Legislative arms of government agreed that if the nation’s democracy must be sustained and effective, both arms of government must know the limits and boundaries of their powers.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the conference, the participants also recommended that only the executive should be responsible for the implementation of the budget, adding that there was the need to build the capacity of the members of the legislature on the budget process.
“Political parties should be supreme and demonstrate their supremacy over their members in the executive and the legislature.
“There must be synergy between political parties, the legislature and the executive in order to promote better executive-legislature relations.
“Every political party should develop clear manifestoes which should be the basis of soliciting for the votes of the electorates and which should be implemented by the executive and the legislature if elected to power.
“Oversight functions should be exercised with integrity and responsibility and only for the purpose of exposing corruption and abuse of power.
There should be adequate space for the opposition to operate at both the federal and state levels. There should be positive measures to enhance the independence of the legislature at the state level.”