By Anthony Ogbonna
President of the Senate, Dr. ABubakar Bukola Saraki, has said that for Democracy to thrive, a country needs an effective legislature.
Saraki also said that for Nigeria to witness economic development, that the legislature has to be effective.
Saraki gave the statement in a speech delivered at the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, NILDS-Uniben, convocation ceremony for 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 academic sessions held today.
Saraki, who was the Chairman, NILDS governing council, said that the senate that he leads has “played a greater role in policy formulation and has engaged more robustly with the Executive at the various stages of policy formulation.”
Dr. Saraki said the senate beamed serious policy attention on the provision of basic healthcare to all Nigerians. He said that the Senate “has also amended the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act to ensure that the 2percent budgetary allocation to Universal Basic Education Commission by the Central Government is increased to 3percent.”
The senate president also said that the nilds programme “show that these programmes have indeed impacted positively on the graduating students. In addition, they have demonstrably improved the quality of outputs of beneficiaries including: lawmakers, directors, committee clerks, legislative officers, legislative aides, administrative staff and other staff of the bureaucracy of NASS.”
He said “There is no gainsaying the fact that the core legislative, oversight and representative functions of the legislature provide an essential contribution to the quality of our democracy and governance as a whole.”
Below is his full speech
“It is indeed an honour to be part of today’s Convocation Ceremony, which represents a hallmark of a remarkable relationship between the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies and the University of Benin.
I am delighted to note that this relationship, which started with the 2013/2014 Academic Session, has blossomed and is considerably expanded under our leadership and direction in the 8th National Assembly. As Chairman of the Institute’s Governing Council, I am pleased to see that NILDS has continued to grow into a centre of excellence contributing to the strengthening of democracy in Nigeria.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is widely acknowledged that an effective legislature is essential to democracy, the rule of law, human rights, as well as economic and social development.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the core legislative, oversight and representative functions of the legislature provide an essential contribution to the quality of our democracy and governance as a whole.
In the 8th National 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. This stems from our conviction that the task of nation-building must be a collective one, and this sometimes requires sacrifices on the part of the individual.
Many of the legislative measures we have pursued since 2015 have been targeted at driving productivity, easing access to finance, creating jobs and improving livelihoods. Legislative proposals in this area are focused on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), particularly in reducing regulatory burdens and easing access to capital, with the objective of having a large number of sustainable fast-growing small and mid-size businesses.
We have also taken legislative action to tackle tax avoidance and evasion, to encourage compliance with tax obligations by all persons.
We have shown commitment to the need to develop our education sector, with a special focus on improving the quality of primary and secondary education, which have suffered from lack of investment and infrastructural provision. Our vision is to see to the attainment of 100 per cent literacy rate for all Nigerian children aged 12 and below.
The Senate has also amended the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act to ensure that the 2percent budgetary allocation to Universal Basic Education Commission by the Central Government is increased to 3percent.
Another critical area of policy that has received our attention is the provision of basic healthcare to all Nigerians. As you are aware, Primary and Universal Healthcare provision is a key legislative agenda for the 8th Senate. In the 2018 Appropriation Bill, the Senate took an important step in approving 1 percent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) for the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is long established that human capital is essential for boosting productivity, pivotal to economic growth and the resilience of economies. A country’s human capital is mainly built through the education system, which has major implications for the individual and society at large.
At the individual level, getting educated and acquiring skills makes people more productive, and productivity gains inevitably translate into wage increases. At the macro level, a well-educated workforce drives economic growth, higher productivity, and advances the innovative capacity of a society – all of which lead to an increase in the standard of living.
Without a doubt, the success of the work we do as legislators is hinged on a cadre of professional permanent staff and legislative aides. The main resource for continuity and sustainable change in a legislature is the legislative bureaucracy. A strong legislature needs highly professional and qualified staff whose loyalty is to the parliamentary institution.
It is on account of this that the Governing Council of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) approved a series of specialised postgraduate programmes to be run in affiliation with the University of Benin.
This was conceived as a means of training and equipping staff of the National Assembly and the legislature in Nigeria as a whole with the requisite skills and capacity to be more effective in driving change. These programmes include: the Master’s Degree in Legislative Studies, Master’s Degree in Legislative Drafting and Master’s Degree in Parliamentary Administration.
It is most gratifying to see that the Institute has achieved remarkable success in this regard, as evidenced by today’s Convocation Ceremony. We are today celebrating a total of 79students who have successfully graduated from the Institute’s various programmes in 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 academic sessions respectively.
Glowing reports – from both students who have gone through the programme and benefiting institutions including several departments of the National Assembly – show that these programmes have indeed impacted positively on the graduating students. In addition, they have demonstrably improved the quality of outputs of beneficiaries including: lawmakers, directors, committee clerks, legislative officers, legislative aides, administrative staff and other staff of the bureaucracy of NASS.
In addition, a total of eight (8) lawmakers have benefitted from the programmes so far; and these include: Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai, Hon. Albert Sam-Tsokwai and Hon. Kolade Akinjo. Other lawmakers who have enrolled and are at various stages of completion, include: Sen. Isa Hamman Misau and Hon. Hussain Mudashiru.
It is worth noting that the distinguished faculty at the Institute includes instructors who have worked in the legislature. In recent years, these have included: the former Speaker of the House of the Representatives, Rt. Hon. Honourable Ghali Umar Na’Abba; former Chairman of the National Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega – as well several other former Chief Executive Officers of government agencies.
Visiting research fellows from reputable international institutions including the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, have also been part of the faculty. The aforementioned, and many others, have taught courses on the programmes. They help to imbue the students with not only theoretical perspectives but also practical knowledge from their rich experiences in the public and private sectors.
Therefore, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, today’s Convocation is a time of celebration and triumph. It is a time to look back with pride and satisfaction on the tremendous personal and professional progress you have all made at the Institute. It is also a time to look forward to the future with optimism and enthusiasm. I therefore congratulate you all – the Institute, graduating students and the teachers – on your wonderful achievement.
This mix of academic rigour and applied skills provides an education that will set you on the path to successful careers in the legislative arena. For those of you who are part of the bureaucracy of the National Assembly, I expect that you will bring the newly acquired knowledge to bear on your various assignments, for increased professionalism and productivity.
Let me assure that on our part, the leadership of the National Assembly is committed to working to realise the goal of making the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies a unique regional asset and a premier research institute.
To the Director-General of the Institute, Prof. Ladi Hamalai, the Institute’s management, teaching staff and leadership of the University of Benin, I say congratulations. I thank you for your commitment and hard work these past few years.
Thank you and hearty congratulations, once again.”