Lauds legislature for collaboration with executive
NASS not bothered being referred to as “a rubber stamp”
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru – Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday appealed to Nigerians to be patient with any legislation or law which they have certain misgivings about.
President Buhari also urged the citizenry especially critics to engage the process for reviewing such laws in line with democratic practices, adding that the interest of his administration was to promote collective will and aspiration to build a nation where justice, peace, and progress are the norms.
This is as the Senate President, Dr.Ahmad Lawan, said that the National Assembly was not bothered about being referred to as “a rubber stamp” as long as it works with the executive to make the country better.
Recall that there has been stiff opposition by a section of Nigeria over the Water Bill and the Land Use Act.
In his remarks at the Joint Executive-Legislative Leadership Retreat, at the State House Conference Centre, Abuja, the President said, “Let me also remind our fellow patriots, countrymen, and women, that the process of law-making and governance are dynamic and ever-evolving. I will seek their indulgence to be patient with any legislation or law which they have certain misgivings about and engage the process for reviewing such laws in line with democratic practices.
“Our interest is the sincere promotion of our collective will and aspiration to build a nation where justice, peace, and progress are the norm.”
Appreciating members of the ninth National Assembly for understanding, support, and quick response to policy directions of the government, President Buhari called for more synergy to consolidate on the gains recorded, particularly the ongoing effort to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in ten years.
He said the collaboration enjoyed from the leadership of the National Assembly had made it easier for the government to set and realize development goals, and respond to changes in the economy faster like the Coronavirus pandemic that necessitated a review of the 2020 budget.
He noted that some of the gains recorded from working together also include: the accelerated passage of the 2020 Budget and its review in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, timely confirmation of nominees, and passage of critical legislation by the National Assembly.
He said, “This retreat provides us another opportunity to interface, reflect, brainstorm, and engage as One Government. I use the word One Government because there can only be one Government in a nation at a time and officials both elected and appointed in the Executive or Legislative arm must all be working for the peace, unity, and development of our country.
“This Retreat named: “Promoting Effective Executive-Legislative Partnership: Finding a Middle Ground” is apt as it reflects the peculiarity of a Presidential system of government like ours.
“The experience of the last 20 years of steady democratic practice in Nigeria has underlined the need for effective partnership and collaboration between the executive and legislative arms of government to deliver on our mandate.’’
President Buhari told the legislators that the Federal Executive Council had already streamlined its priorities to nine areas of development, and ministers had been mandated to align their targets with the bigger picture of making life better for all Nigerians, urging the legislature to align its priorities as well.
“While all members of the Federal Executive Council have been given clear mandates and yearly targets towards achieving the set indicators and goals, I recognize the critical role of the National Assembly in helping to deliver this Agenda and the strategic goals set by this Government.
“We cannot do this alone without your support and collaboration. I am equally aware that both the Senate and the House of Representatives have adopted the new Legislative Agenda for the current Assembly. I must thank the Senate President and Rt. Honourable Speaker for the updated version of the Legislative Agenda of the 9th National Assembly.
“The urgent need for aligning the 9-Point priority Agenda and the Legislative Agenda of both the Senate and the House of Representatives cannot be over-emphasized. I will therefore suggest that a Technical Committee be established after this retreat to harmonise these critical and strategic documents to help improve synergy and coordination.’’
President Buhari said he had already inaugurated a National Steering Committee co-chaired by the Honourable Minister for Finance, Budget and National Planning and Mr. Peterside Atedo with representation from the National Assembly to oversee the development of the Nigeria Agenda 2050 and Medium-Term National Development Plan (MTNDP) to succeed vision 20:2020 and the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017-2020.
The President said the National Steering Committee will facilitate the linkage between policy-plans and budget in a manner that will help lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty within the next 10 years.
“Similarly, I unveiled a (9) Nine-Point Priority Development Agenda of this administration aimed at improving the livelihood of Nigerians within the next three years. These include: building a thriving and sustainable economy; enhancing social inclusion and reducing poverty; enlarging agricultural output for food security and export and attaining energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products.
“Expand transport and other infrastructural development; expand business growth, entrepreneurship and industrialisation; expand access to quality education, affordable healthcare and productivity of Nigerians; build a system to fight corruption on a permanent basis, improve governance and create social cohesion and improve security for all.’’
He recommended the establishment of a Technical Working Group to synthesise the outcome of the retreat and make appropriate recommendations to the leadership of the Federal Executive Council and the National Assembly in order to drive effective implementation of the resolutions or agreements reached.
In his remark, President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, said that the National Assembly was not bothered about being referred to as “a rubber stamp” as long as it works with the executive to make the country better.
He said, “This National Assembly decided quite early to work with the executive very harmoniously for the benefits of Nigerians. I am glad that Mr. President, you have expressed a similar commitment.
“In fact, this relationship is misunderstood by many. Some out of mischief describe the National Assembly as a rubber stamp, some out of misunderstanding. For us, what is utmost in our minds in the ninth Assembly is how do we work with the executive to make Nigeria better.
“If the price to pay is the names that we get, then let it be. Because, we believe that Nigerians deserve better service, better infrastructure and it is difficult if not impossible to achieve meaningful development in this country or any democracy without understanding and harmony in the way and manner the two arms of government work.
“So far we have been doing this for over 12 months. So, it’s time to review this partnership and see the weaknesses in the relationship and the areas we have achieved so much and say this relationship has worked and have achieved some level of improved service delivery.
“This particular retreat will present opportunities to review and strengthen areas we have achieved so much and address areas where there have been weaknesses.”
Also speaking, Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, noted that both arms need to work symbiotically to deliver the divine of democracy to the people.
According to him, “The executive being part of this is a testament to your commitment to nation-building. This two-day engagement will do nothing but to strengthen the relationship between these two critical arms of government but enhance it so that the people will be the better for it.
“I believe it will be frank, truthful, we will speak truth to each other and I believe the outcome will be to the benefit of all Nigerians.”
Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Umar El-Yakub, in his remark, explained that the retreat was conceived to strengthen executive, legislative partnership.
He added: “One of the ways to achieve this is to equip critical players in both arms with information and tool necessary to develop a strong and cordial relationship, one that is underpinning underlining the commitment to the national interest.
“The importance of working together cooperatively and harmoniously cannot be overemphasized. Since the beginning of the administration, Mr. President and the leadership of the National Assembly have taken proactive steps to foster and deepen cooperation both arms of government.
“Whilst so much has been achieved with tangible outcomes, there is a need to consolidate on gains so far made. Therefore, this retreat is geared towards enhancing the synergy between the executive and the legislative arms of government, deepening understanding, building consensus on the priority development agenda of both arms as well as improving communication and information sharing.
“It is our expectation that improved working relationships will lead to enhanced service delivery, accountability, transparency, efficiency, and effectiveness in the management of public resources, in line with Mr. President’s development priorities.”