THE National Assembly has now completed its transition from an arm of government to a finger of the executive arm of government. Painfully too, this thoroughly degraded institution is not even qualified as a finger of the right arm of the arrogantly domineering Executive… The Yoruba have a creative way with words. When the Yoruba say something is spoilt like the left hand, they have a picture in mind. In just over a year of the life of this current legislative arm of government, it has proved itself a perfect image of the spoilt left hand, being seriously ill, and a largely debased National Assembly. And now, the institution has hastened to the unenviable appellation of ‘rubber stamp’ in record time of any administration.
Since the leadership of Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila came on board in their respective chambers of Nigeria’s bicameral parliament, it has not left anyone in doubt that it would be a parliament more for the executive and less that of Nigeria. A few months after becoming Senate President, precisely on November 21, 2019, Ahmed Lawan, while responding to some requests by the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, led by Professor Itsay Sagay, enthused that whatever request the president brought before the Senate would be expeditiously treated and passed. Lawson said: “I want to assure you that any request that comes from Mr. President is a request that will make Nigeria a better place in terms of appointments or legislation. “When such request comes, the Senate will act expeditiously to ensure that we play our part in the confirmation or passing of legislation appropriately.”
That was Lawan expressly offering the National Assembly as that proverbial ‘rubber stamp’ of the executive, which had since 1999 remained in the realm of conjecture among Nigerians. And, as the chairman of the National Assembly, he spoke for the legislative arm of government. If he hadn’t spoken the mind of Gbajabiamila and his House of Representatives, I know that the 360 members of the house would have spoken up to counter such blanket, unfettered endorsement of the caprices of the executive.
Since the Senate and the House of Representatives have freely offered themselves to the executive, should it then surprise anyone that each time the parliament attempts to lift a finger by doing other than the holders of their leash demand, they are hushed and reminded that we are subdued.
And our representatives are spiritedly doing this on our behalf, ensconced in their cozy nests in their decadent Abuja.
If this was not so, why would a junior minister, precisely the Minister of State for Labour, Mr. Festus Keyamo (SAN), in July this year, desecrate the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly and move on simply as if nothing happened? We remember that proposal of 1,000 jobs for the 774 local governments and how Keyamo told the National Assembly off when our honourables tried to look into how the jobs would be distributed among Nigerians. In the heat of the argument between Keyamo and the lawmakers on the vexed issue, the junior minister said in a statement directed at the National Assembly: “I regret to say that their powers under Section 88 of the 199 constitution are limited to investigations but not to give directive to the executive. A committee or committees of both houses do not even have powers to pass binding resolutions. They can only make recommendations to the plenary. In this case, even the plenary cannot give directives to the executive.”
That’s why some Nigerians were amused when the House of Representatives announced its resolution to invite President Muhammadu Buhari to address Nigerians through their representatives in the National Assembly. Of course, the lawmakers’ action is very commendable, to the extent that there was sincerity in the invitation in the first place.
The reps were spot on by resolving to hear directly from President Buhari on why we have literally relinquished our country to bandits and insurgents and other criminals. The reps appeared to understand the constraints which age has imposed on our president and decided not to give him toomuch to handle at once. The lawmakers believe that his area of competence is security. They therefore kept the other flaming issues like our economy ravaged by hyper inflation, non-existent infrastructure and the general despair engulfing the nation in the cooler.
There was cautious optimism even after a statement from the presidency said the president had agreed to honour the invitation. Many Nigerians, apart from concluding that the president will not honour the invitation, also waited for the errant lawmakers to be put in their place. And it happened; because the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), gave the verdict that the national Assembly lacked the powers to ask the president to address the parliament. He said that the National Assembly has no constitutional power to envisage or contemplate a situation where President Buhari would be summoned by the National Assembly on operational use of the Armed Forces. “The right of the president to engage the National Assembly and appear before it is inherently discretionary in the president and not at the behest of the National Assembly,” Malami held in a statement.
Thus, each time the National Assembly attempts to act as a separate, independent arm of the government, there’s always a repercussion. It would be put in its place. Our lawmakers said Ibrahim Magu was unfit to be the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) but its resolution was waved aside and Magu held sway for five years. There are so many more reasons that we could cite as examples of the disdain with which the executive holds the legislature. Keyamo and Malami are just magnanimous to let our honourables know this.
Those of us who thought that President Muhammadu Buhari would be the first Nigerian president to respond to such invitation by the people’s representatives, we were wrong. Even the House of Reps that might have been whetting in a kind of anticipation. It is not a particularly pleasant thing to hold an institution with this amount of scorn, but that is our National Assembly. When a fledging starts to develop his chest, it would seem as though he will surpass his father.
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