By Mon-Charles Egbo
The doctrine of separation of powers is unwittingly defective such that irrespective of the possible good governance implications of legislative outputs, they are of no effects whatsoever, if the executive rightly or wrongly, chooses not to implement them.
Although there is a window for the legislature to override the executive when necessary, such an extreme condition only dramatizes hostility in relationship which as well, stifles governance.
It is this loose configuration that seemingly undermines concerted efforts of the national assembly at tangibly revamping the economy.
Unquestionably, Ahmad Lawan as the head of the institution is as passionate about Nigeria’s economic recovery and prosperity as he is determined to provide pragmatic leadership for its actualization.
Beyond being intellectually-equipped and with competitive prerequisites, he is disposed to making the necessary sacrifices typical of a liberal leader, in the masses’ interest, without of course compromising the independence of the legislature.
Among his strategies: the national assembly has to collaborate with the other arms in a dynamic and productive way, especially the executive, for sustainable dispensing of good governance; there should be a systematic approach driven by unity of purpose and devoid of partisan sentiments; and importantly, the people must be consciously-integrated, for deepened participatory democracy.
Hence and towards urgent economic rebirth, the legislative agenda highlighted as key priority areas; insecurity, wealth creation as well as general development of infrastructure, with profound interest in power generation.
At the inauguration of the standing committees, Lawan expressed concern that “our country is facing the challenges of insecurity, while our largely youthful population is affected by unemployment, among other problems……….the security architecture of our country has not achieved the desired results of providing the needed security to our citizens. Our security agencies need better funding and other resources for better performance.
As security is a fundamental responsibility of government, no amount of investment is too much.
Our security-related committees are therefore challenged to assess and review both the architecture and structure of our security agencies towards improved efficiency.”
On wealth creation to fight poverty, he added that “fortunately, we are also blessed with abundant agricultural land. We are similarly endowed with abundant solid minerals in all parts of our country.
The oil and gas resources have remained our major source of revenue. Our challenges can be appropriately addressed with our rich endowments. What we require therefore is the strategic deployment of those resources.
We can plan and use our agricultural potentials to achieve not only national food security, but also process for exports. Again, our solid minerals sector is largely untapped and we can exploit those resources through the right policies and supportive legislation.”
And pointedly, he tasked the committees “to sit down and look at the challenges in the sector they oversight and come up with ideas on how the national assembly can come in by way of legislative intervention”.
Few weeks later, the senate president publicly recounted that “at our plenary proceedings, we took the decision to convene roundtable discussions on three critical sectors of our economy.
This exercise started with the power sector. The senate committee on power assembled relevant stakeholders in the sector at the roundtable discussions who made useful suggestions, which will hopefully guide us in our determination to end Nigeria’s power shame”.
Then on economic diversification, he announced that “we held a similar exercise on the steel and solid minerals sector and, we are focusing on the agriculture sector. Solid minerals and agriculture offer us great potential to transform our economy and revenue profile and wean Nigeria from the current unsustainable reliance on oil.
We are still expecting the reports of the relevant committees on these three sectors but I can assure Nigerians that this senate is ready and willing to confront all these problems head-on through appropriate legislative interventions.
In doing this, we shall be complementing the initiatives of the Executive in this direction”.
And as one versed in the dynamics of development, Lawan recognizes education as a veritable tool for socio-economic rehabilitation.
To him, “today’s economy is about what capacity your citizens have. Many countries don’t have more resources than the kind of resources we have but they have been able to develop the capacities of their people.
India and China have done that…… We must face the reality of making our economy work for the people. We need our graduates, both in the universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education to actually be graduates that have some functionality.
Either they can engage themselves in some productive activities or when they are employed, they should be able to perform if we want our economy to function”.
So far, there have been tremendous interventions towards combating insecurity. The national assembly has packaged a well-researched blueprint for the turn-around of Nigeria’s security architecture.
Senator Lawan stressed that “we are trying to look for solutions to the insecurity bedeviling the country. We are not going to rest on our oars until we are able to provide solutions. This is the essence of our being in government……We had the debates in the two chambers of the national assembly and resolutions were taken, and we have come to discuss with Mr. President on the way forward’’.
Responding to the Niger-Delta’s slow development, Ahmad Lawan inaugurated an ad-hoc committee to investigate complaints of sabotage and maladministration in the agency mandated to fast-track development in the region.
He noted that “our mindset in the Senate is that we must have NDDC (Niger-Delta Development Commission) that is efficient in service delivery to the people of Niger Delta.
This is the essence of setting up that commission. So, we want to see a situation where the very limited resources appropriated for NDDC are prudently and transparently deployed for the development of the Niger Delta region.
This is our mindset and we will not shy away from our responsibility at any time we feel that is not happening”.
Lamenting the government’s ‘wasted’ investments in the power sector, Lawan commissioned immediate investigations of “the trillions spent in the power sector” stressing that “we feel very bad.
There is no electricity and the country is suffering. I think it’s time for Nigeria to consider reversing the privatization of the power sector or they should just cancel the entire privatization process completely”.
Meanwhile, the national assembly has since passed three bills that are very critical to Nigeria’s quick economic stimulation.
They are the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract (Amendment) Bill 2019, the Finance Bill and the Public Procurement Act (Amendment) Bill 2019.
The anticipated successes of the 2020 budget, before the COVID-19 pandemic, directly depended on these legislations.
This informed the topmost priority accorded them by the parliament. Also, the senate endured public vilifications for seamlessly confirming the ministerial and other executive nominees, truthfully aimed at facilitating governance in favour of the masses. Legislative efforts were equally spared towards constitution amendments including electoral laws.
With these viable economic foundations, Lawan cautioned the executive that “what we really need to do is to have the political will to take on the challenges generally. ……If we play the ostrich, in the next 10 years we will be talking about the same things.
I think the time has come for us to have courage. I want to remind us, that we have signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. What will give us an edge is to have a competitive environment.
Our industries and businesses must be able to produce things that can compete favourably with products produced in other countries in Africa. We are not in that position today, and we all know the consequences of that.”
Empirically therefore, Ahmad Lawan’s leadership, without proven case of lowering the standard, is committed to rebuilding the economy.
But until the executive diligently complements those efforts, they may not be tangible. As an instance, the January-December fiscal cycle with timely passage of the 2020 budget have since been achieved but it is the responsibility of the executive to implement.
The same argument holds for other done legislations as well as interventions targeted at improving the living standard of the masses, notably in the areas of insecurity, poverty reduction, infrastructural development, economic diversification, and of course, the prevailing coronavirus scourge.
Egbo is the print media aide to the President of the Senate