OrderPaperToday – The National Assembly has charged clerks of both the Federal and State Houses of Assembly to remain steadfast and independent in delivering their dividend of democracy to the people.
The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara both gave the charge, separately, at the 9th meeting of the Clerks of the National Assembly and State Legislatures organised in Abuja.
While expressing that the strength of the country’s democracy lay in the legislature, the President of the Senate said that in being independent, clerks must ensure transparency and accountability.
Saraki therefore called for proper funding for clerks to enable adequate capacity building.
Delivering his remarks, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara warned State Houses of Assembly against excessive dependence on governors.
He described the lack of independence in State Legislatures as a “cancerous tumour on our democracy,” while calling for the commitment of the National Assembly to deepen democracy.
“The National Assembly is more than committed to deepening our democracy and the independence of the Legislature at the State level is key to this effort. Although negative responses from State Legislatures on this subject in the past have been a source of disappointment, it must be understood that even this is a consequence of the dependency virus.
“You cannot have an effective Legislature without an informed, experienced and strong bureaucracy more so that the turn-over rate of members of the Legislature in Nigeria is too high while the same cannot be said of the bureaucracy. As a corollary, an underperforming parliament must necessarily have an underperforming bureaucracy at its base. That is why it is absolutely important to regularly bring yourselves together in this kind of atmosphere to help sharpen each other, push the frontiers and invent new vistas of Legislative governance.
“A dependent Legislature, one that relies on the Executive for crumbs cannot do the work of democracy. No wonder democracy has been the casualty of the over dependence of State Parliaments on the Executive. Anywhere in the world where democracy suffers, it’s always the people that ultimately pay the price.
“Until State Legislature possess the capacity to effectively oversee and make the Executives at State levels accountable to the people, the mass of our people will continue to totter on the hinges of the promise of democracy,” the Speaker said.
He added that prolonged exposure to military rule had led to the misunderstanding of the role of the Legislature.
“I had noted on previous occasions that the Legislature as an arm of government is grossly misunderstood in the polity owing to the near mortal casualties it suffered in the era of systemic disruption arising from relentless military interregnum.”
A former clerk of the National Assembly, Ibrahim Salim, charged clerks to be impartial in delivering their duties, asking that clerks not be seen as rubber stamps who can be tempted with money.
The ninth meeting of the clerks of National and State Houses of Assembly is to bring together the clerks to brainstorm in order to ensure efficiency in legislative functions in the country.
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Author: Alex Okoro