Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on Tuesday expressed worry over persistent confrontation between the executive and the legislative organ of government in the country, saying such deprived the electorates of the dividends of democracy.
Osinbajo who appealed to all arms of government for cooperation during the opening ceremony of the 16th Commonwealth Speakers and Presiding Officers, Africa Region conference (CSPOC) hardly took his seat when leadership of the National Assembly took him up, saying the executive was, most times, the cause of such confrontations.
For instance, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, quickly laid the blame on the executive, saying it was the executive arm of government that had refused to reciprocate the gesture of cooperation extended by the National Assembly to ensure smooth running of government for the delivery of dividends of democracy to the Nigerian people.
President of the Nigerian Senate who not only corroborated Dogara’s view also observed that there has been a deep rooted distrust and misconception about functions and contributions of the legislature to national development.
“We recognise that there is wide spread public distrust of public institutions. We also recognize that there is a lot of public misconception and misperception about the functions and contributions of the legislature to development”, Saraki said.
Osinbajo had noted that while the largest number of the poor and deprived people in the world are from the African continent as a result of conflicts, corruption and weak institutions, there is consensus that this is a fallout of failure of leadership in the continent.
Pointing out that leadership in governance should be worthy of emulation, he said, “While we speak of our legislative halls as hallowed chambers, our courts as temples of justice, and the executive villas as corridors of power, all suggestive of grand but isolated institutions, the reality for the majority of our peoples is the misery of the slums and the indignities of powerlessness.
“So, while we describe ourselves as Excellencies, distinguished and honorable, the vast majority of our people would in their most polite moments say that they see neither excellence nor much honour in their own lives”.
The acting president enjoined political elite in Africa to see position of leadership bestowed on them by the electorate as a short lease given to them and must be used to the benefit of the people.
He continued: “The leadership positions we occupy is a short lease that providence and the electorate have given us to shape the present and determine the future of millions and the generations that will be born to them. It would be foolish indeed to think that it is an occasion for self-aggrandizement or the pursuit of selfish interests.
“The responsibility that privilege and power place upon us is to do our utmost to change the current bleak narratives and projections for our nation and the world. It is therefore my submission that the burden that the privilege of leadership places upon us is that our tenured positions in the executive and legislature must not be wasted on conflicts and division. The problems are too grave; the lives and livelihoods of millions depend on our cooperation. We cannot afford to fail”.
In his welcome address, Dogara regretted that the legislature does not enjoy necessary cooperation from the Executive arm of government.
He said, “The legislature as the first institution of democracy must sacrifice more in this endeavour even if the gesture is not often returned by the executive”.
Dogara who also doubles as the chairman, Africa Region of Commonwealth Speakers of Parliament and Presiding Officer’s noted that Africa does not need strong men but strong institutions.
His words: “We have been told that Africa does not need Strong men but strong Institutions. Unfortunately, Africa has been home to strong men who paradoxically relished in building weak institutions or insidiously undermine strong ones where they exist in order to keep them stronger.
“Even though in most presidential systems of government, personnel and functions are separated, yet it is true to say that government departments or arms of government in modern times have overlapping functions and responsibilities, and must therefore work together as one government serving the people’s needs and aspirations”.
The executive and legislature have been at loggerheads, with both arms of government alleging infringement on their constitutional responsibilities.
Shortly after signing the 2017 budget, the acting president had observed that it was wrong for the legislature to introduce new projects into an appropriation bill sent to it by the executive.
In response to this, the National Assembly said it will not serve as a rubber stamp to the executive arm.
Also, the Senate headed for a showdown with the executive when it restated its advisory to the presidency on removal the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu.
The presidency had twice sent Magu’s name to the Senate for confirmation as the substantive chairman of the commission, a request which the Red Chamber declined, following a report by the Department of State Service (DSS which indicted Magu.
On July 4, the Senate had showed the yellow card to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, warning that any further move to refuse to strictly adhere to legislative decisions of the National Assembly in particular and the 1999 constitution (as amended) in general will be interpreted to mean crossing the red line.
The Red Chamber also resolved during plenary to suspend further confirmation of nominees from the presidency until the executive implement senate resolutions in the past concerning all issues relating to confirmation in line with provisions of the constitution and laws of the Federation.
Irked by the alleged comment credited to the Acting President that the Senate does not have legislative powers to confirm certain nominees of the executive, the upper chamber equally asked him to withdraw same immediately.
The senate resolutions were subsequent to a letter from the Acting President requesting for the confirmation of Mr. Lanre Gbajabiamila as the chairman of National Lottery Commission, which it out-rightly rejected.
The Senators were also peeved by the continuous retention of Ibrahim Magu in office as Chairman of the EFCC by the presidency against his rejection by the senate while at the same time, expecting them to confirm other nominees forwarded for approval.
Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who read the Acting President’s letter on Gbajabiamila during plenary, said, “This is an issue that we have to once and for all address. We cannot pass laws and see that the laws are not being obeyed”.
Also, on Thursday, the Senate came out plainly to confirm that it was still maintaining status quo ante bellum on the issue of Magu and other federal appointees.
It revealed this when Senator Eyinaya Abaribe (Abia South) at the plenary on Thursday attempted to draw the attention of his colleagues to media report to the effect that the Senate appeared to have soft pedaled with its resolve on July 4 this year to suspend consideration of requests for confirmation of nominees from the presidency.
Consequently, Abaribe said if the Senate leadership has shifted its ground in order to confirm the RECs nominees, it should also consider the nominee from his state on the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) which was put on hold as a result of Senate’s resolution.
But Senate President Bukola Saraki who presided over plenary dismissed the media reports that the Senate had made a U-turn by confirming the nominees.
He said Senate’s stance does not affect appointments explicitly stated in Sections 153 (f) and 171 of the 1999 constitution that requires Senate confirmations. These appointments include Ministerial, ambassadorial, Justices of the courts, Police Service Commission and RECs.
His words: “The resolution does not affect confirmation expressly stated in the 1999 Constitution (as amended). What is in contention are the confirmation of appointments into all establishments created by acts of parliament. This includes: Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), National Lottery Regulatory Commission, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) among others.
“I want to reassure you that we have not moved away from this resolution. We don’t have the powers – just as presiding officers to move away from it; we must come back to you (legislators). Please disregard what you have seen in the newspapers and be guided that we presiding officers respect the law and respect our colleagues”.
Meanwhile, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo is expected to swear in the two newly appointed ministers from Gombe and Kogi States before the commencement of the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting today.
Speaking on Tuesday, presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, who declined to give a specific date for the swearing in said it would be done soon.
“I like the word soon that you used because that is the real position. The ministers will be sworn in soon, sooner than you think it will happen”, Adesina said.