* Calls for better collaboration between Executive, Legislature
Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has said the relationship between the Executive arm and the Legislature in the current dispensation has been cordial, contrary to general impression and that the National Assembly has never been on a mission to obstruct the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Senate President also called for deeper collaboration between the two arms of government as a panacea for deepening democracy.
Saraki said the Senate, for instance, had screened 227 out of 240 nominees that Buhari forwarded to it, stating that so far it only rejected 13 from the list.
According to him, the Senate had demonstrated commitment to cordial relationship with the Buhari-led government, having confirmed 95 percent of the nominees from the President.
He made this known in Jos, the Plateau State capital at the weekend during a retreat by Senate Correspondents and lamented that the Nigerian public still continued to blame and blackmail the lawmaking arm of government over every friction between it and the executive, notwithstanding its effort to encourage collaboration with the executive.
He said the psyche of Nigerians must change about how the executive and the legislature must relate in which case critics should stop blaming the legislature always for frictions between the two arms.
According to him, there is need for strong advocacy to educate Nigerians that the Parliament is not there to just obstruct the work of the executive. Nigerians, Saraki said, should know that the legislature has not always been the cause of delay in passage of the national budgets.
He said: “If the public has a better understanding of the role the legislature should play in democracy, the job will be easier for us as lawmakers”.
He stressed, however, that the executive and the legislature need to accept one another as partners and not competitors, as that, according to him, will bring about national development being clamoured.
Emphasising on the theme of the retreat which was ‘Strengthening Executive-Legislative Relationship’, he said by the design of the nation’s presidential system of governance, the inherent principle of power separation calls for cordial relationship between the two institutions.
Saraki said “the Parliament is being seen as an irritant institution” but added that ‘”the number of blackmail that some legislators got for doing what is right will not deter us from doing our job”.
He said the executive should desist from painting the legislature black in the public because the parliament as an institution has never been at logged- heads with the executive.
He said further “Discrediting the legislature cannot bring collaboration because without constitution, you cannot to do it alone”.
Speaking on budgetary process, the Senate president said until there is engagement and collaboration between the two arms of government, there will always be conflict in the processes of the budget.
“If we have dialogue, if we have collaboration, I believe the time-frame in the budget process will be reduced”, he said.
Saraki, therefore, called on the media to always help in projecting the activities of the parliament in the public, saying,”If the public has a better understanding of what we do, a lot of us would be encouraged to do more. The role of the media is central in providing this information. We need to have the public on our side and we cannot do this without you playing your role as the media”.
The chief host and Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong said safeguarding the nation’s infant democracy requires the strengthening of relations between the executive and legislature, the two arms that define the existence of democratic governance.
The governor, who was represented by his deputy, Prof. Sank Gwande, said where unhealthy frictions exist in executive- legislative relation, the health of a democracy is threatened.
“To therefore engender good governance that will deliver dividends of democracy to the citizenry, there is need for collaborative synergy along constitutionally spelt out responsibilities, for the executive and the legislative arms to deliver on their mandates”.
The chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, said the legislative arm needs the media more than any other public institution because the role of the media cannot be overemphasised, hence the 8th Senate attached serious importance to the role of the media.
Though the theme of the retreat raised a very germane issue, he said the the Senate president is making frantic effort to minimise friction with the executive.
He commended the Nigerian press for helping the legislature to overcome some constitutional crisis through adequate reporting of parliamentary proceedings.
Four papers were presented during technical sessions of the retreat.
They are: Improving Nigeria’s Budgetary Process Through Executive- Legislative Cooperation by a member of the 7th Senate, Senator Olubunmi Adetunbi; Role of the Media in Fostering Democracy by Senator Sabi Abdullahi,; Strengthening Nigeria’s Democratic Institutions by Prof. Gray Goziem Ejikeme of the University of Jos and The Future of Conventional Media in Nigeria by Hajia Zainab Okino, Editor-in-Chief, Blueprint Newspapers.