Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara on Monday declared that the National Assembly (NASS) must receive priority attention in terms of capacity building, if the legislature must contribute to stable and effective governance in the country.
The made this assertion while delivering a paper titled: “Parliamentary institution building in Africa” at the convocation ceremony of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS)/University of Benin post – graduate programme for the 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 academic sessions, which held at the National Assembly.
Dogara stated that because the legislature is the true face of democracy, especially in a maturing democracy such as that of Nigeria because it serves as the stabilising force with robust constitutional powers to check – mate the executive misuse and abuse of power.
Making a case for strengthening institutions that produce good governance, the speaker said that the imperative of building healthy and strong institutions, like the legislature, in place of strong personalities, has been the bane of Nigeria’s democratic experience.
According to him, the time has come to reverse this trend in order to achieve the goals of a robust and sustainable economic, social and political development, not only in Nigeria but in the African continent.
“It is my considered opinion that if there is any institution of government that should receive priority attention in terms of capacity building, it is the legislature. This is because the legislature is the true face of democracy.
“In our maturing democracy in this country, the legislature is the stabilising force as it has robust constitutional powers to check-mate the executive misuse and abuse of power which occasionally rears its head.
“Credit must be given to the Nigerian parliament, which has continued to make laws, perform its representative functions and make robust use of the power of oversight in order to preserve our hard-won democracy and achieve good governance,” he added.
Furthermore, he said a key factor in moving from a nominal democracy to a democracy that delivers development results is an effective legislature that holds the executive to account, especially in developing countries burdened by weak governance structures like Nigeria.
The speaker however, lamented that whereas much work has been done on strengthening executive leadership, not much attention has been paid to systematically building the capacity of the legislature to effectively contribute to national development.
Speaking of efforts made in the last two decades by the legislature to provide better governance in Nigeria, he said the National Assembly, among other things, has set an unprecedented record in the area of lawmaking, which has translated to stimulating economic growth and prompting competition.
“What is expected of modern legislatures goes beyond the traditional role of representation, law-making and oversight. The legislature in Nigeria must serve a greater purpose within a wider national democratisation processes.
“Over the last two decades, the National Assembly has transitioned from being the weaker institution to becoming a strong and capable agent of change. Our activism in the area of law-making is attested to by the unprecedented record we have set in the area of law-making.
“Some of these laws are specifically designed to stimulate economic growth and promote competition. We have also successfully intervened in crises situations to save the country from avoidable collapse,” he stated.