NASS and the exercise of legislative powers

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The pivotal position that the legislature occupies as the second estate of the realm cannot be over emphasized as it exists as a way of checking the exercise of executive power and balancing the power equation necessary for the smooth functioning of constitutional, democratic and statutory institutions.
For one, there is no way funds can be appropriated or expended without recourse to the parliament, witness the numerous ‘government shutdowns’ in the United States where various executive bodies and agencies had to temporarily close down and lay off their workers due to a dispute between the White House and Congress particularly the House of Representatives over the appropriate federal debt ceiling leading to a refusal of the House to pass the quarterly budgetary proposals. Previously, the U.S. Congress had also clashed with the White House during the Vietnam War over the latter’s authority to conduct military operations in the South-east Asian country and neighbouring states like Laos and Cambodia.
As for the United Kingdom, the doctrine of separation of powers does not exist as parliament is supreme and it exercises executive and legislative powers simultaneously with the Prime Minister’s executive cabinet composed of members of parliament who automatically return to their parliamentary seats in the event of their resignation, dismissal or dissolution of parliament. In any case, any major decision of the Prime Minister’s cabinet must be approved by Parliament and in several cases the latter has balked on authorizing some controversial policies, the most recent being its refusal to authorize British Military involvement in the Syrian war.
Also the collapse of Margaret Thatcher’s government in 1990 was as a result of her majority Tory backbenchers in Westminster rebelling against her authoritarian leadership style after the dramatic ouster of Sir Geofrey Howe as Chancellor of the Exchequer and his subsequent denunciation of Thatcherite rule as ‘divisive and ‘autocratic’.
Even in our relatively nascent democratic dispensation, parliament as represented by the National Assembly and other state and local legislative bodies, has continued to play their constitutional roles and in many cases, collision and conflict between the executive and legislature has become the norm rather than the exception as none wants to cede authority to the other in order not to be marginalized in the constitutional order of affairs.
The National Assembly has at times been at daggers drawn with the Executive over the implementation of the budget, the passage of key legislation, the conduct of oversight functions and the appointment of key government officials e.g. ministers, service chiefs and ambassadors.
The implementation or non-implementation of the budget as well as the over-sighting of the vast MDA bureaucracy has been the main sticking point between the two arms of government and barely has one shifted ground for the other on those key issues, each eager to protect and advance its constitutional duties and prerogatives.
Happily, it must be noted that while the various political arms of the executive and legislature have been jostling for advantage against the other, the administrative apparatus underpinning both arms have been operating and interacting with each other optimally to move the democratic process forward. For instance, the administrative arm of the National Assembly headed by the Clerk to the National Assembly and Chairman of the Keffi Emirate, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa has provided critical support services and infrastructure for effective legislation as well as providing the platform for free flowing interactions and consultations between and among the lawmakers and political stakeholders through public hearings and investigative tours around the country which has resulted in relevant alterations of various sections of the 1999 constitution and the Electoral Act as well as speedy passage of the yearly budgets. The committee system has been thoroughly revamped and overhauled with a greater emphasis on hard work, professionalism, competence and exemplary performance leading to the placement of round pegs in round holes at the headship of the various committees. The old arcane system of past CNA administrations where favouritism, cronyism and sectionalism were the order of the day has been long discarded and consigned to the dust heap of history. As a result, the various committees are performing at optimal and invigorating levels thus leading to quick passage of numerous bills that have impacted positively on the welfare of the people. Various federal legislators including the leadership of the National Assembly have had to commend the vision, focus, fortitude and patriotic fervor of Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa in pushing the NASS reforms to their logical conclusion.
Anaekwe sent in this piece from Port Harcourt.

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