From Fred Itua, Abuja
A former Minister of National Planning and current Director-General National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), Professor Abubakar Suleiman, has described governors opposed to autonomy for state legislature and judiciary as democratic mutineers.
NILDS is the research arm of the National Assembly. It handles training of lawmakers, aides and others both at national and subnational levels.
Addressing reporters as part of activities marking his two years in office, Suleiman said under a democratic setting, Order 10 recently issued by President Muhammadu Buhari ought not have been done if state actors had performed their duties.
The university don also blamed high cases of rejection of bills by President Buhari on poor research and political squabbles, among others. He, however, said the Institute is working to change the narrative by conducting regular training.
‘The impression is that an average Nigerian lawmaker is corrupt. But is that statement real? I don’t believe that the conclusion is right. One of the reasons that informed that impression was the issue of budgeting. When you say that our National Assembly is taking the chunk of our national budget, what is the percentage for our Parliament?, he asked.
‘If the larger chunk goes to the Executive, why are we not talking about that? Why focus on the National Assembly? Setting the Nigerian people against the National Assembly, will endanger democracy and the nation. For instance, a Minister sits on a budget of about N500 billion. No Nigerian is talking about that. But they focus on the National Assembly. There is a misconception about the National Assembly. We need to change this.
‘With due respect, we have been under the Military than a Civilian Government. We are still evolving. Executive Order should not be part of democracy. Since certain organs of Government don’t want to do what should be done, we have to resort to use of Executive Order. Governors have turned themselves to gods. They don’t want to submit themselves to the authority.
‘You can’t get the dividends of democracy if other arms of Government are denied of their rights and privileges. The Parliament is the most important organ of Government. If the Parliament is sabotaged, we have killed democracy. Governors not adhering to Order 10 which is autonomy for State Legislature and Judiciary is democratic mutiny.
‘Most of those bills were rejected because of poor research. Other bills not assented to was because of political considerations. The friction between the Executive and the Legislature, makes Nigerians suffer. Most of the bills drafted didn’t emanate from NILDS. But you can’t compare what we have not to what we used to have. We are evolving and developing. In the past, there were several leadership changes in the National Assembly. There is stability now.
‘I wouldn’t subscribe to part time Legislature. What they get in terms of salaries and allowances don’t warrant that. What lawmakers earn is like a blackmail. It is not worth the work they do. When you talk about cost of governance, look up to the Executive.’