By Benjamin Atu
The worst nightmare to an arm dealer is for a government to make move for a peace deal. The same is true with importers. And today, that has become the case of the executive arm of the present administration. The move by the National Assembly to do their legislative business, has suddenly become a threat and a nightmare to the executive arm of government who perceive the National Assembly as a spy to their activities. The work of the legislature is beyond mere talking. It also includes monitoring of the budget which is their oversight functions. A decision by the National Assembly by way of motions or resolutions should be a matter of urgent public importance that the executive must move to implement. This is because the National Assembly does their job through motions and resolutions. But today, the resolutions of the National Assembly are not been implemented as expected by the executive who has erroneously perceived the National Assembly as a mere talking factory.
Bills and Resolutions are the legislative frame work that calls for executive actions for the purpose of making life more meaningful for our people. These Bills and resolutions by the National Assembly are usually ignored, abandoned and not implemented by the executive arm of government without explanation. Motions have no legal force but moral force, poor implementation of these motions render the collective wisdom of the Senate to naught. No matter how wonderful a Bill or Motion may be, the executive always perceived matter of urgent public importance and legislative resolutions as a threat and mere expression of the opinion of parliament. This is not common in the National Assembly. Most State Houses of Assembly’s resolutions has never been implemented by the executive apart from executive Bills that emanates from the government. Proff. Sagay comments of referring the collective wisdom of the Nigeria senate as childish call for an immediate apology. The Senator is the only Symbol of our democracy and must be cherished and respected.
Since the inception of Democracy in 1999 till date, one crucial cry of the public has been the need for an effective and a truly independent legislature that has the courage to check mate the actions and inactions of government. Today Like never before: the Nigerian Legislators has woken up to do the legislative business as it ought to be done, however the executive Cabal In the Presidential Villa has vowed to frustrate the efforts of parliament by not honouring their terms of invitation. The executive arm of government has eaten deep into the Congress such that they now perform some major task of the National Assembly. A resistance to this crude practice is the reason for the ongoing crisis between the both arms of government.
The executive arm of government have always perform constitutional function of the Senate. A clear example is the domestication of treaties. Several treaties have been entered between Nigeria and the International Community but such treaties were either done without the knowledge of the Senate or it has never been made available to the Senate for domestication. Of what use entering into treaties with other nations when such laws are never localise for Nigerians who are suffering to benefit from them ?
Rotimi Olawale assert in his view that ” International treaties will remain mere Documents if their significant is not felt by the people in those countries.” ‘Over the years Nigeria has ratified several International treaties on Environment, Violence, Child Right, Trade etc but many of these treaties are not operational in the country because they have not been domesticated, this make them ordinary document. The question could rightly be ask. Whose duty is it to domesticate treaties ? the executive or the legislature? Is it the duty of the legislature to go to the executive to retrieve treaties ? Or the function of the executive to present treaties to the National Assembly? the Nigeria constitution will assist us in answering these question.
Section 12(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria have it boldly written that “No treaty between the Federation and other country shall have force of law except to the extent to which such treaty has been enacted into law by the National Assembly.” But what we have experienced since 1999 is the signing of treaties by the executive and domesticate such treaties by themselves. A refusal to make treaties available to the National Assembly can be assumed as self domestication. As at today the National Assembly have no full knowledge of the number of treaties that the Nigerian government has enter with other nations of the world. That is a major reason why we have never benefited from International treaties. No matter how important the issue a treaty addresses, it is not applicable in the Nation’s domestic law or legal system until it is domesticated by the National Assembly.
A typical example is the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of International Displaced Persons in Africa. The Convention was adopted in October 2009. Quoting Rotimi “As of 2015 it has been signed by 40 and ratified by 24 of the 54 Members State of the African Union. Article 5(4) specifically established the responsibilities for protection of internally displace persons whose displacement is as a result of natural or human made Disaster including Climate Change. However Nigeria among other nations signed and approved the ratification of the African Union’s Kampala Convention for the Protection and Assistance of IDPs in Africa on 12th April, 2012 yet this convention has not been domesticated in Nigeria.
The National Assembly must renewed their vigor with the executive in order to reduce the burden on the finance of the nation through International Interventions and Assistance. “This is a critical issue because Millions have been sacked in Nigeria due to Violence, and Climate Change, between July and October 2012 alone, according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in a published report 7.7millions out of 2.1million people were internally displaced. Despite the large number of displacement in Nigeria and the challenges confronting us, the National Assembly is yet to domestic the Kampala Convention on IDPs. We must wake up as a nation to seek international assistance for our dying brothers and sisters.
The sudden disregard for the National Assembly has become a thing of concern to all Nigerians. The present administration has made us to know that all Nigerians are not equal. Some are more Nigerians than the others. The SGF and the CG of Custome and others are more Nigerians than the rest of us. Even the Senate President, Saraki was summon to appear by the Senate Committee on Ethics and Public Pertitions on allegations against him for alleged imported jeep. At his level, He obeyed the invitation to clear his name. Yet some Nigerians are above the same Senate. According to Saraki he said ” “We must protect this Institution that is why I took my time to be here to clear my name and charges against me.” Senator Dino Milaye was also accused he also humble himself and appear before the same Senate committee. If the righteous shall scarcely be save where shall the ungodly be?
“Every Act Reward Itself ” The current attack against the members of the National Assembly and religious leaders in this country has taking a demonic dimension that needed divine Intervention. This was why the Ekiti State Governor in his recent publication, urged Nigerians to resist what he described as the rascality of Presidency officials who he said are bent on destroying our hard-earned democracy and emasculating the National Assembly. The governor said: “The major difference between democracy and dictatorship is the presence of the legislature in democracy and its absence is a dictatorship”, adding that efforts by this administration “to hand-cuff the National Assembly is a subtle plot to foist full-blown dictatorship on Nigerians. He therefore charged Nigerians to resist such development, saying: “In doing so, we shall be defending our democracy and we shall also be defending ourselves and generations of Nigerians yet unborn. This democracy cost us a lot in blood and sweat. The labour and sacrifice of the heroes and heroines of our democracy must not be allowed to go in vain”, he said.
As a Media practitioner, we may not have the power to physically speak but our Poisonous Pen will do the talking for us. Bob Nester Marley said “You can fool some of the people all the time and all of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all the people all the time. Stand up for your right. It is only in Nigeria that I have seen that it is wrong to stand up for your right. Simply because the 8th Senate stood for their right and refused to be rubber stamp Senate that is the reason behind all these attack and unnecessary investigation to unearth the past of Senators. Those who are paid to embarrass others should remember the great words of the American Philosopher and Poet Ralph Emerson who said “Every Act Rewards itself. The longer the reward is withheld, the better or the worse for you Because compound interest upon compound interest…….”
Martin Luther King Jr once lament “If a man is call to Sweep Street he should Sweep Street.” The only way the legislature make their laws is by talking and deliberation but Nigerians woke up recently with a surprise that the a member of the Buhari cabinet wrote a letter directing the Senate by drawing a limitation for them to obey.
The fact that the previous Senate was rule by the executive doesn’t give the current executive the power to write to the Senate. Not even a president of a country can determine the agenda of an independent institution of government like the National Assembly. It is the same thing as writing a letter to the Chief Judge of a court to direct him or her to deliver what you have written as his judgement for a case based on your interest.
According to the Nigerian Constitution, “Whatever the National Assembly is empower to make laws on, it is also empower to oversight. That singurla sentence brings all Nigeria Institutions under the National Assembly of Nigeria. This is because the National Assembly is Empowered to amend the Constitution and the Constitution define the limitation of all government Institutions. If the office of the Custome CG and the SGF or Attorney General are not operating under the Nigerian Constitution, then they can disregard the Senate and we own them apologies but if the laws by the Senate includes them, then the Senate has power on how to execute their oversight functions without interruption of any kind from the executive arm of government. These negligence by the presidential cabal is leading the Senate to take a drastic decision that will stop the appointment of politicians in holding public office. The general public is now going to suffer the offense of a cabal. We must try to separate the sin from the sinner.
The ongoing decision by the Senate to pass Public Service Efficiency Bill to allowed civil Servants head government agencies and parastatarls should be re- considered very well. I have nothing against the public service but civil servant are worst and more corrupt than the politicians. Though public service is one of the most sustainable Institution of government, it has played and still playing major roles in social economic development. However the reputation of public service have suffered from public trust and confidence in government.
In one of his many speeches Former President Olusegun Obasanjo lamented about public service that “Members of the public had to bribe their way through in ministries and parastertals to get attention and one government agency had to bribe another government agency to obtain the release of their statutory allocation of fund. The impact of official corruption is bad and has earned Nigeria bad name both home and abroad ” The immigration saga that cause the death of many Nigerians, many civil servants made millions from the death of others. Currently in Nigeria the only way to get job is to pay money to a civil servants. Risk that a minister will be afraid to take, the lowers rank public servant will take that same risk without considering any implications. A confirm civil servant fear no one because he or she has attain the status of a mini god.
The Nigerian Senate should indeed consider the implications of of the Public Service and Efficiency Bill once again. Rigid and uncritical applications of principles to the affairs of government by civil servants has created setbacks in giving value to government investment on projects. Truancy and the incident of blundering officials has eaten deep into our civil servants. Lateness to work, absconding from work, deceit, stealing and hiding of files for various selfish reasons are detestable art that will characterise the service at the executive level if that Bill is pass. It is the civil servants in most cases, that usually teach the political class how to thief and steal government fund.
The National Assembly should not forget in a hurry that the appointment of politicians in government agencies is also one of the ways to settle political party members for their hard work during election. Civil Servants cannot build Institutions without the political will and force of a Politician. The timid nature and I don’t care attitude of most public servants will affect the performance of government if they assume that status. The public are all aware that government is not a good business man and that is because civil servants are not good Managers. Therefore to effectively build our public service institution, we must start by making the public service more attractive through computerisation and training beyond daily routine that has weakened the sense of reasoning of most public servants through poor human development.
As noted by Oweh, “Those opposing the National Assembly should go and improve on their marketing skill because no amount of black mail, propaganda or arm twisting tactics by the executive will make the Senate compromise their stand in fighting corruption in the ministries and agencies of government”. These are indeed tension soaked times for the Nation. Once we get it right now we are on our way to become part of the World powers but once we fail in building our Institutions now, we may be returning to the dispensation where we are coming from. Oliver Goldsmith said “All Change is not growth and all Movement is not forward” If the Institution that represents our symbol of democracy is disregarded by those who ought to know it’s Worth, it means we are back to dictatorship. If this continues, the nation may be perching on the horns of dilemma, and anarchy may be looming because Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces are Contesting for the Soul and Direction of Nigeria.
In their recent debate at the Red chamber, the Deputy whip of the Senate and the Senator representing Edo North Senator Francis Alimikhena explain how Magu has been allegedly terrorizing senators. He accuses Ibrahim Magu of sponsoring media scandals against senators. Alimekhena alleges that since the Senate rejected Magu’s confirmation, he has resorted to terrorizing members of the upper chamber. The senator says President Muhammadu Buhari will be undermining the nation’s democracy if he keeps the EFCC chairman in acting capacity”
Finally before I drop this poisonous pen that may have offended many, I wish to apologize to as many I may have offended by my opinion. Thomas Carlyle said “Purpolar opinion is the greatest lie in the world ” I also wish to call on the National Assembly once again both the House of Representatives and the Senate to establish a strategy to make their Motions and Resolutions more forceful and give it necessary bite. The budget of government agencies, ministries and parastertals that failed to implement the National Assembly resolution should be reduced and critically looked into to serve as warning to others. Time frame should be given to ministries to implement National resolutions or be summon to explain the neglect on the resolutions as it affects them. As Nigerians we cannot seat and watch the executive arm government disregarding an Institution like the Senate. If this personal opinion of my is reinvigorated I believe the Senate and the House of representatives will be given more regards and restore their pride of place where the Both chambers will no longer be seen as a mere talking factory who express parliamentary opinion.
Written by Benjamin Atu
Senate Deputy Whip
Wrote from Abuja.