International Parliamentarian Day/Lawmakers perspective

July 4, 2020

Lagos lawmakers have harped on the importance of strengthening the legislature for better projection of the constituents urgent needs,citing the clamour for part time parliament as less feasible compared with enormity of tasks to be done.

The lawmakers spoke on the backdrop of the International Parliamentarian Day celebrated every 30th of June since year 2018.

A Lawmaker in Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon Abiodun Tobun representing Epe Constituency commended the adoption of three tiers of government by some countries currently enjoying democracy saying, the Legislature has helped to check the executive from acting ultra vires.

According to Tobun who doubles as the House Committee Chairman on Works, as true representatives closer to the people, the Legislature provides checks and balances required to curtail the executive from abuse of power while the judiciary adjudicates in the event of disputes.

In his reaction on why the United Nations decided to set aside June 30th, of every year as International Parliamentary Day, he said noted that the Legislature represents different constituents upon which the executive stands, adding that the purpose of setting aside a day is targeted towards encouraging the legislature to do more in view of its essence to stabilise the polity and guide against excesses.

On the suggestions in some quarters about the need to reduce the budget of running legislature arm of government on full fledged basis instead of part time, the lawmaker said the legislature apart from making laws, provides oversight functions and scrutinizes petitions at regular intervals.

The legislature also performs Committee assignments, mediation as well ensuring that funds appropriated in a budget are judiciously expended by the executive adding that all these functions cannot be performed on a part time basis and neither by a mediocre but by one with the needed scrupples and vibrancy

Tobun reiterated that the legislature is the closest arm of government to the the people adding that the Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa had in realization of this directed that the 40 members of Assembly should hold simulteanous town hall meetings with their constituents once a year so as to provide platforms for feedback which will in turn be documented and forwarded to the executive for necessary action.

On the other hand,the House Committee Chairman on Information,security and strategy,Hon Tunde Braimoh gave a lucid picture of what the legislature stands for and why part time legislature may be a misnomer considering our peculiarities

For those who clamour that parliamentary work should be part time,with due respect to them they are entitled to their opinion and most of the reasons upon which they predicate their reasoning largely financial and pecuniary, they opined that it is expensive to run full fledge parliament like we run it now especially in a presidential system where parliamentarians are separate and independent of the executive, if it were to be parliamentary system probably the two powers will be fused into one;the executive and the legislative functions would be performed by one arm.

Those clamouring for that don’t believe its is going to be cost effective, whereby we make the legislature part time in a presidential system, but I beg to disagree because whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well and when you say education is expensive you can try ignorance. If the people who clamour for that are very well aware of the functions, the tenets and the expectations of an appropriate parliament they will know that oversight function is a sine cua non, is very very important in the moderation of executive powers and they say absolute power corrupts absolutely. The interpretation and manifestation or the pronunciation of absolute power. In parliamentarianism once power is unchecked,once power is imbalanced and there is no moderation then that power has all the tendencies to be despotic and that is the real definition of draconian rule.
So we don’t want that to happen, we are in a democracy, we laboured for it,we clamoured for it now we have democracy and the thing to have is no haphazard way,there is no measure. There is no approbating and reprobating at the same time.
Many people believed that mostly what the representative does is to represent this people and probably make laws and that is all,but there is more to it than that. The legislator involves in a lot of oversight functions we have checks and balances on the executive which is a very important and primary function of the legislature also the legislature engages in quasi judicial functions,we do the ombudsman, we do investigations,we receive petitions, we intercede,we recon ciliate,we mediate and all of that. These are very important functions that see to the peace and orderliness of the society,so these are very important functions not less important in legislation, when we make laws we know why we make the laws we know our intendment,we follow up on the laws to see that they are being implemented the way they should be implemented. Most of this functions are very very important and they cannot be done on a part time basis if you want them to be efficiently done.

Representation is about most basic function of a legislator and when you talk representation, you talk of the most cardinal function of a legislator because a representative of the people is a kind of delegated agent by the people, the people are the sovereign, they are the principal they have the power and they now delegate such powers to a few because of the impracticality of everybody to be physically,personally involved in the act of governance and that is why they delegate their powers to the people. Contrary to what many people think it is not just about making laws,the legislature stand for the people upon the election he becomes the voice of the people that he represents,he becomes their face,he becomes their minds because once constituent feelings is translated to him he proceeds to the parliament which is the centre of policy shaping and agenda setting for government and see to it that the yearnings and aspirations,objectives, the desires and the dreams of this people are put in cardinal form so that when stakes are being collated those of his people too are not forgotten this is very important and the people need a mouth piece, so they get the mouthpiece through their representative and this the House of Assembly of Lagos state have done in very clear terms by institionalising it under the leadership of Speaker Obasa,it has been institionalized that at least minimum of once in a year the representatives go back to their respective constituents to obtain feedbacks on the machinery of government how it is grinding,how it is rolling and also agenda setting to get a kind of chronicle on the table of what the people actually desire at that particular point in time and to escalate those stories into a collated form that is given to the executive, which the executives use most of the time to organize the budget for a particular year or put them in the medium term expenditure framework every three years,or put them into the state developmental plan every five years. So these are system that has been helpful for the state government to obtain on the first hand basis what are the yearnings and aspirations of respective and particular sets of people,their idiosyncrasies, their peculiarities, their needs and desires are taken into consideration.
At the risk of sounding immodest,I would say to you that Lagos State House of Assembly has fared very well and it has not just pride itself as the house of Assembly that is above the common standard of excellence, we harken and we take heed of our mission statements at all times, all our actions are guided by the principles and the intendment of our mission statement and which is to be the state House of Assembly poise to make laws for the good governance of Lagos state, representing the interest of our people while ensuring judicious use of state resources for the benefits of Lagosians,this is the mission statement of the house of Assembly and we don’t shy away from that responsibility and we see at all times that all our actions conforms with this mission statements. We have our visions, our core values,which includes transparency, probity,accountability, responsiveness,humility,timeliness and other core values that we employ as guiding principles in delivering our legislative functions to the state and its people.

Let me say government has earned for itself the reputation of being the primus inter pares,being first among equals in Nigeria,even overseas from other countries in Africa internationally, we have received delegations from different countries,different parliaments within and outside Nigeria that come for material comparison between ourselves and themselves, we have been able to showcase most of our achievements and the achievements speaks volume for us and many other parliaments have benefited from our fountain of achievements and we are well reputed for that and without being immodest Lagos State House of Assembly towers well above many of its contemporaries across the world and we don’t spare any cost when it comes to researches,trainings,so most of our personnels, our operatives most of our representatives and even the establishments that is the bureaucracy are well trained and well exposed and that is the bedrock upon which we build our knowledge and experience from.

Hon.Victor Akande the House Committee on Judiciary,Human Rights,Public Petition and LASIEC, in his own trajectory of what positive contributions the parliament has infused into the system of governance the world over,cited some impediments to qualitative legislature.
Noting the importance of having a matured parliament as in other climes given the immense investment expended in training them.

The International parliamentarian day is an important day,not just for us in Lagos as a parliament but for the country as a whole and again for Africa and by extension with the connotation of an international phenomenon,it mean the whole world.
It is a day set aside by the parliament to rub minds and look into the nitty gritty of parliamentarians and their activities and to be able to profer a better understanding of what actually the parliament should be.

In Nigeria it makes us to come together to move and gives us the opportunity to look at those laws we have made,where we are coming from,where we are and to project the futuristic expection of where we are going.

Here,the parliamentary work is taken as a full time job,you don’t do any other thing because of the population and enormity of the job;representation of the people is key, so you will want to be available to the people,listen to them as they load with barrage of issues they are confronted with,but mind you you will listen to the people and churn out laws, by extension a lot of people have petitions they want to forward to you ,they are seeing you as their demigod to help them resolve what they felt the courts cannot resolve because some don’t have money and they feel aggrieved, it is your duty as the representative of the people to listen to them.
If possible you mediate,some are even having problem with the government directly and they see the parliament as the only voice they have who can checkmate excesses of the executives.
So they would now come in form of a petition and it is not just making laws, when we see things that happen in other climes,we bring it back look at it holistically and we bring it out as a topical issue for every members to bring their own ideas so that we can form or forge a common front in terms of resolution.
I will give you an instance when the xenophobic attacks were ongoing,though not happening in Nigeria but in South Africa and not only Nigerians were the victims but to all the blacks that comes to South Africa, we started raising our voices against it. Even before we started talking,Julius Malema a representative of the people in South Africa has taken up the fight because he happens to be in the Senate.
He started voicing out telling the importance of what Nigeria and other African countries had done at a time they were clamouring for Independence.

George Floyd’s case is another example it herald people taking up the gauntlet marching out in protest,this was predicated on many other cases of extra judicial killings in time past, Arbery from Georgia and Taylor from Kentucky were killed in that manner, we have to look inwards and discuss. Discuss about the black race staying in the western world where racism has been the order of day, so we had to find a way of legislating.
If it demands returning all the blacks in South Africa we can go and do it but by the time we are taking a drastic resolution then it will make us to get talking on the table and thereby find a level playing ground. So that the world can be equal.

The clamour for part time legislature may be applicable at the National level the House of Reps or the Senate, not at the state and the local government level, because the councillors and the House of Assembly members are too close to the people that they cannot do part time.
You don’t even have time for yourself let alone saying you want to do part time,the volume of work going to the House of Reps is reduced compared with what is coming to the states. The pressure on the state and the local is more than what is going to the centre so if you are saying part time for the centre, fine but not for the states because you will not be able to resolve issues. If not you will have seen people who will just come collect their monies and go and nobody will take legislative work seriously.

Many people feel the legislators come here to share money,that is the psyche of people about the legislature, they don’t understand and don’t even want to understand, because I have spoken to so many who don’t want to understand until when they change their psyche that actually this people come to make laws.

Again most times the laws are obsolete so it is now incumbent on you as a lawmaker to get hold of one or two laws and look at it,if it works you leave and if not you amend.
Also when there are burning issues more like the rave of the moment you look at the issue, sit down and make laws so that there would be checks and balances and guide against having negative impact of the rave of the moment on the community, state or the country.

So law is a continuum thing you can not just sit down and allow it to remain so,you cannot expect the executive to kick start amendment of all the laws,you must do something and you need vibrancy to do it. So a situation where people are hand picked to come into the saddle as legislators,is always a bottle neck for good legislature,you just have to send people who can own their own within the legislative parlance and have serious intendment in making good amendments to the obsolete laws or come up with bills that will transmute into laws.

There are so many impediments. Another impediment that one can talk about is the bureaucratic process involved before a bill can become law. If care is not taken we practice multi party system in Nigeria and mostly in Africa and where you are having some party having more representatives,they may not allow it to see the light of the day and that will be tantamount to throwing a child away with the bath water without giving the child an opportunity to live. Unknowingly to them some of those bills might have great impact on the lives of the citizen but due to one reason or the other we just throw it away. Again legislating is capital intensive,it takes training and retraining and in most cases where you have trained people who have become guru in legislative work and you are changing them after investing a lot in training them is a waste of resources.

Lagos State and APC allows the legislature to fester and mature by bringing back their legislators over many terms,these experience garnered over time counts in Legislative business. The Speaker Rt.Hon.(Dr) Mudashiru Obasa is an example of a matured legislator and this makes it more simpler because he has the understanding and workings of the process on his finger tips.

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