Turaki Hassan, Abuja: Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, has said that state Houses of Assembly which are excessively dependent on governors cannot deliver dividends of democracy to the people.
Hon. Dogara who made the remarks on Friday at the ninth meeting of clerks of the National Assembly and state legislatures in Abuja, described lack of independence of state legislatures as “cancerous tumour on our democracy”.
The Speaker also pledged the commitment of the National Assembly to deepening democracy and stressed the importance of capacity building for parliamentary staff, especially due to the high turn over rate of legislators.
“The National Assembly is more than committed to deepening our democracy and the independence of the Legislature at the State level is key to this effort. Although negative responses from State Legislatures on this subject in the past have been a source of disappointment, it must be understood that even this is a consequence of the dependency virus.”
“You cannot have an effective Legislature without an informed, experienced and strong bureaucracy more so that the turn-over rate of members of the Legislature in Nigeria is too high while the same cannot be said of the bureaucracy. As a corollary, an underperforming parliament must necessarily have an underperforming bureaucracy at its base. That is why it is absolutely important to regularly bring yourselves together in this kind of atmosphere to help sharpen each other, push the frontiers and invent new vistas of Legislative governance.”
Speaking further, he described excessive dependence on the Executive as a “cancerous tumour on our democracy” and said that this has adverse effects on the people.
“A dependent Legislature, one that relies on the Executive for crumbs cannot do the work of democracy. No wonder democracy has been the casualty of the over dependence of State Parliaments on the Executive. Anywhere in the world where democracy suffers, it’s always the people that ultimately pay the price.”
“Until State Legislature possess the capacity to effectively oversight and make the Executives at State levels accountable to the people, the mass of our people will continue to totter on the hinges of the promise of democracy”, the Speaker said, calling for better oversight at state level.
He added that prolonged exposure to military rule had led to the role of the Legislature being greatly misunderstood.
“I had noted on previous occasions that the Legislature as an arm of government is grossly misunderstood in the polity owing to the near mortal casualties it suffered in the era of systemic disruption arising from relentless military interregnum.”
He commended the efforts of parliamentary staff and urged them to make good use of the opportunity to compare notes on areas of common interest as managers of the Legislature in Nigeria.