By EricJames Ochigbo
Abuja, Nov. 28, 2020 The spokesman for the 2020 National Legislative Conference, Amb. Chibuzor Okereke, says the Legislative Arm of Government must continue to engage in national conversations to sensitise Nigerians to its function, powers and deliverables.
In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, Okereke said that the Legislature, which is the youngest of the three Arms of Government had suffered the most under successive military regimes.
He said that the Legislature had also come under serious attacks by Nigerians in recent times, blaming it on lack of proper understanding of the roles of the Legislature in a democratic system of government.
The spokesman said that the theme for the 2020 National Legislative conference, which will hold on Monday, Nov. 30, in Abuja is “Legislative Investigation Powers, Expectations and Challenges and the Way Forward’’.
According to him, the conference is being put together by the National Orientation Agency (NOA) in collaboration with HallowMace Communications Ltd and will bring state and national legislators to discuss salient issues with other stakeholders.
“We are bringing this conference to address the grey areas associated with the powers of the National Assembly.
There are people who ague the content of the investigative powers; we have seen cases were people have queried National Assembly’s investigative powers.
“People are also asking question about the powers of the National Assembly to increase or reduce the national budget.
“But we know that sections 88 and 89 of the Constitution give the National Assembly far reaching powers when it comes to issues of investigation.
“However, there are some schools of thought who argue that the National Assembly are only to expose corruption and most of these issues are in the Executive Arm.
“When the Legislature finishes its work, it still hands over the findings to the Executive for implementation.
“These are the challenges; so the conference will focus on us examing and beaming x-ray lights on how the National Assembly can effectively utilise its investigative powers and also look at the challenges.
“In the most recent hearings, we have seen party stalwarts go and air and asking the Senate President and the Speaker questions like, who is the majority in the National Assembly?
“Why do you have opposition members heading committees that are now embarrassing our government.
“So that perception that any investigative hearing being carried out by the National Assembly is a witch-hunt or if it is being done by a committee headed by the opposition is being done to embarrass the government, these are things to be looked at,’’ he said.
Okereke, who is also the Convener, Nigeria’s Peoples Assembly, said that of the four major functions of the legislature – lawmaking, representation, oversight and constituency services – the oversight function has come under serious scrutiny.
According to him, it is through the oversight function that the assembly institutes public investigative hearing.
Okereke said that since 1999, the National Assembly had conducted many investigative hearings including the most recent ones on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and Chinese Loans.
He said that there was a need to ensure that the outcome of such investigations met the demands and exceptions of Nigerians.
“Political interference by the political parties, the political will of the National Assembly to deliver and how open and transparent these process have been and most importantly, what have we done with report of previous investigative hearing.
“And looking at the way forward, it is the committees either standing or ad hoc, that carries out these investigations.
“So how are people appointed into committee either as chairman or as members and how can viable committee members help in conducting very efficient investigative hearing that will deliver the kind of result Nigerians expect.
“Majorly this oversight is put in place to ensure value for money, to ensure that Executives do not abuse their powers and to ensure efficiency in government and curb waste.
“It is important to pay less attention to lawmaking because every Legislative Assembly wants to score themselves on the number of laws they have made.
“But there are key issues about waste, cost of governance, abuse of power, human rights violation and poor delivery of jobs with government fund,” he said
The spokesman said that the keynote speaker for the conference will be the Chairman Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC).
He said that the Senate president and Speaker are the special guests of honour while the Majority Leader of the House of Representative and the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami will be speaking at the panel section among others.