The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, yesterday told the Executive headed by President Goodluck Jonathan that the House would not be cowed into becoming a rubber stamp institution.
Tambuwal, in a 32-paragraph speech marking the 3rd anniversary of the 7th House of Representatives yesterday, lamented that the country was sinking deeper into corruption and insecurity even as he stressed that the executive has continued to thrive in impunity.
He accused the Executive of refusing to be accountable, and highlighted instances “where obstacles were seemingly deliberately placed on the path of our progress to genuine democracy.”
The Speaker expressed concerns on the “disturbing trend whereby people now go to court to stop the National Assembly from exercising its constitutional mandate and conducting its internal operations”.
According to Tambuwal, it is neither usual nor appropriate for the Judiciary to be used pre-emptively to stop the legislature from acting in the first place. “This is unheard of in jurisdictions where genuine democracy is practiced and venerated. The usual democratic practice is that the powers of the courts are activated to challenge laws enacted by the Legislature. This is the proper manner in which the Judiciary is enabled to perform its constitutional function as the interpreter of both the Constitution and duly enacted laws.”
He described it as an encroachment on the powers of the Legislature and a slap in the face of the principle of separation of powers.
On the performance of oversight functions, he said “the House did its utmost best to exercise this very important constitutional mandate, which has always been contentious because of the direct and indirect opposition by the very entities that the Constitution gave us the power and the responsibility to oversight.”
The Speaker, in his speech, said there have been attempts to denigrate the National Assembly for its insistence on instilling sanity in the budgetary process.
“Only recently, a certain government spokesman was quoted as claiming that the National Assembly ‘distorted’ the 2014 budget. It is inconceivable that an institution endowed by the Constitution with the legal duty and power to perform a function can be said to be distorting the performance of that function. Those desirous of a National Assembly that will merely rubberstamp a draft budget submitted to it by the Executive must look elsewhere,” he said.
While speaking on the legislative achievements of the House during the third session, he said a total of 169 bills were introduced during the Session, of which 46 passed second reading and 27 were subsequently passed into law.
“Six more bills have been laid on the table and are awaiting the action of the Committee of the whole. In addition to the bills, several motions on matters of national importance were passed during the session,” he said.
See full text of the speaker’s speech on Page 35