Written by CHRIS OCHAPA





Legislators are, by their nature, politically restless. They thrive on publicity since their supposed role as sober, reflective lawmakers does not give them much room to exercise some powers.





They want to be seen to
be doing their best for the people, not only by making laws that provide
instant benefit, but also by being seen as the ones who ensure that those laws
are beneficially implemented. They have the power, even while working quietly
in the Chamber of their legislatures, to effectively determine the direction of
government policies by reshaping any legislative proposal of the Executive.
This is not to overlook their power to initiate and pass legislation which the
Executive might not particularly want, and they can override the President’s or
the Governor’s veto over any legislation.





The Nigerian
legislature, especially the 8th senate and House of Representative
created an increasing role for itself in the direct supervision of the
functions of the Executive. Such supervision was not limited to matters of government
policies through lawmaking, but went into various aspects of the Executive.
Committees of the National Assembly frequently give direct orders and mandatory
injunctions to agencies of the Executive, which violates the principles of the
separation of powers – a basic democratic tenet.





The problem is that the
legislature, largely at the national level often goes beyond the exercise of
its legitimate control over the Executive. This is not frequent at the State
level where the Governor usually dominates the legislature, except where he
belongs to another party.





When sometime in late 2017,
the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) sent to the Presidency and
political parties a list of politicians whom the commission investigated and
found corrupt, the Senate considered it to be its duty to overview the function
of the EFCC in this respect. The President of the 8thsenate, Dr. Bukola
Saraki was quoted as telling his fellow Senators that, “it is our
responsibility as Senators to review the circumstances of the recent list of
indicted persons by the EFCC to ensure that the power exercised by the EFCC was
not compromised contrary to the provision of the EFCC act. We need to inquire
why some persons whom the EFCC changed to court for corrupt practices were not
listed as disqualified from elective office while persons not yet charged to
court are now faced with disqualification”.





If a Senator or any
Nigerian believes that the EFCC or any other agency of government has acted
outside the law, the right arm of government to go for redress is the Judiciary.
The legislature only has the right to criticize such action or to amend the relevant
law as it deem fit, but not an intimidating public declaration that the Senate
would review a particular action of an agency of the Executive under a
democratic system of government.





In the better half of
2018, Committees of the National Assembly routinely summoned heads of the agencies
of the Executive branch of Government such as the Nigerian Custom Services
Comptroller General, Governor of the Central Bank, Managing Director of the
Nigerian Petroleum Corporation, the Chairman of the Independent National
Electoral Commission, the Inspector General of Police and several others to
answer queries raised by such committees in respect of the administrative and
executive performance of these bodies. It is only Ministers, the Senate and
House of Representative that have the powers to summon.





Surprisingly however,
there is now growing resistance to the Legislature’s unconstitutional interference
with the agencies of the Executive which goes to show how fast our democracy is
developing. The Legislators have begun to encounter lack of cooperation, or even
outright resistance from those they try to oversee.





So, the 9th
Senate and National Assembly have an opportunity to maintain strict observance
of the principle of democratic system of government which guaranteed the liberty
of Nigerians, or else, any contrary move could degenerate
into arbitrary rule.


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