By Dr. Ezrel Tabiowo
Before he ventured to contest the Senate Presidency, Senator Ahmad Lawan, had a clear-cut vision in his legislative agenda which some at the time considered a rather tall order.
One of the most ambitious of them was his bid to restore the nation’s deformed budget cycle to the January to December timeline.
The country for twenty years between 1999 and 2019 had operated an irregular budget cycle from the administration of Olusegun Obasanjo all through to the first tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government.
Determined to correct the anomaly which for long had weighed down the Nigerian economy from making steady progress, Lawan understood he needed to come up with a leadership model or, if you like, a stopgap that would adequately address the bureaucratic setbacks that hitherto frustrated the nation’s budgetary processes in the past.
In coming up with his unique leadership model, the Senate President, one of Nigeria’s seasoned and longest serving legislators, understudied the leadership style and outcomes of past Assemblies and how the persistent clamor for exclusive authority and supremacy between the arms of government had staggeringly hindered the evolvement of the country’s democracy.
He also weighed these outcomes against the attendant impact which they had in general on the economy and other facets of our national existence.
To him, the associated fallouts of legislative-executive feuds under the guise of ensuring ‘checks and balances’ was nothing short of an albatross on legislative undertakings that would ultimately continue to make Nigerians the overall losers in the scheme of things. He felt this had to stop, as it was too much of a baggage working against the nation’s advancement.
Giving a new flare to the role of the National Assembly, Lawan devised a model which now accommodates robust legislative engagements across frontiers that nevertheless adheres to the principle of ‘Separation of Powers’ in Parliament’s dealings with the Executive arm of government.
No doubt, this new thinking and approach attracted its fair share of public criticism from some Nigerians who were already addicted to the screaming headlines on covers of national dailies from internecine conflicts between the executive and legislature under past assemblies.
To them, a parliament not at war with the executive has to be in bed with it and is nothing short of a “rubber stamp” in their exact words.
They however fail to see that Lawan’s leadership model has become the great reset which altered the dynamics of the nation’s governance architecture in a way that underscores and distributes shared responsibilities between the arms of government, so as to guarantee collective effectiveness in leadership roles.
In other words, it drew the curtains on the mediocre way of scoring cheap political points by those opposed to government policies through unnecessary and avoidable face-offs which, in my considered view, is grossly counterproductive and does nothing but reduce the quality of governance as events have shown.
Validating Lawan’s Advocacy for Harmony In Governance
The consistent clamour for harmony in Executive-Legislature relations by the Senate President, no doubt finds footing from his leadership model which relies on a flexible approach to outlining the limits of the principle of ‘Separation of Powers’ as provided for in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
In Public Law, the principle of Separation of Powers in the Constitutional System are along two paths; the Strict Approach and Flexible Approach.
Montesquieu, a French Jurist and Political Philosopher, advocated the Strict Approach amidst his view that no organ of state should encroach on another, either in terms of function or personnel. He was instrumental to the division of government powers along three functions: law-making – Parliament; Implementation of the law – Executive; and Interpretation – Judiciary.
However, Luigi Giussani, a Theologian and Public Intellectual, while referring to a number of writers, viewed such system of Strict Separation of Powers as “unworkable”.
According to Cheryl Saunders, a specialist in Comparative Public Law and President Emeritus of the International Association of Constitutional Law, “every constitutional system that purport to be based on a separation of powers in fact provides, deliberately, for a system of checks and balances under which each Institution impinges upon another and in turn is impinged upon.”
She explained further that, “a lack of cooperation between limbs would result in constitutional deadlock.”
Kent H. Barnett, an Author and world renowned Professor of Law, who resonated this view posited that a system of government founded on the strict separation of powers could result in legal and constitutional deadlock if the branches of state disagree. By implication, such disagreement between the arms of government could also manifest in non-assent to bills passed by Parliament and non-approval to executive money bills by the legislature.
Flowing from the above, it becomes obvious as to why a lot of legislations passed under the Eighth National Assembly were refused assent, and why most passed by the Ninth Assembly were signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
It also explains why the National Assembly under Lawan’s leadership was able to effortlessly restore the Budget Cycle to the January to December timeline with the support of the Executive arm of government, as well as get assent to other critical legislations which before now defied passage such as the Finance Act and Petroleum Industry Act, among others.
The national budget was passed by the Ninth Assembly and signed by President Buhari in record time three years in a row since 2019, a feat never once achieved by previous assemblies or any administration since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999.
As a result of the restoration of the nation’s budget cycle to the January – December timeline, the Nigerian economy has become insulated against recession threatening other developing countries, in spite of the country’s reduced revenue earnings from a crash in crude oil price caused by the attendant effect of the global lockdown, following the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
Lawan’s leadership model – which fosters Inter-governmental collaboration and inclusion – if replicated by Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government – would no doubt address some of the challenges faced by Nigeria as a result of the lingering insecurity.
It is however noteworthy to point out that insisting on a harmonious and mutual working relationship between the arms of government and its agencies does not in any way strip them off their independence neither does it weaken or make one arm or agency a subject of the other.
Lawan’s leadership model demonstrated this a couple of months back when the Senate bared its fangs on errant MDAs that refused to defend projects proposed to be funded by the external borrowings of the Federal Government.
The upper chamber under the leadership of the Senate President also frowned at wasteful spendings by refusing to approve monies running into hundreds of millions for the procurement of mosquito nets never minding the cordial working relationship it has with the executive.
Against this backdrop, security agencies such as the Military, Police, Department of State Services (DSS), the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and others not mentioned, must begin to think along the lines of ensuring Inter-agency cooperation in the fight against terrorism, insurgency and all forms of criminality across the country. It is time to stop the jostle for supremacy and put on the garb of patriotism in the discharge of duties.
The urgency of the situation makes it expedient for the hierarchy across these agencies to adopt a workable leadership model that encourages mutual engagement, as well as prioritises the security and welfare of Nigerians in accordance with duly enshrined constitutional provisions.
On the much anticipated Electoral Act Amendment Bill not signed into law by President Buhari, Lawan’s poise radiates an unwavering confidence in the power of engagement between the executive arm of government and the National Assembly.
It would be recalled that moments before the Senate adjourned on December 22, 2021, for the Christmas and New Year break, the Senate President, immediately after the chamber rose from a closed session, announced that the Senate would consult the House of Representatives in January to decide what next line of action to take over the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021.
President Buhari in a letter read by Lawan on the floor a day earlier, had advanced reasons why he decided to withhold assent to the piece of legislation.
He warned that signing the bill into law would have serious adverse legal, financial, economic and security consequences on the country, particularly in view of Nigeria’s peculiarities.
Buhari added that it would also impact negatively on the rights of citizens to participate in the government as constitutionally ensured.
Having made his reasons known, Nigerians should keep in mind that the Senate is bound by obligation to doing only those things that would bring about unity, peace and prosperity for the country.
One of those things, according to Lawan, is “stabilising the polity”, particularly in moments when it is heated up by agitations and anxiety.
The National Assembly is constitutionally required to act only in the interest of Nigerians like it always has, without due recourse to any other consideration not in tune with their expectations.
As we begin the new year, may the patriotic zeal which has guided their actions be renewed with vigor for the service of humanity and advancement of our fatherland.
Dr. Tabiowo is the Special Assistant (Press) to the President of the Senate and writes from Abuja.
Chronicling Deputy Senate President Barau’s 100 days of parliamentary excellence
By Ismail Mudashir
Tomorrow, Wednesday, September 20, 2023, the 10th Senate will mark its first 100 days following its inauguration on June 13, this year.
The inauguration of the parliament followed President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s proclamation, via a letter to the Clerk to the National Assembly, Sani Magaji Tambawal, in line with Section 64(3) of the 1999 Constitution.
The first duty of the senators was the election of the presiding officers – the President of the Senate and the Deputy Senate President. After a keen contest, Senator Godswill Akpabio, from Akwa Ibom State, emerged as the President of the Senate, defeating Senator Abdulaziz Yari, a former governor of Zamfara State.
Apparently, because of his rare personality traits, Senator Barau I. Jibrin, a fourth timer at the National Assembly (three times in the Senate – 2015 to date and once in the House of Representatives – 1999 -2003) emerged as the Deputy President of the Senate unopposed as all his colleagues threw their weight behind him.
Three weeks after the emergence of the two presiding officers, eight principal officers were named, thus the leadership of the 10th Senate was duly constituted. With the constitution of the leadership, the lawmakers got the parliamentary work started as urged by the President of the Senate, Senator Akpabio, in his speech on July 4, 2023, titled, “Let’s get the work started.”
On July 6, Senator Barau, for the first time, presided over the plenary session. During the session, five motions were moved including the one on Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano.
After the July 6 session which attracted applause from across the Red Chamber and beyond, Senator Barau had presided over the plenary on other occasions in the absence of the President of the Senate in the last 100 days.
Among the critical motions sponsored by the Deputy President of the Senate during the period under review was the one on the poor state of road infrastructure and the menace of gully erosion in the country. Also to his credit was a motion on the emergence of President Tinubu as the Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Four bills of the Deputy President of the Senate, including the one on the creation of a development commission to fast-track the development of the country, have been introduced at the Red Chamber.
* Balanced appointments
Recognizing the heterogeneous nature of the country, the Deputy Senate President selected his seven key appointees from across the country – four were drawn from Kano State – two from the southern part of the country – Oyo and Imo states, and one from Kwara State – North Central geopolitical zone.
The appointees who hail from Kano State include the Chief of Staff, Professor Muhammad Ibn Abdullahi; the Special Adviser (Policy & Monitoring), Professor Bashir Muhammad Fagge; the Special Adviser (Political), Yusuf Aliyu Tumfafi and the Special Assistant (Media & Publicity), Shitu Madaki Kunchi.
The Special Adviser (Media & Publicity), Ismail Mudashir, hails from Kwara State; the Special Adviser (Special Duties), Idris Abiola Ajimobi, Oyo State; and the Special Adviser (Administration), Mrs. Ngozi Ndawi Nkemdirim, from Imo State.
Commendations have followed what has been described by lawmakers, media practitioners, civil society organisations, and other stakeholders in the country as balanced appointments.
* Constituents driven representation
For Senator Barau, his representation has been constituents and pro-masses driven. Hence the unfettered access he grants to people from Kano North, Kano State, and beyond; the old, young, rich, and poor; APC members and members of other parties.
For instance, in August, he instituted a scholarship programme through which hundreds of tertiary institution students from Kano North Senatorial District were given N50,000 each. The programme was flagged off at Bayero University Kano (BUK).
Before the scholarship scheme, the Deputy President of the Senate had paid WAEC and NECO fees for hundreds of secondary school students.
To boost agriculture in the state, Senator Barau also distributed fertiliser to farmers across the 44 local government areas of the state.
According to beneficiaries, this initiative would enhance their output and contribute towards attaining food security in the state and country.
On September 6, the people of Rimindako community in Bagwai LGA of Kano State, through a human rights activist, Barrister Muhammad Zubair, lauded the Deputy President of the Senate over the construction of Yasanya bridge and access road in their community.
· Visits Abuja Industrial Park
On the invitation of the Zeberced Group, the Deputy President of the Senate was at the Abuja Industrial Park located in the Idu Industrial District on September 4. Sitting on 245 hectares of land, the park will house 200 factories, a helipad, a train station, a lorry park, a bank, a recycling station and a power plant, among others when completed.
The park is an initiative of the Zeberced Group, jointly founded by Adil Aydin Kurt and Cemal Kurt from Turkey. The company’s Managing Director, Aidl Aydin Kurt, conducted Senator Barau around the project. Kurt told his visitor that the project when completed will provide 40,000 direct jobs to Nigerians.
Moved by the 40,000 jobs to be created , Senator Barau said the parliament would provide the necessary legislative support to the company, saying the project was in line with the commitment of the federal government to address unemployment, boost and diversify the country’s economy.
* Keeping parliament alive during recess
Even with the annual recess embarked upon by the parliament on August 7, the office of the Deputy President of the Senate has been active, five days a week (Mondays – Fridays), with Senator Barau performing official engagements. During the period, he met with ministers, heads of agencies, civil society/pressure groups including the promoters of Tiga and Gari states, clerics, and party leaders, among others.
During their visit, stakeholders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kano North Senatorial District, led by Hon. Sani Mukaddas, hailed Senator Barau, describing him as an exceptional lawmaker and leader.
In the same vein, a forum of former zonal women leaders of the APC has thumped up Senator Barau, saying he is not discriminatory in his dealings with all.
“Continue to support us, we won’t disappoint you, Insha Allah,’’ were the words of the Deputy President of the Senate to those who visited him. He also assured them of the commitment of the parliament to support the executive with the necessary legislation to address the challenges facing the nation.
Mudashir is the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Deputy President of the Senate
Ahmad Lawan: The Doyen of Nigerian Parliament @64
By Ola Awoniyi
Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, the Distinguished Senator representing Yobe North Senatorial District of Yobe State, turns 64 on 12th January, 2023. Within those almost six and a half decades, he has seen it all, especially in public service. In just about five months from now, he will conclude his tenure as the 14th President of the Nigerian Senate and sixth consecutive session in the National Assembly.
Lawan has been around for so long in Abuja that it is easy to assume he was never elsewhere. Yet, his earliest work experience was in the academia, and it lasted long enough for him to bag a Doctorate degree in Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS) before yielding to the pull of partisan politics in 1998.
In that calling, Lawan has clearly made his mark. And not just because he attained the dizzying height of third in the order of succession. People see politics as a dirty game. But Ahmad Lawan does not see it that way. For him, politics should not change the core beliefs and principles of an individual. Service to the people should be the driving objective of partisan political practice. And whether in politics or elsewhere, Lawan believes one’s yes must mean yes.
This has, in no small measure, paid off for Lawan in his almost 25 years in politics, 24 of which has been as a federal lawmaker. A member of the pioneer class of the National Assembly of the Fourth Republic, he was first elected in 1999 to the House of Representatives from the Bade/Jakusko Federal Constituency of Yobe State. He was re-elected to the House in 2003. But in 2007, Lawan crossed over from the Green Chamber to the Red Chamber as the Senator for the Yobe North District. He was re-elected to that Senate seat in 2011, 2015 and 2019.
If you know what it takes to win elections in Nigeria, you would appreciate that what multiple winners like Lawan have accomplished is no small feat. His numerous reelections underscore that his constituents appreciate the quality of representation that he has been providing to them in Yobe North District.
The life of a politician is not all gloss as it may sometimes seem. Election is not a tea party. A parliamentarian in particular needs very hard work to get a return ticket from the party. In Parliament, getting the support of colleagues for motions and bills requires deep knowledge and passion for the subject; focus and temperament. It is actually an extra burden if you are a Presiding Officer in parliament. Success or failure at every stage has its implications.
No wonder, Mallam Nasir El Rufai, the outspoken Governor of Kaduna State, at a recent public function in Abuja, said he has no intention of seeking a seat in the National Assembly like many former governors now do.
Speaking as chairman at the second edition of the “Distinguished Parliamentarian Lecture” organised by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies(NILDS): the governor said:
“The Legislature is one branch of government I know I can never function. The hardwork needed to convince people to support even your motion is something some of us have no patience for. You know management in the Executive is very straightforward. It is very hierarchical and once you are a governor, your word is almost law. But in the Legislature, everybody is equal and there is no management that is more difficult than managing your equals. I don’t envy Mr Speaker and the Senate President at all because their job perhaps is the hardest job in this country. Managing equals is difficult.”
Despite the difficulties, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan has shone at the National Assembly since its inauguration in 1999. Lawan is today one of only two lawmakers remaining in the National Assembly from the 1999 set. He has also attained the most enviable of heights in his many years of service at Parliament, becoming “first among equals” in the Upper Chamber, which is the very pinnacle of the hierarchy in the parliament of any democratic society. That makes him the Doyen of the Nigerian Parliament.
In his three and a half years as the 14th President of the Senate and Chairman of the ninth National Assembly, he has set a high standard for whoever will be his successors. He has demonstrated the value of parliamentary experience as a prerequisite for election as a presiding officer for the Upper Chamber.
His experience of more than two decades in parliament has made him an encyclopedia on the inner workings of the National Assembly. Lawan has the standing rules at the tip of his fingers. When any of his colleagues raises a Point of Order, he would ask the colleague to specify which order. But before the text is read out, Lawan already knows the provision and its applicability.
As “first among equals,” Lawan knows the importance of fairness in the conduct of the affairs in plenary. Even though the majority will always have its way, the minority must have its say as well.
Lawan knows the value of a bipartisan Legislature. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the job of a Presiding Officer is to know when to hit the gavel and when not to. As one of Lawan’s aides, I heard him say, many at times, that he had no choice but to hit the gavel or rule in favour of a majority voice vote even when he held a different view to the voice vote. That is democracy.
Lawan also knows the value of promoting harmony between the Legislature and other arms of government, particularly the Executive, without compromising the independence of the Legislature.
Lawan has seen it all in Parliament. From my vintage point of observation, I quickly realized that he did not become the 14th President of the Senate and Chairman of the Ninth National Assembly by happenstance. It was the result of long years of self-preparedness, self-discipline, consistency, perseverance and tenacity of purpose.
Those attributes are essential for success in any endeavour and Lawan obviously learned that very early. And wherever he goes next, they will accompany him and pave the way for more success.
As I wish the Sardaunan Bade a happy 64th birthday, I also wish him more success in his future endeavours.
***Awoniyi is Special Adviser on Media to Senate President
Predictable Budget Cycle: A great Legacy of Ninth N’Assembly
Shortly after his emergence in 2019 as the 14th President of the Senate and Chairman of the Ninth National Assembly, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan promised to ensure the 2020 Appropriation Bill was passed and signed into law by the President before the end of that year. That promise would have sounded outlandish in many ears and many would have dismissed it outright as a flight of fancy induced by Lawan’s euphoria of electoral victory.
Going by precedent under the Fourth Republic, there were valid reasons for such scepticism.
By 2019, it had become normal for the Appropriation Bill to come into law not earlier than the first quarter or even in the middle of the budget year. This was in spite of the apparent injury the delay was delivering to government’s annual spending plans and the economy.
How to reset the budget cycle or financial year to run from January to December as was the case in distant past had confounded and beaten the previous National Assemblies. But that was not for lack of efforts on this part of the federal lawmakers. Session after session, they visibly worked to instal a steady, reliable and predictable January to December budget cycle. That just didn’t happen, for many reasons.
However, with great determination, strategic thinking and multipartisan cooperation in the Chambers, under a new milieu of effective collaboration amongst the Arm of Government, the Ninth National Assembly achieved the feat on first attempt in December 2019!
The impacts of timeous passage of Appropriation Bills on budgetary performance, governance and the general economy have been severally articulated by economic experts.
Even at the best of times, the Nigerian economy has needed every positive effort it can get for revamping it. The COVID-19 pandemic, the Russia/Ukraine war and sundry local challenges make such efforts even more imperative now. Imagine, some of the advanced economies are already reeling in or tottering at the edge of recession.
Of course the Nigerian economy too slid into recession twice in recent past. But on each occasion, it quickly pulled out. The quick recovery was significantly enhanced by the effective collaboration and proactive interventions of the NationalAssembly.
It is on record that the performance of the budget has improved under the new stable cycle to such extent that the performance numbers are now almost hundred percent.
This is one of the achievements for which the Ninth Assembly has not been granted the deserved credit.
Instead, the doubting Thomases and mocking birds did not immediately stop laughing. Even while some acknowledged the feat, they doubted it could be sustained.
However, it has. In 2020 and 2021. And now again, the Appropriation Bill 2023 was passed by the Assembly on 28th December, 2022.
According to the Senate President, it would have been passed even earlier, before the lawmakers went on Christmas recess, but for some problems that emanated from the Executive in the process of preparing the Appropriation Bill. Those problems, later resolved through collaborative efforts, delayed but did not frustrate timeous passage of the Bill.
Therefore, President Muhammadu Buhari signing the Appropriation Bill 2023 into law on Tuesday 3rd January, 2023, which was the first work day in 2023, is historic. Not just for the National Assembly but for the country at large.
Yet, it is particularly historic for the Ninth Assembly because that is its last Appropriation Bill as its tenure ends in June this year.
It is noteworthy that the virus of late passage of Appropriation Bills year in year out had infected even state Houses of Assembly. But with the action of the Ninth Assembly setting good example at the national level, the trickle down effect has encouraged a turn around in the process in the states too. Many state governments have embraced this new culture at the national level and those that were not doing well before in that regard have taken the new cue from Abuja.We have seeing virtually all state Governors signing Appropriation Bills before the end of the year.
There is yet another innovation that has been entrenched in the country’s financial system by the Ninth Assembly. This has to do with the practice of approving the Finance Bill side by side the Appropriation Bill. The Finance Act provides the support base for an effective implementation of the Appropriation Act through some major reforms in fiscal policies of the government.
For instance, the 2022 Finance Act, which was passed same day shortly before the 2023 Appropriation Bill was passed, is to facilitate amendment to some fiscal laws as the Capital Gains Tax, Company Income Tax, Customs Excise Act, Federal Inland Revenue Service Act, Personnel Income Tax and Stamp Duty Act.
The Ninth Assembly has made it a tradition to pass this piece of legislation alongside the Appropriation Bill and this is another legacy that the succeeding Assemblies must sustain. All these feats are made possible by the effective and efficient collaboration between the National Assembly and the Executive arm of government.
Also, through this cordiality, the Ninth National Assembly has accomplished all the items in its Legislative Agenda months ahead of the expiration of its tenure in June. It may also be difficult for some people to believe, but this Assembly has passed more Bills than any other before it. The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, noted recently at a public gathering that President Buhari has signed more Bills into law that were passed by this Assembly than any of his predecessors had done under any Assembly.
The tenure of the Ninth Assembly under Ahmad Lawan’s watch has less than six months to run out.
However, its legacy and work rate guide us to expect more accomplishments from it until its last day.
*Awoniyi is Media Adviser to Senate President
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