Arguments must end in people’s interest – Osinbajo

Written by on October 7, 2020

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Tuesday warned that unless the Executive and the Legislature close ranks, the government will be unable to deliver on matters that are central to the interest of the people.

He also said rigid adherence to separation of powers and legality will not solve the “life-threatening problems our people have to confront everyday”.

He said: “Law itself must be interpreted and implemented in context. What is the reality of the context that we operate in today? We all know, our nation has millions of extremely poor people, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened employment and poverty.

“We have huge deficits in infrastructure; many children are out of school. If that is our context we will be callous and irresponsible if we don’t come together, work together to sort out these grave life-threatening problems our people have to confront everyday.

“The dogmatic emphasis on procedural niceties is a luxury we cannot afford. In any event, there is no pure practice of the doctrine of separation of powers. The Anglo-American traditions that we hold on to in support of the separation of powers are not pure…so, for example, the US Vice President serves as the President of the Senate and presides over the Senate’s daily proceedings.

“In the absence of the vice president, the Senate’s president pro tempore (and others designated by him) presides. As one of the Senate’s constitutional officers, only the vice president has the authority to cast a tie-breaking vote. So, even in the country that has the most advanced jurisprudence on separation of powers, they are wise enough to provide for a concrete bridge between the executive and the legislature.

“In the UK, the convention is that every minister must be a member of the House of Commons or the House of Lords and every minister must be a legislator. So if that were in Nigeria, all the ministers would be either senators or members of the House of Representatives. So, these countries we look up to, recognise that any strict separation of powers will impede development, impede governance and shortchange the people.

It is time to focus on what we have been elected or appointed to do. This is the welfare of our people. The law and practice as between parliament and executive is a means to an end, not an end to itself. The means must not jeopardize the end.

“Our people just want food on their table, shelter over their heads, clothing on their bodies, healthcare and education for their children and themselves.

“So, the good legislature or good minister is not the one who is waving the law, and procedure, and doctrines, it is the one who says the spirit of our Constitution is that we secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity.

“The good legislator and minister is the one who will do all in his or her power to serve the needs of our people, even if it means walking the fine lines, as Hon Wudil said between the law and reality”, he said.

In the recommendations of the retreat, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was charged to exercise control on its members so that resolving disagreements crises could be easier.

The 10-point recommendation read by the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mohammed Bello, also said: “There should be regular pre-budget consultations between the Executive and Legislature particularly between the MDAs and National Assembly committees, Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning and the appropriate committee in National Assembly.

“There is need for an effective communication and collaborative engagement to enhance and strengthen the relationship between the arms of government for the benefit of Nigerians.

“The relationship should not be adversarial but complementary, thus, more interpersonal and informal relationship between heads of MDAs and NASS members should be encouraged.

“Operators in the arms of government should act with moderation and limit their sense of entitlement by placing public interest over and above personal and parochial interest.

“There is needed for an organic budget law which will optimise the budgetary process so as to deliver effective and efficient service to the citizens.”

The retreat also highlighted weak mechanism for conflict management and dispute resolution between both arms of government and limited consultation between them on critical governance issues such as policy initiation, programme implementation, planning, and legislative processes.

Other issues that arose from the parley are lack of clarity in communication and poor feedback mechanism leading to different and subjective interpretation of intent and purpose of the message.



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