Speakers of the Houses of Assembly converged on Lagos Tuesday where they decried the non-implementation of the financial autonomy for state legislature – a year after President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the bill granting autonomy to Houses of Assembly.
The Chairman of the ‘Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures’ and Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, said the non-implementation of the autonomy by many governors amounted to a violation of the constitution.
Obasa spoke at the conference of 36 Speakers representing the 36 states of the federation with the theme “Strengthening the Capacity of State Legislatures for Effective Governance”. The conference was organised by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS)
House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, who was represented by Deputy Speaker Idris Wase, called for synergy between the National Assembly and the 36 Houses of Assembly during the proposed constitution review.
At the interactive sessions, lecturer at University of Jos, Prof. Sam Egwu spoke on “Capacity Needs Assessment of State Houses of Assembly”.
Also, a federal legislator, Ossai N. Ossai, spoke on “Legislative Agenda Development and Benchmarking Activities”.
Obasa, who was represented by the Taraba State House of Assembly Speaker, Abel Peter Diya, said the governors should implement the autonomy law without necessarily waiting for the President to enforce its compliance.
“It is well over a year that President Muhammadu Buhari gave his assent to financial autonomy for both state legislature and judiciary in the last constitution review. We want to call on all the relevant stakeholders to intensify efforts towards effective implementation of the constitutional provision with a view to strengthening our democracy,” he said.
Hailing the institute for organising the conference, Gbajabiamila said the constitutional roles of appropriation, law-making and oversight functions bestowed on the legislature required skillful display of intellectual input, based on sound knowledge acquisition, information, workshops, seminars and retreats.
The Speaker said the push for local government autonomy failed in the past because the Houses of Assembly refused to cooperate with the National Assembly on the issue, adding that, although there is the need for a collaborative effort among arms of government, the legislature must be mindful of certain interests that may override national interests.
He added that an independent legislature is critical for democratic survival and national development.
Gbajabiamila urged the Speakers to save the local government from imminent collapse through law making, stressing that a “revitalised local government system would bring effective governance”.
The Speaker disclosed that the National Assembly would soon embark on constitution review, adding that a synergy between the national and state parliaments will facilitate the attainment of set objectives.
The Director-General of the institute, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman, said the conference was organised to boost the capacities of the Houses of Assembly in the areas of law-making, budget process, oversight functions, legislative drafting, committee management and reporting.
He said the institute has been offering postgraduate diploma and master’s degree programmes in legislative drafting, legislative studies, parliamentary administration, elections and political party management, election and party politics, and constitution and constitutionalism.
“The institute is prepared to collaborate with state Assemblies to conduct institutional and capacity needs assessment, conduct trainings and workshops and develop manuals and other relevant materials needed for effective functioning of the legislature. We are also open to providing technical support towards the development of the various Assemblies,” Sulaiman said.
He noted that the Fourth Constitutional Alteration Bill provided for the funding of the State Assemblies directly from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.