Director General of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), Prof. Abubakar Olanrewaju Sulaiman, has warned that absence of autonomy for the Legislature and the Judiciary will kill democracy.
He also urged governors to comply with Executive Order 10 which has granted autonomy for both arms of government.
According to Sulaiman, the governors’ non-adherence to Executive Order 10 amounts to democratic mutiny.
He pleaded with Nigerians to hold the Executive accountable because it controls over N12 trillion budget to National Assembly’s less than N150 billion vote.
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The NILDS boss, who addressed reporters in Abuja, ruled out part-time legislature.
He noted that some governors were becoming Leviathans by disrespecting constitutional processes.
According to him, Executive Order, which ordinarily is unnecessary in a democracy, is necessary to check the excesses of the governors.
Sulaiman said: “You cannot get the best of democracy if other arms or tiers of government are being caged or denied their rights and privileges. Democracy is not just for the Executive alone.
“The most important organ of democracy is the legislature. A president can win election from one geopolitical zone; a governor can win election from one senatorial district but what constitutes a parliament is all shades of constituencies across the country. One region does not constitute a parliament.
“To me, the most important organ of democracy is the Legislature. Therefore, if that organ of government is being handicapped and sabotaged in one way or the other or denied the necessary tools to work with, it is like killing democracy.
“So, what you are observing now in Nigeria with the refusal of the governors, so to speak, to adhere to Executive Order 10, amounts to murder of democracy. I will call it mutiny. It is like inviting the military back to government.
“You cannot cripple the Legislature and the Judiciary by not granting them that autonomy. They must be able to access their funds via the first-line charge. Anything short of that amounts to democratic mutiny and that must be discouraged by Nigerian people.”
Sulaiman, who was a Minister of National Planning, justified the recourse to Executive Order by President Muhammadu Buhari by describing it as a matter of expediency.
He said: “You can call the Executive Order a matter of expediency. Ordinarily, an Executive Order should not be part of our democracy, but because certain set of political class will not want to do things the way they should be done, hence the recourse to some military concepts to get things done the way they should be done.
“Executive Order, in all respect, should be an aberration, but because governors have turned themselves to Leviathans. They will not want to adhere strictly to certain constitutional provisions, hence the recourse to certain instruments which could be antithetical to democracy in ensuring compliance.”
Responding to a question, Sulaiman said: “I don’t think the cost of governance has to do with the parliament. I won’t subscribe to part-time Legislature.”
On the need for Nigerians to hold the Executive more accountable, he said: “Out of a budget of N13 trillion, what goes to the National Assembly is less than N150 billion. We have 109 aenators, 350 members of the House of Representatives, 3,000 legislative aides, 5,000 workers of the National Assembly and four agencies of the National Assembly benefitting from this N150 billion.
“But Nigerians will not know this. To me, this one is scientific: it cannot be debunked. It is something you can investigate.
“Of the over N12 trillion remaining, a minister could sit on N500 billion and Nigerians won’t ask questions. A minister is entitled to about three or four vehicles, but a member of the House of Representatives is entitled to one. But that one vehicle will be an issue to Nigerians and they will say they are buying vehicles again. I was once a minister, I used to have about five vehicles in my kit (convoy) when I was a minister.
“I am not trying to defend and I am not saying all parliamentarians are good, but to a large extent, the perception we are having about them is wrong and it needs to be corrected. That is why I said the parliamentarians are not telling their stories to Nigerians. They must tell their stories.
“Let us do a survey of 50 or 100 richest Nigerians. You will not see one ex-parliamentarian among them. If you see anyone by mistake, maybe the person was a former governor or a former minister before going into the parliament.
“Beyond the ministers or politicians, the bureaucrats (the permanent secretaries, directors, deputy directors) are richer than the politicians. When I was a minister, I remember that a colleague used to tell me that the house he was staying in as a minister in Asokoro District of Abuja belonged to a director under him. Nobody will talk about permanent secretaries or directors.
“I want to believe that there is a lot of misperceptions and misunderstanding about the Nigerian legislators. Perhaps because they are the only ones, by the nature of our democracy, that must go home to their constituencies to be seen and to interact with their people. And when they go there, they see them in new attires and new cars. They will conclude these lawmakers have stolen money.
“Ministers don’t go home, permanent secretaries don’t go home and they are not answerable to anybody. Ministers are answerable to the Chief Executive who appointed them. Permanent secretaries are not answerable to anybody. You will see a permanent secretary putting on the same jacket for months, whereas he is richer than his boss.”