Speaker of House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara, has urged state legislators to make concerted efforts to ensure level-playing field existed for all to participate in 2019 general elections.
Dogara, who said this when he received Speakers of the 36 States’ Houses of Assembly on Tuesday in Abuja, charged them to defend the electoral process in order to surpass the standard set in 2015, according to the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN.
He said, “I want to charge you on the added responsibility of defending our democracy at the grassroots.
“You have to stand firm, especially now that the elections are approaching, to ensure that we create an enabling environment where there will be free, fair and credible elections.
“When we talk about free and fair elections, we mean that the elections will be conducted, there will be no grounds for violence and there will be no grounds for intimidation.
“Some of us will attest to the fact that, maybe, when we contested for elections, we weren’t that strong, but others struggled to ensure that the elections were free and fair and on account of that, we won our elections.
“So, we owe that moral duty to replicate that same environment to others who are contesting and even to our opponents, so that at the end of the day, let there be credible elections in this country.
“We have the standard in 2015 elections and we shouldn’t go back. We should improve, not only sustain, we should improve.”
Dogara also spoke on the autonomy granted to state legislatures in the last constitution amendment which President Muhammadu Buhari had signed into law.
He explained to the visiting state legislators that “the essence of the law is for good governance and not to better the lives of the legislators”.
He therefore, urged the legislators to use it as a tool of vigilance for upholding democracy in the states.
“Now that you have financial autonomy, hopefully, some of the critical areas that we felt will better deepen democratic process will be dealt with,” he said.
Responding to a request by the delegation, Dogara disclosed that the National Institute of Democratic Studies would train the lawmakers when needed, on application of the new law.
Earlier, Chairman of Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures, Mr Abdulmumin Kamba, had commended Dogara for his visionary leadership.
He also commended the House of Representatives and entire National Assembly for conceiving and granting autonomy to state assemblies, saying it would make them more efficient in the discharge of their duties.
Kamba, who is Speaker of Kebbi House of Assembly, urged Dogara to assist in the training of state legislators to improve their capacities.