State Houses of Assembly in Nigeria have been challenged to build resilient and functional institutions else the expected financial autonomy which the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) has finally agreed to begin implementation for state legislative and judiciary institutions in May 2021 would not entrench good governance.
The director general of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), Prof Abubakar Sulaiman, who said yesterday in his remarks at the opening of Capacity Building Workshop for members of Rivers State House of Assembly at Ibom Icon Hotels, Uyo, Akwa Ibom.
State, said in view of the agreement with NGF, State Houses of Assembly also have a responsibility to put in place the necessary structures to allow for immediate and successful implementation of autonomy.
“This includes passing the State Assembly Funds Management Law and the State Assembly Service Commission Law. These are critical to the ability of any Assembly not only to achieve independence but also to ensure the full implementation of financial autonomy and improve its technical competencies.
“Consequently, the modules selected for this training focus heavily on the budget process. The aim of this is two-fold; first to build the capacity of the Assembly to prepare and manage its budget and entrench the practice of accountability in the management of legislative funds.
“This is especially important in light of the pressure by the public for greater transparency on the part of the legislature and legislators, who are the direct representatives of the people. The second reason relates to the power of the legislature over the budget process.
“Suffice it to say that “the budget is the most important law passed by the legislature because it “fulfils a fundamental role as a guide for public sector management. It not only organizes and regulates public expenditures but also provides a gauge for measuring all subsequent government activities”.
Sulaiman said Section 120(4) of the 1999 Constitution vests the power of the purse with the legislature by staying that; “No moneys shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State or any other public fund of the State except in the manner prescribed by the House of Assembly.”
Consequently, he said the role of the State Assembly in this regard includes analysing, debating, and approving the proposed budget for the coming year on the basis of evaluating prior years’ budget performance.
“In that capacity, you are not mere rubber stamps but serve as an important counterbalance to the executive.” He advised.
The head of Konrad Adenaijer Stifung (KAS), a German foundation sponsoring the workshop, Dr Vladimir Kreck, said KAS was working towards strengthening democratic governance around the world and had been in Nigeria since 2001, focusing more on building capacities in the state houses of assembly.
According to him, the foundation has partnered a total of 13 state houses of assembly mostly in the South to develop capacities, and that the effect of such partnership has shown in the manner the assemblies now conduct legislative businesses.
“The partnership is perpetual. We don’t intend to pull out any time soon. One thing you observe in Nigeria is after the election, some state assemblies turn over about 90 percent of new members. It means that after every four years , we need to start from the scratch again to training members of the legislature.
The representative of Rivers State House of Assembly, Mr Sam Ogeh, thanked both NILDS and KAS for providing the opportunity for their members to update their legislative knowledge yearly.