On Tuesday June 11, 2019, the 9th National Assembly was inaugurated and principal officers for the two chambers were elected. While Ahmed Lawan emerged Senate President, Femi Gbajabiamila was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives at the end of a tension-soaked process. The emergence of the duo, who were the choice of their party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government, was received with mixed feelings. While some considered it a good development in view of the frosty relationship that existed between the 8th National Assembly and the executive arm of government, which lasted throughout the life of that assembly, others saw it as a move by the executive to pocket the legislature and at variance with the principle of separation of powers which provides a system of checks and balances to prevent the abuse of power.
President Buhari had recently bemoaned the relationship between his administration and the outgone assembly. He said: “Relations between the Executive and the Legislature were not the best in the 8th National Assembly. I sincerely hope each one of us will do his utmost to ensure there is a better working relationship between these two arms of government in the 9th Assembly so that we can serve the people better.”
Even though the president has placed the blame for his inability to perform optimally in his first tenure at the door step of the 8th National Assembly, it is on record that that assembly was the best performing since the return to democratic governance 20 years ago. The immediate past legislative session passed over 300 bills. Some of the critical bills to its credit are the Not Too Young to Run Bill, Minimum Wage Bill, June 12 Bill, The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention Bill, and the Prevention of Crime Amendment Bill, among otheres, which were assented to by President Buhari. The eighth National Assembly also recorded the highest number of rejected bills. At least 40 bills suffered rejection under the Senator Bukola Saraki and Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara-led Senate and House of Representatives, respectively, just as no fewer than 100 bills sent to the President were yet to be passed into law at the end of the tenure of that assembly.
Some of the rejected bills are the Electoral Act Amendment Bill; Petroleum Industry Governance Bill; Bill Seeking to Amend the Constitution for an annual State of the Nation Address by the President; Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) Amendment Bill; Chartered Institute of Pension Practitioners Bill; and the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (Amendment) Bill.Others are Bankruptcy and Insolvency Bill; Small and Medium Enterprise Agency Bill; Energy Commission (Amendment) Bill; Ajaokuta Steel Company Completion Fund Bill; National Housing Fund Bill; Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences (Amendment) Bill; National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency Act (Amendment) Bill; and the Federal Polytechnics Act (Amendment) Bill.
While we note that cordial executive-legislature relations are important in a democracy for the development of the country, through initiation and passage of critical laws as well as proper oversight functions for fiscal probity, it is the view of this newspaper that a situation where the executive openly supports those who emerge leaders and goes as far as handpicking candidates to fill principal offices does not augur well as it is subject to abuse and could lead to having a rubber stamp legislature.
Now that elections are over, with the All Progressives Congress (APC) in control of the legislature, the executive arm of government will no longer have an alibi for its poor performance. It is our expectation that the chummy relationship between the two arms of government will translate to timely clearance of appointees for critical offices by the president, early budget passage, and passage of laws to address the economic and security challenges bedevilling the country.