Temie Giwa: 2015 – Who will bell the legislators? (Y! FrontPage)

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In order to get 2015 right, a shift in perspective is required for us to slightly move away from our historical obsession with the Executive branch of government, and towards the people’s representative.

Nigeria is behind. The signs and indicators that Nigeria is behind and that we have all failed each other are endless. Unfortunately, for the next two years it is unlikely that the current government will choose to adopt or implement any major policies that will significantly change the status quo.  It will not reform the way the country shares its petroleum resources towards equity and efficiency. It is not likely that it will pass a health bill so that the health system is better organised. It will not fix the education sector by regulating schools, providing more funding for current schools, or giving teachers better incentive to educate our children better. It certainly will do nothing about the invasive corruption we currently have in Nigeria like passing a non-conviction asset forfeiture law. Instead it will underfund EFCC, and give pardons to the kingpin of corruption and graft. So where does that leave those of us who desperately need change? The 2015 election is our chance to get leadership right, the months leading up to 2015, is our chance to fix followership once and for all by getting Nigerians to choose their future.

I believe that the way to get things right in 2015 is through a shift away from the singular dedication to the Executive branch and to look towards the Legislative branch of our government. The Nigerian National Assembly is empowered to do a lot of things Nigerians want done. The legislators can pass laws that could change lives or make them worse off; and it can provide oversight to all executive ministers and force them to do what is best for the people of Nigeria. The Nigerian Senate help reform the judiciary if it is so inclined; thereby improve the rule of law and reduce corruption. I strongly believe that the way to reform in Nigeria was hidden in Section 4, Part II of the Nigerian constitution.

The Nigerian Legislature is endowed with the responsibility to provide oversight for the executive branch of the government, which includes all federal ministries, departments, and agencies. It must approve their budgets; provide direct oversight by essentially giving a query to any minister, head of department and agencies who is seen to deviate from the will of the Nigerian people. This power is immense and one that I believe has gone slightly unused or used inefficiently. If the Minister of Petroleum Resources is seen to be flouting her authority or to be involved with graft then it is the job of the Legislature to call him or her to order through a transparent process of questioning. This responsibility removes any potential presidential pardon for his cronies he has decided should run our public institutions. If the National Assembly used its oversight functions seriously and fully, the impunity with which certain ministers conduct state business will lessen significantly and would further provide an incentive for future ministers to be prudent in the discharge of their duties.

A Legislature makes laws and laws become policies that affect the lives of the population the legislature serves. This entrusts the well-being of a people into the hands of its representative because laws are the tools we use to govern ourselves. Thus, if Nigerians want a change in health, education, infrastructural development, and rule of law, all it needs is to look to its National Assembly to pass laws to that effect and to provide oversight to the ministries that must implement these laws. Policies that work such as teacher reform, a health bill that will harmonize the duties of the health agencies, and a non-conviction asset forfeiture law, must all be introduced and passed by the National Assembly.

The National Assembly is allowed to impeach Judges, Federal auditor general, leaders of sensitive commissions and others. This responsibility allows the National Assembly to provide a strong incentive to the judiciary branch so that it will dispatch justice. This rule is of course tempered by a requirement of an invitation by the President. However, the rule remains a strong weapon that Nigerians can use to get their government back.

A small representation of the young people of Nigeria spent last weekend considering how best to get involved in the public life and service. In order to get 2015 right, a shift in perspective is required for us to slightly move away from our historical obsession with the Executive branch of government, and towards the people’s representative. Smart young people must find smart politicians and policy technicians to pack up the legislature and leave the rest to scrabble and fight over the presidency. In 2015, to see real change, we must change how we play the game by focusing more on the people’s legislature.

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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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