Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, has urged legislatures across the African continent to break their people free from dictatorship by building strong institutions that will drive socio-economic development and lift the people out of poverty.
Speaking while delivering his welcome address at the opening ceremony of the 16th Commonwealth Speakers and Presiding Officer’s Conference, Africa Region, at ECOWAS Parliament Complex, Abuja, he added that this can only be achieved by first establishing networks and building coalition among the African legislatures, according to a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media & Public Affairs, Mr. Turaki Hassan.
This is even as he lamented that the Executive branch of government hardly and seldom reciprocate the gesture of cooperation extended by the National Assembly in its effort to ensure smooth running of government for the delivery of dividends of democracy to the Nigerian people.
“The legislature as the first institution of democracy must sacrifice more in this endeavour even if the gesture is not often returned by the Executive,” he said.
Dogara, maintained that Africa is in a hurry to develop and that such can only be achieved when strong institutions are build to replace weak ones that have been deliberately put in place by dictators to ensure that leaders remain stronger than the people.
Dogara, who also doubles as the Chairman, Africa Region of Commonwealth Speakers of Parliament and Presiding Officer’s, noted that Africa does not need strong men but strong institutions and said: ” Unfortunately, Africa has been home to strong men who paradoxically relished in building weak institutions to keep them stronger. Yet all of Africa’s problems; be they corruption, socio-political, economic etc, can only be solved by strong institutions. ”
“It is therefore the duty of parliaments across Africa to free our people from the shackles of strong men by ensuring that strong institutions replace the later thereby ending this pervasive curse on the African continent once and for all. There is no gainsaying the fact that our parliaments cannot achieve this onerous task without first establishing networks and building coalition. That is the main reason why we are assembled here today,” he said.
The Speaker further stated that for good governance to thrive in Africa, there must be cooperation and collaboration between the Legislature and the Executive for the smooth running of all government institutions in the race for development.
He argued that, the legislature as the first institution of democracy must make sacrifices in the interest of the people and support the executive to enable it deliver the people’s needs and aspirations, while at the same time, maintaining its independence.
He added that Africa is running a race to attain development and therefore, has little patience for intergovernmental rifts and called on the legislature and the executive branch of government to cooperate and deliberately provide a conducive atmosphere for the smooth running of all governmental institutions.
“Africa is in a hurry to develop, it is in a hurry to vanquish poverty, ignorance and disease. Our people have no patience for squabbles between various organs of government and it is the duty of the Presiding Officer to ensure that the Legislature supports the Executive for good governance to thrive while maintaining its relative independence. The legislature as the first institution of democracy must sacrifice more in this endeavour even if the gesture is not often returned by the Executive.
“Even though in most presidential systems of government, personnel and functions are separated, yet it is true to say that government departments or arms of government in modern times have overlapping functions and responsibilities, and must therefore work together as one government serving the people’s needs and aspirations,” Dogara added.
He disclosed that the conference will also reflect on challenges faced by leadership of legislatures in contemporary Africa and inter-African cooperation.
Speaking on one of the core functions of parliament, control of the public purse, he noted that to effectively undertake this responsibility, members of parliament require reliable, objective and timely information and data, hence, many African parliaments are at various stages of establishing Parliamentary Budget Offices (PBOs), while adding that the conference is a platform for sharing country experiences on the challenges of establishing PBOs.
On the role of presiding officers who have a major role to play in sustaining parliamentary democracy and the rule of law in their respective countries, he added that they also have a profound political and extensive administrative role for the overall direction of the parliament, especially in a presidential system of government.
“Furthermore, as one of leaders of the country presiding over elected representatives of the people, he or she has a duty and responsibility to ensure stability in his/her country and delivery of good and accountable governance to the constituents of parliamentarians,” he added.