As Na­tional Assem­bly re­sumes this week

Sunday Trust - - VIEWPOINT - With Mon­ima Dam­inabo email: monidams@ya­ 0805 9252424 (sms only)

As the wave of re­veal­ing out­comes trail the on­go­ing po­lit­i­cal party pri­mary elec­tions, and sweep across the coun­try as well as gen­er­ate rip­ples with telling im­pact on ex­tant po­lit­i­cal re­al­i­ties, one of such that had es­caped front burner at­ten­tion even if tem­po­rar­ily, was the even­tual re­sump­tion of the Na­tional Assem­bly. The in­sti­tu­tion which went on re­cess for ple­nary on July 24, 2018, was sched­uled to re­sume on Septem­ber 25 but had to ex­tend such by two weeks to October 9, be­ing Tues­day this week.

Serv­ing as the cru­cible for much of the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal per­mu­ta­tions and schemes, the in­sti­tu­tion had pro­vided the im­pe­tus and trac­tion for much of the up­heavals in the polity es­pe­cially with re­spect to the out­comes in the forth­com­ing 2019 gen­eral polls, of which the party pri­maries con­sti­tute the start­ing point. Hence its re­sump­tion for ple­nary and other ac­tiv­i­ties re­mains a de­vel­op­ment many Nige­ri­ans are look­ing for­ward to for many rea­sons.

Among the rea­sons for height­ened in­ter­est in the re­sump­tion is the an­tic­i­pated drama that could en­sue, but whose plot and course re­main largely un­pre­dictable for now. In the first in­stance is the issue of lead­er­ship - the pre­sid­ing of­fi­cers of the two cham­bers of the Se­nate and House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, which for now re­mains in an in­con­clu­sive state. For in­stance, the Pres­i­dent of the Se­nate Bukola Saraki, who was of the rul­ing All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC) de­fected to the Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP), dur­ing the re­cess. So also did the Speaker of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Yakubu Dog­ara de­camp from the APC to the PDP dur­ing the re­cess. Mean­while Yusuff La­sun Deputy Speaker of the House re­port­edly re­mains in the APC.

Th­ese de­vel­op­ments have changed the com­plex­ion of the lead­er­ship struc­ture of the two cham­bers sig­nif­i­cantly. In the Se­nate, the ear­lier con­fig­u­ra­tion fea­tured Saraki be­long­ing to the APC with the Deputy Se­nate Pres­i­dent Ike Ek­w­ere­madu hail­ing from the PDP. With Saraki’s de­fec­tion, both pre­sid­ing of­fi­cers of the Se­nate are on the same page in the PDP. In the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, Dog­ara and the Deputy Speaker Yusuff La­sun were both of the APC un­til Dog­ara de­camped to the PDP.

Against the back­drop of th­ese de­vel­op­ments, some Sen­a­tors and Mem­bers of the House are clam­our­ing that the de­fec­tions of the two pre­sid­ing of­fi­cers be­ing Saraki and Dog­ara were not ac­com­pa­nied by any for­mal writ­ten com­mu­ni­ca­tion to the re­spec­tive cham­bers in ple­nary, as such took place dur­ing the re­cess. In the light of the fore­go­ing there­fore the de­fec­tions by Saraki and Dog­ara, were not only un­law­ful, but mere acts of mis­guided and macabre po­lit­i­cal mis­ad­ven­ture. This is even as Saraki has reached an ad­vanced stage in his cam­paign for the Pres­i­den­tial ticket of the PDP.

Put suc­cinctly, the stage is now set for high drama that will lace the re­sump­tion of the Assem­bly come Tues­day the 9th of October. An ex­pected de­vel­op­ment is the clam­our by any party with ma­jor­ity to press for the lead­er­ship of the re­spec­tive cham­ber. Yet even the ac­tual num­ber of sen­a­tors and mem­bers in each of the po­lit­i­cal par­ties that would de­ter­mine ma­jor­ity will re­main for now, a mat­ter of con­jec­ture - as with their spir­ited criss­cross­ing from one party to the other Hence, only the re­sump­tion of ple­nary at which the ac­tual fig­ures would emerge, will set­tle the mat­ter.

In the con­text of the fore­go­ing there­fore the re­main­ing months in the life of the Eighth Na­tional Assem­bly (which is from now to early June next year), may not prove the most pro­duc­tive of its ten­ure which has al­ready gulped three tur­bu­lent years out of four. Even sig­nif­i­cant shall be the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the ex­ec­u­tive arm and the leg­is­la­ture in the days ahead. In­ci­den­tally, all through the life of the present ad­min­is­tra­tion the in­ter­face be­tween the ex­ec­u­tive and the Na­tional Assem­bly can­not be said to be cor­dial. Hence un­less a more dis­crete ap­proach by the leg­is­la­tors is adopted on their re­turn - to en­sure min­i­mal tur­bu­lence and dis­trac­tions the coun­try may have to wait for the Ninth Na­tional Assem­bly to con­clude much of the as­sign­ments which the present one should have con­cluded. Put dif­fer­ently, the coun­try may lapse into a state of ar­rested de­vel­op­ment with re­spect to those ar­eas where the in­ter­ven­tion of the Na­tional Assem­bly re­mains crit­i­cal.

For the pur­pose of clar­i­fi­ca­tion, the com­ple­ment of un­fin­ished busi­ness be­fore the Eighth Na­tional Assem­bly is not only sig­nif­i­cant but ur­gent. Among them is the out­stand­ing chal­lenge as­so­ci­ated with the Elec­toral Act Am­mend­ment Bill 2018, which is now on its fourth mis­sion­ary jour­ney to Pres­i­dent Muhamadu Buhari for as­sent and he is yet to do so. Three ear­lier ver­sions had been pre­sented to him on equal num­ber of times and in each in­stance, he de­clined as­sent. Although the leg­is­la­tors de­scribe the bill as a mat­ter of ut­most “na­tional im­por­tance”, they are yet to match words with action. Even their con­sti­tu­tional power to over­ride the Pres­i­den­tial veto on de­clin­ing as­sent to the bill and give it life as a law, seems to have been lost on them. Mean­while this is the very leg­is­la­tion that may de­ter­mine their po­lit­i­cal for­tunes and those of other ac­tors on the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal the­atre.

An­other issue whose for­tunes may also hang in the bal­ance is the 2019 Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment bud­get which by now is al­ready late for pre­sen­ta­tion. A point of in­ter­est with it, is that it is com­ing in an elec­tion year when the present ad­min­is­tra­tion will run for only half of the year and ter­mi­nate on May 29, 2019. In a biz­zare twist of fis­cal alchemy, the an­nual Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment bud­get no more runs re­li­giously from Jan­uary 1st to De­cem­ber 31st as has been the case tra­di­tion­ally. Rather, its life is now de­ter­mined as from when­ever the bud­get is passed and as­sented to by the Pres­i­dent. Hence if the bud­get is as­sented to by De­cem­ber of the year of im­ple­men­ta­tion, so its life will ter­mi­nate in De­cem­ber of the suc­ceed­ing year.

Leg­is­la­tors as­cribe this anom­aly to the im­per­a­tive of ac­com­mo­dat­ing the peren­nial de­lay in bud­get pre­sen­ta­tion to the Na­tional Assem­bly by the Pres­i­dent. That not­with­stand­ing its im­pact on the coun­try is more telling than may be ca­su­ally re­al­ized. Suf­fice it to be held that the sit­u­a­tion places the coun­try’s main­stream busi­ness cy­cle out of sync with much of the world’s busi­ness and trade op­er­a­tions.

Dur­ing his re­cent visit to the USA for the 77th United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly (UNGA), Pres­i­dent Buhari took time out to min­gle with Nige­ri­ans in di­as­pora and stated that he needed an­other four years, which is the sec­ond term, to fix Nige­ria. Much of the suc­cess fac­tor for that ex­pec­ta­tion starts with how he and the Na­tional Assem­bly con­duct the coun­try’s busi­ness, from Tues­day October 9, 2018 when the leg­is­la­ture re­sumes ple­nary.

Among the rea­sons for height­ened in­ter­est in the re­sump­tion is the an­tic­i­pated drama that could en­sue, but whose plot and course re­main largely un­pre­dictable for now.

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