Sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers cru­cial to sur­vival of democ­racy, se­cu­rity, says Saraki

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - NEWS - From Az­i­mazi Mo­moh Ji­moh, Abuja

PRES­I­DENT of the Se­nate, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has said that full ad­her­ence to the prin­ci­ple of Sep­a­ra­tion of Pow­ers was cru­cial to the sur­vival of the democ­racy, good gov­er­nance and en­hanced na­tional se­cu­rity.

Saraki stated this in his lec­ture en­ti­tled: ‘Sep­a­ra­tion of Pow­ers and Na­tional Se­cu­rity in Nige­ria: An Ap­praisal’, pre­sented to Course 26 par­tic­i­pants of the Na­tional De­fence Col­lege (NDC) in Abuja, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment by his Chief Press Sec­re­tary, Sanni Onogu.

He stated that a sit­u­a­tion where peo­ple frown at the ac­tions of the leg­is­la­ture taken in the course of car­ry­ing out its con­sti­tu­tional du­ties negates the Prin­ci­ple of Sep­a­ra­tion of Pow­ers and the Rule of Law.

He noted that each arm of govern­ment is in­tended and de­signed to be free of co­er­cive in­flu­ence from an­other. “But, re­gret­tably, that is not al­ways the case, in prac­tice, in the Nige­rian ex­per­i­ment,” Saraki said.

He added: “Sec­tion 60 of the 1999 Con­sti­tu­tion pro­vides that: ‘Sub­ject to the pro­vi­sions of this Con­sti­tu­tion, the Se­nate and the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives shall have the power to reg­u­late its own pro­ce­dure, in­clud­ing the pro­ce­dure for sum­mon­ing and re­cess of the House.

“We, in the Leg­is­la­ture, as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the peo­ple, strive to carry out our over­sight func­tions in line with the doc­trine of Sep­a­ra­tion of Pow­ers – be­cause it is our duty as stip­u­lated by the con­sti­tu­tion.

“We also do so to guard against Lock­ean ‘hu­man frailty’ – by which I mean the ten­dency to­wards abuse of power, where such power is ab­so­lute. To one’s cha­grin, how­ever, our ac­tions are of­ten mis­con­strued, be­cause few un­der­stand that the Leg­isla­tive arm of govern­ment is not a rub­ber-stamp, driven from pil­lar to post by the whims and caprices of an­other or­gan of govern­ment.

“Let all lis­ten­ing to me to­day note the unas­sail­able po­si­tion, which is this: the Ex­ec­u­tive, the Ju­di­ciary and the Leg­is­la­ture are co­equals; none is sub­or­di­nate to the other. In­deed, as for­mer Se­nate Pres­i­dent Ken Nna­mani once opined: ‘The Leg­is­la­ture and the Ex­ec­u­tive are co-man­agers of the econ­omy.’” Ac­cord­ing to the pres­i­dent of the Se­nate, the press is replete with sto­ries of ‘face­offs’ be­tween the Leg­is­la­ture and Ex­ec­u­tive, real or imag­ined.

These, he said, in­clude un­guarded pro­nounce­ments by a for­mer Sec­re­tary to the Govern­ment of the Fed­er­a­tion (SGF) – and other govern­ment of­fi­cials - con­cern­ing the Se­nate; or the re­fusal of the heads of some govern­ment agen­cies to an­swer when sum­moned by the leg­is­la­ture.

Saraki said: “The re­fusal of the Se­nate to con­firm cer­tain nom­i­nees of Mr. Pres­i­dent has drawn un­de­served ire in many quar­ters. These are peo­ple who mis­con­strue the role of the leg­isla­tive arm, be­cause we are per­fectly within our bounds un­der the Nige­rian con­sti­tu­tion.

“In any case, if the Se­nate con­firms two nom­i­nees and re­jects one –should we be seen as at­tack­ing the Ex­ec­u­tive? Or, should we not ask whether there are weighty ques­tions to an­swer on the part of the nom­i­nee? Why is the Leg­is­la­ture vil­i­fied when oc­ca­sion­ally, a nom­i­nee fails to scale through?

“We re­ally should ask our­selves the tough ques­tions, rather than par­rot­ing the fal­lacy about the leg­is­la­ture not play­ing along with the Ex­ec­u­tive. Ask your­self what kind of democ­racy we would have if all pow­ers resided solely in one arm of govern­ment.

“That is why I some­times mar­vel at the hypocrisy of some vo­cif­er­ous voices who claim that they are fight­ing for democ­racy and yet they keep quiet when one arm of govern­ment re­peat­edly im­poses its will on the judge­ment of a co-equal arm of govern­ment. “Democ­racy and the Rule of Law de­pend on four el­e­ments – de­lib­er­a­tion, en­gage­ment, par­tic­i­pa­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion. The con­sti­tu­tion says that if you want to wage war or call out troops you must go to the Na­tional Assem­bly and you don’t – is that in tan­dem with Sep­a­ra­tion of Pow­ers?

“Even in the United States that we mod­elled our sys­tem on, the White House must en­gage with Congress in the for­mu­la­tion of crit­i­cal poli­cies on se­cu­rity and de­fence.

“If the con­sti­tu­tion pre­scribes who may be ap­pointed into cer­tain po­si­tions and you flout that – should the Leg­is­la­ture not take a stand in the pub­lic in­ter­est? Or the fact that one judge is be­lieved to be cor­rupt – does that jus­tify one arm of govern­ment break­ing down the doors of mem­bers of an in­de­pen­dent Ju­di­ciary?

“Amer­i­can judges have blocked many Ex­ec­u­tive Or­ders made by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, in­clud­ing those on the Mus­lim Travel Ban, Im­mi­gra­tion and Sanc­tu­ary Cities. De­spite Mr. Trump’s fre­netic twit­ter ac­tiv­ity voic­ing his dis­plea­sure, the judges’ rul­ings stand – be­cause the Ju­di­ciary is free from the co­er­cive in­flu­ence of the Ex­ec­u­tive.

“The tra­vails of the Nige­rian Leg­is­la­ture have un­folded un­der the cloud of many chal­lenges con­fronting the na­tion. These only serve to desta­bilise govern­ment, and can­not be good for na­tional se­cu­rity.

“In a coun­try that is an amal­gam of some 250 eth­nic na­tion­al­i­ties un­der one flag, un­healthy ri­val­ries are a symp­tom of sys­temic dis­tress, for the avoid­ance of which Sep­a­ra­tion of Pow­ers was pro­pounded,” he said.

He fur­ther said that “A suc­cess­ful regime of Sep­a­ra­tion of Pow­ers would re­quire much more than en­act­ing more laws and amend­ing ex­ist­ing ones. It would re­quire the ac­tive com­pli­ance with the doc- trine from all arms of govern­ment.

“As the Leg­is­la­ture, we would re­quire the Ex­ec­u­tive to give due re­gard to le­gal de­ci­sions, in­vi­ta­tions and res­o­lu­tions of the Na­tional Assem­bly. Let me quickly add that we will hold our­selves to the same rules vis-a-vis our co­equals.

“Go­ing for­ward, we have set up a Com­mit­tee headed by the Vice Pres­i­dent to look into ways of im­prov­ing the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the Leg­is­la­ture and the Ex­ec­u­tive; and in­deed, it is in­creas­ingly ap­par­ent that re­la­tions have im­proved greatly, although there is still much to be done.

“The joint pre­sen­ta­tion of the Bud­get to both Houses, now done for two years in a row, is ev­i­dence of cor­dial­ity be­tween the two arms of govern­ment. This is the way for­ward.

“After all, when there is a cold war be­tween two arms of govern­ment, who loses out? The coun­try loses out– in terms of sta­bil­ity, gov­er­nance, devel­op­ment, peace and se­cu­rity. We must also al­ways keep in mind the fact that the ul­ti­mate Check and Bal­ance is ex­er­cised by one party – the peo­ple – at the bal­lot box,” he said.

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