How Nigeria House of Rep is rewriting a legislative history

By IndepthAfrica
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Sep 19th, 2012
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President Goodluck Jonathan on Friday visited the site of Nigeria’s first suicide blast, claimed by Islamists, assuring that security forces were tackling the “ugly” emergence of terror attacks.

Most social scientists will tell you that one year and half is not a good time to evaluate the overall performance of a programme. While that is true because they say the time is too short for the wheel to turn full circle, every scientist will also tell you that the success of any programme or project depends on the frequency of evaluation

time expended on making sure that the wheel is turning properly all the time, if not the wheel may just never turn full circle.

As a beneficiary of the shoe tight approach to programming, events and activities management by Development Sector Projects to work in Nigeria for eight years under a USAID Implementation Partner, IP, I can vouch for the fact that no event no matter how small is complete without an evaluation component. Evaluation is often so important that supervising officers want to see its presence from the beginning of the activity to its end.

The assumption is that if you do not plan and show that you have planned well, the chances of that event succeeding is questionable. This is why M&E officers are very important in the programme chain. This is why I do not envy the place and role of Honourable Emeka Ihedioha, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives in the implementation chain of the Legislative Agenda of the House.

As chairman of the ad-hoc committee in charge of the implementation of the Legislative Agenda, which can simply be described as the budget or contract or covenant between the House and Nigerians, it is his duty to ensure that the contract entered freely by the House in 2011 is running smoothly.

This piece is therefore a review of how well Speaker Aminu Tambuwal and his deputy Emeka Ihedioha have gone in the activation of the promises contained in the Legislative Agenda

For a start, if what I picked from an informal meeting with two members of the House in Kano last week is anything to go by then Tambuwal and Ihedioha must he doing a good job of implementing the Agenda

This informal discussion actually started around the need for a clearer and seamless relationship between the executive arm of government and the legislature on the budget process and implementation.

I did not know that my well-intended inquiry would present my legislator friends the platform to educate me on the niceties of the Legislative Agenda and how well Tambuwal and Ihedioha had quietly but effectively turned the Agenda into a platform to remake the nation.

A major reason for the success so far recorded on the Legislative Agenda has been the synergy and cohesion between the Speaker and his deputy on the project. While Ihedioha is out driving the engine of the Agenda, insider sources at the Green chamber say Tambuwal is behind providing the buffer and final details.

My legislator friends credit this fine understanding between the two leaders of the House for the rancour free manner committees of the House were constituted. According to them Tambuwal as chairman of the selection committee that allocated members into committees had the final say on who gets what but they say he created enough window for Ihedioha whose business it will be to eventually mobilize members to submit themselves to the dictates of the Agenda to make some critical inputs.

In the Agenda the leadership had promised to ensure that members “committed to honouring the faith and trust reposed in it (House) by the Nigerian people and determined to chart a new course of legislative business for the benefit of our people”

My legislator friends insist that the process of constituting House committee had never been this rancour free. They even dared to say that from a distance it is difficult to appreciate the revolutionary work Tambuwal and Ihedioha have brought to bear on activities of the House in the last 15 months.

Apparently the former duties of the two leaders in the House prior to their election as Speaker and deputy must be serving them well in the management of their colleagues to buy into the dictates of the Agenda.

Of course I did not expect my legislator friends pass a damning verdict on their presiding officers, but I was impressed with the ease with which they reeled out what they say are some modest progresses made by the House in implementing the Agenda.

So far they credit the leadership of the House for putting in place a new order that has fostered transparency in its operations leading to institutional integrity through efficiency of public expenditure management.

They also say the House has been able to restructure management and functions of legislative committees towards adequacy in capacity and improved productivity.

Another plus for the House as a result of the Legislative agenda is the successful review of the Legislative branch budget in line with the requirements of openness, effectiveness and accountability. Al contracts and contracting processes are effectively now in the hands of the administration of the National Assembly.

The House of Representatives is firmly progressing in the process for the review the Constitution in all relevant areas in line with the aspirations of Nigerians. People close to the House again say the modest progress so far made is traceable to the cohesion between the Speaker and his deputy. While Ihedioha is the chairman of the review committee Tambuwal is offering back stub to the whole process.

In the last one year and in tandem with its promise in the Legislative Agenda the House had actively engaged with other arms of government to restore public order and national security. Many still remember the interventions of the House at times of worrying security breakdown in some parts of the country

The House is now benefiting from the review of its legislative processes and standards to achieve better and optimum results in law-making through the strengthening of the processes to deliver better quality legislations and more passage of bills, including member bills. This reflects in the quicker passage of bills by the House. A major was it has achieved this is through a strict compliance with set time frames.

In keeping to its promise in the Legislative Agenda the House has also strengthened its oversight responsibilities over the economy, governance and accountability.

It is in this area that the bite of the House of Representatives has been most felt, drawing the ire of the executive arm in the process.

Like the House or not, the truth remains that this House of Representatives has been robust, bold and determined in its efforts to bring live to its Legislative agenda, I mean its contract with Nigerians.

Musa wrote in from Abuja

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