- Abubakar Malami
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, (SAN) has assured that the executive arm of government will continuously engaged the National Assembly Leadership on developing and sustaining a cordial working relationship towards seamless passage of bills.
This is as the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan insists the current bond between the Executive and the National Assembly must be driven by mutual respect and robust consultations between both arms of government in the overall benefits of Nigeria and Nigerians.
Malami said the Federal Government, through the Attorney General’s Office, is upbeat about sustaining cordial working relationship with the lawmakers to advance the nation’s interest on all fronts.
He said it was against this background that the Executive proposed several bills during the 8th National Assembly’s tenure, assuring that additional ones will also be presented to the 9th National Assembly for consideration and passage into law.
Malami spoke during a visit to the National Assembly where he met with the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila; and some principal officers of the Senate on Thursday.
The nation’s Chief Law Officer regretted that “several bills presented to the eighth National Assembly were never passed nor assented to because of certain inadequacies or constitutional issues.”
He told his hosts that; “Enormous resources, energy and cost have gone into legislative process of lawmaking, and I feel the time is now right for us to work together for the purpose of eliminating the associated bottlenecks that have constituted hindrances to the passage of the bills and assenting thereto.
According to him, “My beneficial approach is to look at the possibility of working together between the executive and legislature; and where the need arises, the judiciary, in working on the bills before they proceed to the stages of public hearing”, adding; “We cannot afford to expend resources, time and energy in formulating and drafting bills that will eventually not be passed or assented.”
The AGF said going forward, government is hugely interested in a rapport whereby advance legislative proposals will be sent for possible review and inputs of the lawmakers even before the Executive’s final consideration of the draft bill.
Speaking at the occasion, the Senate President described the meeting as an ‘historic engagement’ and commended the Executive arm for its mature approach in seeking to foster harmonious partnership with the lawmakers.
Lawan said the current bond between the Executive and the National Assembly should be one driven by mutual respect and consultation between both arms of government.
“Our relationship should be based on mutual respect and consultation. This is a clear demonstration of the kind of consultation we have been talking about.
“We shouldn’t work at cross purposes; and beyond bills, we need to extend the consultation to other spheres of engagements for us to achieve optimal performance,” Lawan said.
The Senate President described the meeting as an “important and historic engagement between the Office of the AGF and the current leadership of the National Assembly” towards achieving a working relationship that would facilitate the seamless passage of bills and their assent by the President.
“This shows the kind of relationship that characterise the ninth National Assembly and the Executive arm of government, which essentially is for the benefit of Nigerians, the people we represent.”
“There are three major functions of the legislature; the oversight, representation and legislation.
“Legislation is a fundamental pillar of what we do here. Your office is in charge of executive bills that find their way to the National Assembly and therefore, this is an effort by the executive arm of government to ensure legislative processes that will start from the executive to the legislature or vice versa, should be seamless, speedy passage and effective implementation for good governance.”
He further stated that; “When we process a bill, so much resources, efforts and commitment are put into it; so we have to do everything possible to ensure that the processes are such that the outcomes justify the enormous resources put into the processing of the bills.”
Underscoring the need to have committees on both sides for the purpose of regular engagement, Senator Lawan said; “If there’s anything we identify that will cause us not to pass a bill, we will draw the attention of the executive to it and mandate our relevant committees to engage with the concerned agency and the AGF’s office so that all such issues are sorted out.
“We should have our bills assented to, whether they are executive bills or private members’ bills. This relationship is productive so far, it is working and helping this country and we will continue with it. However, that is not to say that we will compromise on things that are our mandate.”
Lawan, who urged the AGF to ensure heads of agencies fully involved in the process of drafting executive bills to avoid sabotage from any quarter, said; “I want to advise, that when an executive bill emanates from you, exhaust all opportunities for heads of agencies that will be affected by the eventual passage of the Bill into law to participate.
“Let them put in their ideas before you roundup work on the draft that will be sent to the National Assembly for consideration.
“Often times, heads of agencies deliberately refuse to attend public hearings, and when the bills are passed and sent to the president to sign, then they go around saying things about the bill stopping government from working and so on.”
He assured that the “National Assembly would do everything to ensure optimal productivity, but those civil servants who sometimes feel they would lose power and authority would attempt to jeopardize the assent of the President.
“This is something that we have to address. When there’s a public hearing on a bill, we will make it mandatory for heads of agencies that are supposed to participate to attend. If they don’t attend, they shouldn’t go back to the President to advise against the assent to such bills.
“The government put in a lot of effort and resources, and we do the same. But one individual, like a Managing Director or Executive Secretary, who feels he or she may lose part of his mandate to another agency, may go ahead to sabotage the whole process. We need to guard against that.”
Among the lawmakers at the meeting were: Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi; Deputy Minority Leader, Ajayi Boroffice; and Deputy Chief Whip, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi.
Others include: Deputy Minority Leader, Emmanuel Bwacha; Deputy Minority Whip, Sahabi Ya’u Alhaji; Senator Albert Bassey (PDP, Akwa-Ibom North), and Senator James Manager (PDP, Delta South)