ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, HIS EXCELLENCY (DR.) ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, MBBS, CON, AT THE 9TH MEETING OF CLERKS OF THE NIGERIAN LEGISLATURES, HELD IN CONFERENCE HALL NO. 231, SENATE NEW BUILDING, ABUJA, ON FEBRUARY 9, 2018.
1. Let me on behalf of the Senate and the entire 8th National Assembly welcome you all to the National Assembly and to Abuja for the 9th Meeting of Clerks of the Nigerian Legislatures. I note that the objective of this meeting is, amongst others, to promote interactions between Clerks of the National and State Houses of Assembly, to enhance effective and efficient service delivery; and also to review the experiences of various levels of legislatures since the advent of the 8th Assembly in 2015. This is very welcome, for this kind of self-assessment can only make for greater efficiency and cohesiveness in the administrative engines that power the legislature at various levels.
2. I understand that the Conference of Clerks of Nigerian Legislature, as an initiative, started in 2005 – but the meetings have not been consistent over the years. It is hoped that every effort will be made to ensure regular conferences of this august gathering going forward. This is clearly an initiative that needs to be sustained. Not only does it afford administrators of Nigerian parliaments the opportunity to examine and redesign strategies for improving parliamentary administration and developing the associated support services – it is also a platform for energising the sustainability of Nigeria’s fledgling legislative democracy.
3. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, you will agree with me that your role as administrators of Nigerian Parliaments – especially as Chief Executive Officers in an environment dominated by political figures who may, at times, show a predilection for engaging in partisan and interest trade-offs – is not only challenging but can be frustrating, particularly if one is not pre-disposed or strategically primed for dealing with such.
4. It is clear that, compared with counterparts in older democracies around the world, our parliaments here in Nigeria may be described as being in the pubescent stage of democratic development. This has manifested itself in the occasional, constitutionally questionable and non-procedural manoeuvres, as well as overzealous actions or inactions that do not necessarily portray our democracy in the best light. Let me quickly issue a disclaimer on behalf of the 8thNational Assembly in this respect – we do take care to be constitutionally proper, always! Nonetheless, regular educative gatherings such as this one, can easily help to correct any unwarranted unparliamentary eruptions, especially when they are guided by seasoned administrators.
5. It is quite impressive that between 1999 to date, the National Assembly has recorded remarkable achievements, not only in performing its legislative responsibilities but also in the administration of parliament and managing political representatives. It is my expectation that we can build upon these achievements by replicating the best practices – the things that have been done well – in the State Houses of Assembly.
6. At this juncture, let me make an observation, that: after 17 years of legislative democracy, we ought to have started organising a National Conference of Nigerian Legislatures (NCNL) akin to the National Conference of State Assemblies (NCSA) in the United States of America. This would be a platform for senior administrative and legislative Officers of Nigerian parliaments to come together to share experience, and deliberate on ways of improving support services rendered to legislators. While this might seem new in the Nigerian political terrain, I assure you that it is a fairly common practice in developed democracies. It would be perfectly in order, therefore, for us to aspire to that level of democratic leverage in our environment.
7. I am aware that there are serious complaints of political intrusion in administrative matters. This is an anomaly that we as politicians discuss continually during legislative workshops and seminars, including meetings of Presiding Officers. I believe that with time, such distractions will be a thing of the past. Let me assure you that we are committed to making this legislative democracy work, not only because we have the opportunity and the people’s mandate to be here, but more importantly because our people and the country will be better off for it.
8. I should not fail to mention that, in as much as we are striving to achieve independence for Nigerian legislatures, there is compelling and complementary need for the independence of the administrative structure of the legislature. All the more reason why the bureaucracy will have to develop its own resource centres manned by professionals from divergent fields, who would be able to provide reliable information and data as may be required by parliament and parliamentarians, in order to adequately and effectively perform their legislative responsibilities.
9. I thank the management of the National Assembly for organising and hosting this conference, and also for giving me an opportunity to share some ideas. I wish you successful deliberations.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE