71 Nigerian lawmakers demand return to parliamentary system of govt

National Assembly Complex
National Assembly Complex

A bill to amend the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria to reintroduce a parliamentary system of government has passed first reading in the House of Representatives.

The bill sponsored by 71 members seeks to change the system of government from presidential to parliamentary where the government will be run by the parliament.

One of the major differences between these two systems is that in a presidential system, the president is directly voted into power by the people while in a parliamentary system, the legislature is supreme and elects a prime minister from among members of parliament as head of government.

There is also no clear separation of powers in the system between the legislature and the executive as the ministers are also appointed from parliarment.

Nigeria practised the British-styled “Westminster” parliamentary system until the collapse of the First Republic on January 15, 1966 when the military took power.

The 1979 Constitution introduced the country to the US-styled presidential system of government, with framers of the constitution largely citing the tensions and acrimonious politics of the First Republic as reasons.

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Prominent amongst the sponsors of the bill are Abdussamad Dasuki (PDP, Sokoto), Tahir Monguno (APC, Borno), Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta), Ossey Prestige (APGA, Abia) and Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers).

Addressing journalists at the National Assembly on Thursday, the lawmakers said the parliamentary system of government will help achieve economic growth and development in the country.

“We are 71 bi-partisan members of the House of Representatives, who feel that the parliamentary system of government promulgated by the Lyttleton Constitution of 1954 is the best for Nigeria since the presidential system has reduced us to the poverty capital of the world.”

The lawmakers further said the parliamentary systems helps in quick passage of economic bills due to the fusion of power that it embodies.

“Studies have shown that countries run by presidential regimes consistently produce: lower output growth, higher and more volatile inflation, and greater income inequality relative to those under parliamentary ones.”

“Presidential regimes consistently produce less favourable macroeconomic outcomes which prevail in a wide range of circumstances for example in Nigeria.”

“Due to the excessive powers domiciled to one man under the presidental systems, consensus building that is often required for economic decision is always lacking.”

“The level of liability and volatility of presidential systems makes it difficult to achieve economic objectives.”

The lawmakers said the parliamentary systems promote inclusion and collectiveness “which is critical to equality of income distribution and opportunities.”

The lawmakers consist of members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressives Congress (APC), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and African Democratic Congress (ADC).

Abdussamad Dasuki, prominent amongst the 71 sponsors of the bill, said the bill was deliberately brought towards the campaigns so that Nigerians could ask questions during the campaigns.

He said a lot of other members have keyed into the idea.

He said the debate of the bill will come up probably after the 2019 general elections.

He expressed optimism that majority of his colleagues and state houses of assembly would endorse the bill.

The bill, if passed, will however require the assent of the president to become law and be enshrined in the Constitution.

If the president declines to assent, the National Assembly can override his veto with the votes of two-thirds of the members.

The current National Assembly in 2017 passed a series of amendments to the Constitution, some of which President Muhammadu Buhari signed after they passed through necessary endorsement by at least 24 state houses of assembly.

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