The lingering and recurrent leadership crisis, which has been prominent in the upper Legislative Chamber since 1999, has developed into a threat to the democratic system, a group of civil society organisations (CSOs) have said.
This was one of a host of issues highlighted during a press briefing at the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Thursday, in Abuja.
Auwal Rafsanjani, the executive director of CISLAC, said the crisis between the Senate and the presidency, today, is a cause of worry for Nigeria’s democracy.
“There are multiple signs that the political class is even more self-serving than it has been in the past and (the) civil society believes the time has come to clearly define the national interest and work towards edifying it.
“We recall that a combination of internal and external crisis has at different times, resulted in the removal of three senate presidents and the speaker of the House of Representatives by 2014. We also note that since 2015, there has been crisis between the executive and the legislature that has affected the effectiveness of both arms of government in performing their statutory functions.
“As civil society activists, we note with deep concern that a lot of the crisis have been caused by narrow intra and inter-party partisan interests rather than legislative priorities aimed at promoting good governance.
“The on-going musical chairs of political nomadism have no relationship to issues of concern to the Nigerian people. What we can all see is reckless self-serving behaviour of politicians whose only concern is their determination to continue exercising power without responsibility. As political tensions grow and the risk of system failure grows, we seek to draw attention to the primary purpose of democratic politics, which is the pursuit of the common good,” he said.
He also said one of the greatest concerns of the civil society activists is the intimidation of the institutions of the legislature by the security agencies signalled by the attack on the Senate last week.
Another issue highlighted by the group of CSOs include attacks on press freedom seen in the recent arrest and detention of journalists. Mr. Rafsanjani said such action undermines the cardinal principle of press freedom in a democratic system of government.
Also, the lag in the fight against corruption, the damnation of revelations of the 2016 Auditor General report, the non-inauguration of the National Procurement Council, non-compliance to freedom of information requests, lack of board for the National Human Rights Commission, and the budget for the conduct of the 2019 elections, were other issues pointed out and discussed by the CSOs.
CSOs make recommendations
In the light of the aforementioned issues, the CSOs made these recommendations;
“We call on the National Assembly to refocus and carry out its legislative responsibilities with a sense of patriotism and prioritising the provision of good governance in line with its constitutional mandate. We call on the Senate to ensure that the current crisis is resolved speedily and amicably in the national interest by rising above party affiliations and personal ambition.
“We call on the National Assembly to objectively scrutinize the budget proposal for the 2019 elections to eliminate duplications, and wasteful provisions and consequently expedite actions on the virement and supplementary appropriation to ensure INEC receives necessary and timely funding for a hitch-free conduct of the 2019 general elections;
“We call on the National Assembly through its Public Accounts Committee to intensify oversight over the MDAs to address non-compliance to the Constitution and financial regulations.
“We call on the National Assembly to take adequate steps to strengthen the anti-corruption efforts by the passage of necessary laws and confirmation of the appointment of heads of government agencies to enable swift execution of delegated responsibilities; we call on the National Assembly to expedite action on pending anti-corruption Bills to strengthen the fight against corruption in line with the promises to the Nigerian people.
“We call on the National Assembly to ensure that the proposed Legislative Forum for the Implementation of the EITI is properly constituted and operational to ensure prompt implementation of recommendations from NEITI audit reports and to conclude work on the outstanding components of the PIB; we call on the President to constitute and inaugurate the National Council on Public Procurement as provided in the PPA 2007 to bring an end to the illegality in the award of contracts.
“We also call on the President to act decisively on the report of the Auditor-General of the Federation by sanctioning defaulting MDAs and insisting on zero-tolerance to disregard for financial regulations; we call on the President to assent to the PIGB sent to his office by the National Assembly in furtherance of the reforms in the oil and gas sector and in line with his promise the Nigerian people. We call on the President to call his security agencies to order and put a definite end to Constitutional breaches and violations of human rights by security agencies that have been acting with impunity.
“Finally, we call on the National Assembly to adopt open legislative framework of governance as an institutional process and not a one-off activity by making its budget spending and procurement public. This will restore public confidence to the legislature in Nigeria.”
The group of civil society organisations include; Civil Society Legislative Advocacy centre (CISLAC), Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Say No Campaign (SNC), Centre for Information Technology and Democracy (CITAD), State of the Union (SOTU), Partners for Electoral Reforms (PER), Zero Corruption Coalition (ZCC), Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), Accountability Mechanism for Maternal New Born and Child Health in Nigeria (AMHiN), Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Centre for Democratic Research and Training (CRDDERT), National Procurement Watch Platform (NPWP), African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), and Borno Coalition for Democracy and Progress (BOCODEP).