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CRISIS LOOMS OVER NATIONAL ASSEMBLY INSTITUTE

By NBF NEWS
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An imminent showdown is looming in the National Assembly over the frustration of lawmakers to pass the bill to give legal backing to the National Assembly Legislative Institute. The institute was conceived by the management to train its personnel for effective performance.

Investigation by Daily Sun indicated that the passage of the bill was being stalled by the activities of the Project Analysis and Research Project (PARP), now in its second phase of providing support for the capacity building of the National Assembly.

PARP was conceived in 2002 as a parliamentary capacity strengthening initiatives to fill the gap noticed in response of the parliamentarians and parliamentary staff to the challenges of the new civilian government.

The project eventually took off in 2003 after an agreement was signed between the National Assembly and the Zimbabwe- based African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), which provided an initial grant of $2million to take off. National Assembly provided the remaining $1.34 million.

At the end of the first phase of PARP in 2008, tremendous success in its project components, leading to the commencement of its second phase, is expected to terminate in 2012.

Being a project with a life span, the management of the National Assembly decided to establish a permanent institution for a continuous training of all categories of staff and forwarded a bill to the House of Representatives for passage.

More than two years after the bill was sent to the House, the House Committee on Rules and Business has not found it expedient to list it in the Order Paper for debate. Incidentally, the committee chairman, Hon James Ita Enang is a member of the Joint Steering Committee for PARP, while the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu is the chairman of the Steering committee and the deputy chairman is Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Bayero Nafada.

It was gathered that apart from the trio, some other principal officers from the two chambers were in the league to frustrate the passage of the National Assembly Institute and prevent its eventual full take off.

Sources at PARP confirmed that the project coordinator, Dr. Ladi Hamalai has warmed herself into the hearts of the leadership of the Senate and the House, using the Steering committee members to extend perks to the principal officers.

'The woman understands and speaks the language the lawmakers want to hear. She knows how to meet their pecuniary needs, this is the weapons she has been using to sell PARP, don't be surprised, when you see members of the Steering Committee falling on each other to defend her,' the source said.

It was gathered that when she went beyond the mandate of the project to place some advertisements in selected newspapers, top notches of the National Assembly were not happy until the management decided to raise a panel to probe the source of the publications.

The intervention of some presiding officers prevented a full blown investigation into how she applied the fund of the project from the budget provisions and the counterpart funding. Notwithstanding, she is being accused of exploiting her closeness to the chairman of the Steering committee, who is the Deputy Senate President to sign the Memorandum of Understanding [MoU] for the commencement of PARP I, which was described as a procedural error, because Ekweremadu is not the chairman of the National Assembly.

'Senator Ike Ekweremadu is the Deputy Senate President and not the Senate President, who should sign any agreement on behalf of the National Assembly. In signing the MoU for PARP II on behalf of the legislature with African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), it is an aberration for Ekweremadu to sign,' the source said.

Already, this error has created a division among top National Assembly management staff, some who argued that the MoU signed by the Deputy Senate President on behalf of the National Assembly should be declared illegal.

When the office of the PARP coordinator was visited last week, she was not available for comments, but a staff who did not want his name in print denied that the project was blocking the passage of the bill to give legal backing to the National Assembly Institute.

Another staff, who corroborated the denial added that the coordinator of the project was not in any position to stop the passage of any bill. 'What power has she got to stop politicians from having their way? It is clear blackmail, when the lawmakers want to pass the bill, they will pass it,' the staff said.