Groups Urge NASS To Resist Imposition of Presiding Officers

Source: THEWILL. -
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SAN FRANCISCO, May 22, (THEWILL) – The Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) and the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) have called on legislators in the House of Representatives to resist pressures from the Executive arm of government and the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to get them to adopt some candidates for specific offices in the National Assembly.

The groups in a joint statement by Clement Nwankwo, Executive Director, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) and Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) said, “The Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) and the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) notes with deep concern, the undue and unnecessary pressure being mounted on the House of Representatives by the executive arm of government and the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party to adopt specific candidates as Speaker and Deputy Speaker.

“PLAC and CISLAC considers this pressure on the House of Representatives by the Executive and the Ruling Party to be a threat to our democracy as it compromises the sacrosanct and constitutionally guaranteed principle of separation of powers and defeats the concomitant purpose of checks and balances that it is meant to guarantee.

We reject outright, this overbearing and injurious interference into what is traditionally the internal business of the legislature that will further weaken the Legislature, render it ineffective and diminish its capacity to assert itself and hold the executive accountable for the way and manner the affairs of our great nations will be managed in the next four years

“We wish to remind the members-elect that the National Assembly, particularly the House of Representatives has faced serious challenges meeting the expectation of Nigerians owing to the manner in which its presiding officers have emerged in the past. This is in addition to the instability and avoidable in-fighting that such antecedents had created.

“We also remind them that the Legislature is the most crucial institution in a democracy and as an important pillar must be able to elect into positions persons of competence, experience and integrity who command the respect and support of their colleagues in the legislature and can effectively represent them and defend the at all levels as in all circumstances. Anything short of these will only undermine this hallowed institution, erode its credibility and impinge on the independence of the members, to the detriment of our democracy and the yearnings of our people.

“PLAC and CISLAC are worried that this attempt to dictate and manipulate the selection of a Speaker for the House of Representatives on the basis of zoning of political offices could rob the lower chamber of an opportunity to elect competent leadership and lay a foundation for instability in the legislature. This will certainly affect legislative performance in a negative way and undermine the nation’s democracy.

“The outcome of the PDP primaries in January 2011 already indicated the diminished role of the PDP zoning arrangement and its value in the politics and governance of our great nation and should therefore not be used to undermine the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“The PLAC and CISLAC therefore calls on the Executive Arm of the Government and Peoples Democratic Party to allow the National Assembly, particularly the House of Representatives to elect its presiding officers freely and without interference in any way so as to bolster the confidence that the legislature will perform in the 2011 – 2015 legislative session.

“We also call on members of the National Assembly to always bear in mind that their loyalty should be to the electorate whom they represent. They should therefore be assertive by standing firm and resisting the attempts to foist presiding officers on them as this will amount to a betrayal of the trust and confidence reposed in them by the Nigerian people whose interest must be paramount at all times.

“PLAC and CISLAC commend the House of Representative for amending their Rules and Proceedings to adopt open secret ballot system to protect the rights of their members to choose leaders of their choice. We consider this a step in the right direction and encourage them to take advantage of this to elect competent and patriotic leaders to preside over their affairs.

“We call on Civil Society Organizations in Nigeria to continue to monitor the events leading to the choice of presiding officers in the National Assembly as we have a duty to ensure that all our elected leaders are held accountable to their mandate to deliver good governance that will uplift the well-being of our teeming population and vindicate their faith in democracy and a peaceful, safe, prosperous Nigeria.”