President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday again made it clear he is not going to be swayed by agitations for restructuring, saying that Nigerians aggrieved or have misgivings about certain laws governing the country must be patient and seek pursue reforms where necessary, in line with democratic practices.
Speaking at the opening of a joint executive-legislative leadership retreat with the theme: ‘Promoting Effective Executive Legislative Partnership, finding a Middle Ground’ held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, President Buhari stated: “Let me also remind our common patriots, gentlemen and women, that the process of lawmaking and governance are dynamic and ever evolving, I will seek their indulgence to be patient with any legislation or law which they have certain misgivings about and engage the process in line with democratic practices.
“Our interest is sincere promotion of our collective will and aspiration to build a nation where justice, peace, and progress are the norm.”
President Buhari called for more collaboration between the executive and legislative arms of government, to enhance governance in Nigeria.
He said the retreat offers an opportunity for the two arms to reflect and engage as one government, for the benefit of all Nigerians.
The President added that “this retreat provides us another opportunity to interface, reflect brainstorm and engage as one government. I use the word one government because there can only be one government in a nation at a time and officials both elected or appointed in the executive or legislative arms must all be working for the peace, unity and development of our country.”
He said the theme of the summit “is apt as it reflects the peculiarity of a Presidential system of government like ours. “The experiences of the last 20 years of steady democratic practice in Nigeria have underlined the need for effective partnership and collaboration between the executive and legislative arms of government to deliver our mandate.
“I believe that the principle of separation of powers as enshrined in our constitution is designed to enable all arms of government to work together in cooperative and collaborative manner, through executive and legislative engagements. Let me thank the leadership and members of the 9th National Assembly for the cordial and warm relationship we have enjoyed in the last one year.”
Buhari noted that the country had since started reaping the benefits of the cordial relationship the two arms are enjoying.
“By virtue of our effective partnership and your support, this government has initiated critical reforms targeted at reforming and strengthening our economy, increasing efficiency in governance, consolidating on the repairs carried out in the last four years and putting the country on a steady path of growth and development.
“The accelerated of the passage of the 2020 budget and its review in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the timely passage of my nominees and passage of critical legislations by the National Assembly are all testaments to your willingness and commitment to playing your part towards delivering effective services to Nigerians.”
The President, however, called for the sustenance of the steady relationship through dialogue and consultation.
“There is a compelling need to sustain and strengthen on this partnership by creating platforms for regular dialogue, consultations and interactions between the executive and the legislature, to share ideas and build consensus on critical governance and policy issues.
“This approach will enhance coordination within government and strengthen our capacity to effectively address the challenges of governance, service delivery and development.”
He thanked the National Assembly leadership for adopting a new legislative agenda, as he called for the inauguration of a committee to help sieve the outcome of the retreat and make appropriate recommendations to him and the leadership of the National Assembly for implementation.
The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, in his remarks described those calling the lawmakers, rubber stamp for choosing to work harmoniously with the executive arm for the benefits of Nigerians, as mischievous.
He said: “This National Assembly decided quite early to work with the executive very harmoniously for the benefits of Nigerians. I am glad that Mr. President you have expressed similarly commitment.
“In fact, this relationship is misunderstood by many. Some out of mischief describe the National Assembly as rubber stamped, some out of misunderstanding. For us, what is uttermost in our minds in the ninth Assembly is how do we work with the executive to make Nigeria better. If the prize to pay is the names that we get, then let it be. Because, we believe that Nigerians deserve better service, better infrastructure and it is difficult if not impossible to achieve meaningful development in this country or any democracy without understanding and harmony in the way and manner the two arms of government work.
“So far we have been doing this for over 12 months, so it’s time to review this partnership and see the weaknesses in the relationship and the areas we have achieved so much which has resulted in some level of improved service delivery.
“There are a lot of rooms for improvement because, we believe we have not yet achieved that level of relationship that we can now say, it is good.
“This particularly retreat, will present opportunities to review and strengthen areas we have achieved so much and address areas where there have been weaknesses. There are key areas to be strengthened.”
The Senate President expressed hope that both arms of government will talk to each other in a frank and truthful manner, adding “because what we do here will impact significantly on the polity, governance and Nigerians deserve to have what we promised them.”
The Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, on his part said, not arms of government need to work symbiotically to deliver divine of democracy to the people.
He said: “This two-day engagement will do nothing but to strengthen the relationship between these two critical arms of government but enhance it so that the people will be the better for it.
“I believe it will be frank, truthful, we will speak truth to each other and I believe the outcome will be to the benefit of all Nigerians.”
The convener of the summit, Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Umar El-Yakub, in his opening remarks, said the summit was conceived to strengthen executive, legislative partnership.
According to him, “One of the ways to achieve this is to equip critical players in both arms with information and tool necessary to develop strong and cordial relationship, one that is underpinning underlining commitment to national interest.
“The importance of working together cooperatively and harmoniously cannot be over emphasized. Since the beginning of the administration, Mr. President and the leadership of the National Assembly have taken proactive steps to foster and deepen cooperation both arms of government.
“Whilst so much have been achieved with tangible outcomes, there is need to consolidate on gains so far made. Therefore, this retreat is geared towards enhancing the synergy between executive and the legislative arms of government, deepening understanding, building consensus on the priority development agenda of both arms as well as improving communication and information sharing.
“It is our expectations that improved working relationship will lead to enhanced service delivery, accountability, transparency, efficiency and effectiveness in the management of public resources, in line with Mr. President development priorities.
“As we reflect on national issues in this retreat, I strongly believe in promoting our shared values, national interest will be our common goal.
“We have to build on our complimentary strength and other’s experiences. It is our hope that discussions at this event will contribute to this administration’s goals.”