Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, the Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria yesterday reiterated the need for the full adherence to the principle of separation of powers, which he said was crucial to the survival of the democracy, good governance and enhanced national security.
The charismatic Senate President stated this in his lecture entitled: ‘Separation of Powers and National Security in Nigeria: An Appraisal’, presented to Course 26 participants of the National Defence College (NDC) in Abuja.
He said that a situation where people frown at the actions of the legislature taken in the course of carrying out its constitutional duties negates the principle of separation of powers and the rule of law. Saraki noted that each arm of government is intended and designed to be free of coercive influence from another, “But, regrettably, that is not always the case, in practice, in the Nigerian experiment,” Saraki said.
He added: “Section 60 of the 1999 Constitution provides that: ‘Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the Senate and the House of Representatives shall have the power to regulate its own procedure, including the procedure for summoning and recess of the House. “We, in the legislature, as representatives of the people, strive to carry out our oversight functions in line with the doctrine of separation of powers – because it is our duty as stipulated by the constitution.
“We also do so to guard against Lockean ‘human frailty’ – by which I mean the tendency towards abuse of power, where such power is absolute. To one’s chagrin, however, our actions are often misconstrued, because few understand that the legislative arm of government is not a rubber-stamp, driven from pillar to post by the whims and caprices of another organ of government. Let all listening to me today note the unassailable position, which is this: the executive, the judiciary and the legislature are co-equals; none is subordinate to the other. Indeed, as former Senate President Ken Nnamani once opined, ‘The legislature and the executive are co-managers of the economy.”
According to the president of the senate, the press is replete with stories of ‘face-offs’ between the legislature and executive, real or imagined. These, he said, include unguarded pronouncements by a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and other government officials concerning the Senate; or the refusal of the heads of some government agencies to answer when summoned by the legislature.
Saraki said: “The refusal of the Senate to confirm certain nominees of Mr. President has drawn undeserved ire in many quarters. These are people who misconstrue the role of the legislative arm, because we are perfectly within our bounds under the Nigerian constitution. “In any case, if the Senate confirms two nominees and rejects one –should we be seen as attacking the executive? Or should we not ask whether there are weighty questions to answer on the part of the nominee? Why is the legislature vilified when occasionally, a nominee fails to scale through.
“We really should ask ourselves the tough questions, rather than parroting the fallacy about the legislature not playing along with the executive. Ask yourself what kind of democracy we would have if all powers resided solely in one arm of government. That is why I sometimes marvel at the hypocrisy of some vociferous voices who claim that they are fighting for democracy and yet they keep quiet when one arm of government repeatedly imposes its will on the judgment of a co-equal arm of government.”