President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday urged Nigerians to engage democratic means in seeking reforms of any laws that made them uncomfortable.
He made the call in Abuja at the start of a joint Executive-Legislative leadership retreat held at the State House.
It carried the theme: ‘Promoting Effective Executive Legislative Partnership, Finding a Middle Ground.’
The President 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.”
Buhari, who appealed for stronger affinity between the two arms of government, observed that the retreat was one way of achieving such a target.
Buhari added, “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 he endorsed the theme of the retreat because it captured the essence of the Presidential System of government.
Buhari explained, “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.”
Admitting that working together was better for the country, the President recalled that so far the two arms had had it well.
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He stated, “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.”
He called on the lawmakers to sustain the tempo of the current cordial engagements.
He said, “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.”
Buhari cited the speedy passage of the 2020 budget and and subsequent review of same account of the ravaging effect of the Covid -19 pandemic, as proof of the cordial relations.
Making his own presentation, the President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, fumed over the tagging of the National Assembly as a ‘rubber stamp’ to the executive.
He expressed unhappiness that Nigerians often misinterpreted the harmony between the two arms to mean that the legislature had made itself subservient to the executive.
Lawan noted, “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 utter most in our minds in the 9th 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.”
On his part, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, pointed out that there must be a symbiotic relationship between the two arms if Nigerians must truly enjoy democracy.
The speaker added, “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.”