The Speaker of the House of Representatives on Wednesday in Abuja inaugurated the 105 Standing Committees of House.
At the ceremony, Gbajabiamila said that the legislative committee system was as old as the legislature itself and that most of the work of the legislature were done through committees.
“What the judgment of the history will be for the 9th House of Representatives, whether for good or not, will depend largely on the conduct and the activities of the Committees we are inaugurating today,” he said.
The speaker said that in constituting the committees, the leadership of the house had taken time to ensure that members were assigned to committees that fit perfectly with their legislative interests and priorities.
He said that prior experience and skills as well as identified needs of the constituencies of the members were also taken into consideration.
“It is now left to you; chairmen and members, to go forward and show that you are capable of meeting the responsibilities to which you have been assigned and deserving of the mandate which you hold in trust for the Nigerian people.
“I charge you to be dutiful in the discharge of your constitutional responsibilities of oversight and law-making, taking every care to ensure that at all times your conduct is without reproach.
“Your service is motivated only by considerations of the best interests of our country; you know as well as I do, that our country for several years has been contending with serious challenges on multiple fronts.
“From the economy to national security, social justice to healthcare, infrastructure to the environment and climate change, this is a time that calls for determined efforts to achieve substantive reform.
“Ensure that our country can overcome its challenges and take advantage of the opportunities that abound for economic advancement and social development,” he said.
Gbajabbiamila appealed to the Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government for their cooperation and collaboration.
“It is only through our joint efforts that we can meet the objectives of the administration and keep the promises we have made to the Nigerian people.
“We in the House of Representatives intend without reservation to exercise the full authority of the legislature as it relate to the oversight of the MDAs.
“However, our purposes are not punitive, neither are our intentions adversarial, but in furtherance of our shared objectives of national development, peace, progress and prosperity for all.
“To this extend, we will be fully supporting and empowering our Committees for effective oversight, particularly the Committee on Legislative Compliance,” he said.
A former speaker of the house, Mr Ghali NaAbba urged the lawmakers to avoid regular visit to MDAs.
Speaking on behalf of all former speakers, Umar said that it was embarrassing to former lawmakers, seeing members regularly in MDAs.
According to him, members are not auditors, let auditors do their job; members should invite MDAs and not the other way round.
NaAbba urged the lawmakers to focus on amendments and updating outdated laws to meet current societal requirements.
A former Director General of the National Institute of Legislative Studies, Prof Ladi Hamalai called for effective funding of the legislature.
In a paper titled: ‘Roles of Committees in a Presidential System of Government’ Hamalai said there is very little committees can do if they are not effectively funded.
She said that oversight visits, training, public hearings, enquiries, analysis of bills referred, gulp money.
According to her, this may be one of the reasons legislators are always accused of being funded by same agencies they oversee.
“The total budget for the National Assembly has been between N120 billion and N130 billion and it has been declining in terms of proportion to the national budget.
“In dollar terms in 2015, it was about 600 million dollars; the United States Congress had 4.3 billion dollars to spend.
“Committees in the U.S. Congress spend 295.4 million dollars in 2015; 106 million dollars on only library and books.
“The N18.8 million allocated to National Assembly committees can be spent on oversight functions and may not even be enough,” he said.
She said that the institute estimated the financial needs of committees to be N99.8 billion yearly to function effectively.
Edited by Abiodun Esan/Ali Baba-Inuwa
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