The legislative arm of government, being the fulcrum of democratic practice remains fundamental in promoting good governance, as it is the heart of democracy to the extent that some schools of thought had argued that it is the only government institution that symbolizes true representation, promotes social justice, equity and equality.
This is because its members are elected representatives of the larger populace saddled with law making, ensuring quality representation coupled with the onerous task of oversight on other arms in a democracy. The structures and institutions of democracy, whether in the developed or developing climes are built and centered around the legislature, hence the basis for the assertion that there is no democracy without the legislature.
This pre-eminent position is predicated on the fact that, it is practically impossible for all residents of a country or society to directly participate in governance, the legislature thus, affords them the opportunity to nominate or elect representatives to the Legislative Houses to represent them. All of these underscored the need for this important arm of government to always make good use of statutory instruments- bills, quality representation and oversight as well as other quasi-legislative activities for the benefit of the people.
It therefore becomes imperative from the above premise to take a retrospective look on the roles and activities of the 9th Legislature in Ogun State led by Rt. Hon. Olakunle Oluomo in the last two years and how it has been able to navigate the process of legislating for good governance; ensure peaceful co-existence and welfare of the people, while also maintaining check and balance on the other arms of government since it was inaugurated.
At the inception of the current legislative session, the membership configuration of the legislature was a rainbow-like political composition with diverse political background and within two years, members have been able to identify with the progressive and government of togetherness anchored by the Speaker as exemplified in the leadership style of the executive arm led by Prince Dapo Abiodun, and as such, members from the other political parties have thus joined the ruling party.
The achievements of the ninth legislature through relevant and people-oriented bills, resolutions, oversights and project facilitation to constituencies were in line with the current administration’s ISEYA mantra involving Infrastructure, Social Welfare, Education, Youth Empowerment and Agriculture. Consequently, the State lawmakers in their collective efforts since the inception of this legislative session have continued to work relentlessly on their core mandate of legislating for the benefit of the common man to further consolidate on the democratic gains for the people of the State.
Shortly after its inauguration in 2019, the Speaker, led his colleague-lawmakers to an engagement with the members of the civil societies, including the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) with an assurance that the Assembly under his leadership would live up to public expectation, by engaging relevant stakeholders in the process of lawmaking and other legislative business. This, the Assembly did by hitting the ground running with people oriented bills and laudable activities resulting in the passage of a total of thirty-seven (37) bills, which touched virtually all sectors of the State economy, with over 20 others being examined at various committee stages.
Prominent amongst those passed within the period under review included the yearly appropriation bill meant to ensure the day to day running of government and execution of policies and programmes of government leading to sustained development.
Others are: “A Bill for a Law to Amend the Ogun State Public Procurement Law, 2014”, which was meant to aid accountability and prudency. It equally allows for competitive pricing under procurement process by all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as well as creating value for money, ensure proper record keeping and blocking of revenue leakages in line with the procurement rules.
Also, the Assembly passed “A Bill for a Law to Amend the Ogun State Statistics Law, 2012”, this amendment to the previous law would help promote easy access to statistical data, thereby enhancing good planning in governance, while ensuring some level of independence for the Bureau of Statistics to aid its operations. The implementation would allow for accurate gathering of data and statistics; with a view to providing a more viable economic index to attract more local and foreign investors into the State.
In thesame vein, the last two years saw to the passage of “A Bill for a Law to Provide for the Establishment of the Ogun State Waste Management Authority and other Matters Connected Therewith”, with the aim of bringing about a cleaner society, remove, collect and dispose of municipal and industrial special wastes including but not limited to medical waste, garden and agricultural waste, waste from public institutions, construction and demolition of waste and waste generation from commercial premises and any other waste generated in the State in accordance with all applicable regulations and laws by relevant regulatory agencies. It would create provision to assist in clearing waste from the public drainage facilities in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment. The passage was another milestone by the 9th Assembly towards safeguarding the environment through a well-coordinated waste management system.
Similarly, the Assembly within the period enacted a law christened: “A Bill for a Law to Repeal the Ogun State Debt Management Office Law, 2012 And Enact the Ogun State Debt Management Office Law, 2020 to Provide for the Establishment of Ogun State Debt Management Office and for Connected Purposes”. The alteration was aimed at establishing a more coordinated office that would be saddled with the responsibility of preparing and submitting to the Governor, a forecast of debt service obligations of the Government for each financial year; prepare and implement a plan for the efficient management of the State’s Debt obligations at sustainable levels compatible with desired economic activities for growth and development; participate in negotiations aimed at realizing those objectives. The law equally contains strategies set out to regularly reconcile the State government’s debt data as per its records with that of the Debt Management Office of the Federation. The Office and its adjunct are expected to offer advice and propose funding mechanisms for infrastructural projects that may be contract-financed or financed by any other means by which repayment by the State is deferred.
The legislative process afforded the lawmakers to articulate that such office should also strategize on how best to set guidelines for managing the financial risks and financial exposure of the State and Local Government Councils with respect to all loans and instruments, while offering viable advise to the Government on the restructuring and refinancing of any debt. The law, when operational, would equally establish and maintain relationships with international and local financial institutions, State creditors and institutional investors; as well as collect and collate data on debt management and disseminate information to the general public as may be appropriate with the approval of the Board.
The 9th legislature in the State equally passed, “A Bill For A Law To Provide For Prudent Management of The State’s Resources, Ensure Long-Term Macro-Economic Stability of the State’s Economy, Secure Greater Accountability and Transparency In Fiscal Operations within a Medium Term Fiscal Policy Framework, and the Establishment of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission to Ensure the Promotion and Enforcement of the State’s Economic Objectives; and for Related Matters”.
This law set out to monitor and audit the implementation of capital expenditure in accordance with the annual budget of the State as may be contained in the Appropriation Law for each year, prepare, forecasts and provide technical advisory papers for the fiscal and macro-economic consequences of proposed capital and recurrent budgets for the State in time for consideration by the House of Assembly before enactment of the Appropriation Law for each year, just as it would undertake fiscal, financial, macro and micro-economic studies, analysis and diagnosis and disseminate the result to the Governor, House of Assembly and the general public.
In order to ensure improved access to justice dispensation, another law titled: “A Bill For A Law To Establish The Ogun State Multi-Door Courthouse And Other Matters”, was also passed for the purpose of providing alternative mechanisms to litigation in the resolution of disputes; thereby minimizing citizen frustration and delays in justice delivery by providing a standard legal framework for fair and efficient settlement of disputes through Court-connected Alternative Dispute Resolution. The law outlines the collaborative powers, functions and powers of the OMDC to include application of mediation, arbitration, neutral evaluation and any other ADR mechanisms in the resolution of such disputes as may from time to time be referred to the OMDC, from the High court of Ogun State and other courts in the State, courts of other jurisdictions outside Ogun State, including Federal Courts, Private Persons, Corporations, Public Institutions and Dispute Resolution Organizations.
Related to the foregoing was the passage of the “Ogun State Law Reform Commission Law, 2021”, to allow the State commence the review of its operational laws in line with societal realities and international best practices, with a view to enhancing their implementations for improved service delivery; thus allowing the State retain her leading position in the comity of States in the country.
Going forward, the State lawmakers okayed, “A Bill for a Law To Make Provision For the Schemes of Service For Registrars, Process Servers and Change of Nomenclature of Messengers And Cleaners in the Judicial Service of Ogun State, 2020”, during the period. The law was meant to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the workers of the judicial arm of government by aiding their productivity through change of nomenclature of some officials like bailiff to process servers, from messengers to office assistants and cleaners to utility servers in line with international best practices; thereby raising the bar of performance through the adoption of a modern and all-inclusive scheme of service to boost workers’ morale thereby enhancing the dignity of labour.
The need to improve on the energy requirements of residents and investors to aid socio- economic development of the State led to the passage of a law titled: “A Bill For A Law To Establish The Ogun State Energy Board to Coordinate Programmes and Initiatives to improve Energy Generation Supply and Drive Socio-Economic Development in the State and for Connected Matters”. The law would ensure the creation of a State-owned Energy Board to serve as an alternative to the epileptic power supply and hiked electricity tariff, thus creating an enabling environment for private sector investment in the power sector to thrive.
The Board would be empowered to establish electric power stations in various areas in the State, with a view to generating, transmitting and distributing electricity within the limits prescribed under the Electric Power Sector Reform Act or other relevant legislation. Consideration was also given to rural electrification as parts of the components of the bill. According to the law, the board shall maintain a deliberate policy to foster electricity development and promote modalities for rural electrification projects within the State.
The bill went a step further to institutionalize an educational body named: “Ogun State Energy Academy”, to provide educational training on subjects integral to the Power Sector value chain including training on electrical fundamentals, renewable energy, energy metering and auditing, and other training fit for the development of the power sector in the State.
The above listed legislations whose impacts cut across the various sectors of the State economy including finance, justice administration, energy, commerce and investments amongst others were passed, following careful considerations on the need assessment of the State in line with the ongoing development initiatives of the current administration in the State.
The process was thorough, as deliberations on the various laws preparatory to their passage involved key stakeholders’ engagements and equal participation were accorded all segments of the society.
As part of its commitment towards ensuring prudent management of public funds, thereby promoting and entrenching accountability and transparency in the running of government business especially on the issues of finances and resources of the State, the Assembly through the House Committee on Public Accounts and Anti-Corruption swung into action by embarking on its ‘watch-dog role’ through investigation as conferred on it by section 128 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) as it began the consideration of the 2015-2019 Auditor general’s reports on MDAs to ensure that all funds are properly accounted for.
The exercise was meant to create an avenue to point out the need for MDAs to always respond swiftly to audit queries and avoid any form of financial misconducts and other violations of principles of accountability and transparency in order to promote accountability and transparency in the running of government business. Thus, the Committee had on several occasions of its sittings issued stern warnings to head of agencies to always follow due process in all their activities to further eliminate sharp practices which would in turn help in creating value for money, promoting good governance and development of the State.
On human capital development, the 9th Legislature in the last two years had organised various trainings on legislative business both local and foreign for members and staff of the State House of Assembly.
On the whole, it is pleasing to note that as it rolls out the drum in commemoration of its second anniversary, the 9th Legislature in Ogun State has raised the bar of performance in legislative activities in tandem with the polices of government to improve economic development and generally revamp the financial base of the State.
By Lawal Abiodun
Head of Information, OGHA.