By Helen Udoh, Outlook Media ABUJA
The National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) has called for more funding for members of the National Assembly (NASS) for effective monitoring of budget implementation by the executive arm of the government.
Director General of NILDS, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman made the call in Abuja on Friday while lamenting the difficulties and challenges faced by the standing committees in the NASS in carrying out their oversight functions.
Speaking during a visit by the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) FCT Correspondents Chapel, Prof. Sulaiman said proper funding will ensure standing committees of the NASS to carry out their assignments without fear or favour.
“There are issues that border on oversight assignments and I keep saying those issues will not be corrected until we provide more funding for the parliament to do their oversight, and that is what Nigerians will not want to hear.
“When the parliamentarians are going to oversight Nigerian Port Authority (NPA), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPCL) and the only vote of budget you could give them is N3 million to oversight an agency that will remit trillions and you say they will not be vulnerable?” he queried, adding “then, we are just deceiving ourselves”.
He added: “When the agencies you are to oversight are the one funding the oversight, then the oversight is dead on arrival. Proper funding of oversight functions of the parliament would ensure accountability and transparency on the part of the committees”.
Speaking further, Sulaiman stressed media practitioners have a role to play in the reportage of oversight functions of the parliament with the view to probe and scrutinize the executive arm of government in budget implementation.
He said journalists as critical stakeholders in democracy and, therefore, have the statutory responsibility and role in keeping Nigerians abreast of the workings of their elected representatives even beyond sitting for the proceedings during the plenary session.
He said Nigerians have the right to know that the parliamentarians are only charged with the responsibility to make laws, oversight and represent their constituents, and not to physically implement projects like road construction.
He said the press is not just a stakeholder but a cornerstone that has been the bridge in giving feedback on what Nigerians are going through and what the government is doing.
“This is where journalists have to come in and interrogate how much is there for the National Assembly and State Assemblies to perform their functions especially the aspect of oversight and this is the area you can call MDAs to question and account. I think we need to do more.
“The history of this country’s independence is not complete without the press. Governance is not complete without the press,” he said.
Sulaiman expressed the readiness of the Institute to partner with NUJ in providing capacity building for journalists even for those who are not directly covering the National Assembly.
On his part, the Chairman of NUJ FCT Correspondents Chapel, Comrade Jide Oyekunle commended the Director General of NILDS for his untiring and unrelenting efforts in enriching and deepening the reportorial knowledge and skills of members through periodic capacity building training particularly those covering the National Assembly.
He said the visit was aimed at bringing to the notice of the Director-General the need to extend the capacity building to other journalists in various beats, such as the judiciary, finance, crime, energy, health and others in order to acquaint them with the workings of the legislative arm of government.
“This will go a long way to erase the wrong and negative perception which Nigerians still harbour about the legislative arm of government, particularly the issues surrounding the official vehicles saga,” Oyekunle said.