It has been twenty years now since Nigeria’s return to democratic rule after about twenty-eight years of military rule.
From 1999 to date, Nigeria has recorded uninterrupted political governance, with a three-tiered political structure comprising the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary.
Of the three arms of government, the Legislature is arguably the closest to the masses, as it comprises elected representatives of the people at the constituency level, tasked with the pivotal responsibility of law-making, to not only sustain the country’s democracy but significantly impact on all the facets of the nation’s sustainable development agenda.
On Thursday the 6th of June, the 8th National Assembly, wound down its activities, giving way for the 9th Assembly to commence its functions on Thursday, the 11th of June, 2109.
The bi-cameral Legislature adopted in 1999 has produced as many as seven leaders but the 7th and 8th Assemblies were regarded as the most stable, especially in terms of its structure, leadership and the support legislators gave to their principal officers.
Twenty years down the line, Nigeria’s National Assembly has witnessed some developments, including an increase in the observance of rule of law, separation of powers and citizens participation in governance.
Bills such as Procurement Act, Pension Reform Act, Anti-corruption Act and Electoral Act, have helped to deepen transparency and accountability in various public institutions. Other laws passed by the legislature have also impacted on improving governance and advancing policies to develop the economy through increased private sector participation.
Recently, the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, “Not Too Young To Run Bill”, the North East Development Commission Bill, were passed by the 8th National Assembly, an indication of the lawmakers’ interest and resolve to move the country forward.
Sectoral debates and budget hearings were conducted to rejig the nation’s economy after it went into recession and get Nigerians to participate in the country’s budgeting system.
Other critical bills passed were intended to improve the education, agriculture, health and economic sectors.
Of note, a Special Session was held on the Ajaokuta Steel Company, for which solutions were provided to mitigate the challenges impeding Nigeria’s industrialisation, through the development of the steel industry.
At the heart of all of the political efforts made over the last twenty years, is security, a major challenge for lawmakers. Nonetheless, consistent and concerted efforts were made in collaboration with the Executive Arm, to tackle this headlong.
While relations between the Legislature and Executive arm of government were for the most part frosty, both managed to conclude the tenure of the 8th Legislative Assembly in the nation’s best interest.
Undoubtedly, Nigeria’s democratic journey has been rough, tough but also good on several fronts, with the country slowly, steadily but surely, moving towards an enduring democracy worthy of emulation.
As the 9th Assembly commences its tenure, Nigerians remain hopeful that they will build on the foundations laid by the 8th Assembly to move the country to the next level.