State Parliaments – Roles, Functions, Powers and Expectations
The workshop looked at the roles, functions, powers and expectations from the citizenry awaiting the newly elected parliamentarians. There was also room for peer review, as usual in the parliamentary trainings organized by KAS.
Mrs. Hildegard Behrendt-Kigozi, the Country Director of KAS in Nigeria, welcomed everybody and wished fruitful deliberations in good collegial spirit for the best of the Nation, which all arms of Government have to start to work on in this new period and which will face everybody with lots of difficulties to be overcome.
The Speaker of Plateau State House of Assembly expressed that the training will help in building the capacity of the Members, as only 3 Members from the last parliament were able to make it back to this new parliament. This makes the task of KAS to be bigger, as trainings from former years will have to be repeated for the benefit of the new Members.
At the training, the idea of holding regular town hall meetings by the Members was highlighted, as this will serve as a means of exchanging ideas with their electorates, who otherwise will not have opportunity of making inputs into decision making in the state.
Barrister Ayuba Gongu, Barrister Bassey Ekpenyong as well as Barrister Ray Esebagbon explained and discussed the 3 fundamental functions of a parliamentarian which are: representation; law making; and oversight. Issues concerning ethics and privileges, motions, debates and resolutions were explained.
In another session, issues relating to cooperation between the states and the federal government were discussed, and Barr. Ray Esebagbon and Dr. Otive Igbuzor assessed the situation from different angles. While Barr. Esebagbon looked at the relationship between the federal and states governments from legal perspective, Dr. Igbuzor looked at the relation from political and civil society perspective.
Three different sessions were dedicated to the budgeting which is appropriation under law making. The processes and stages of budgeting were discussed in relation to the committees concerned. This is where the major work of the parliaments is located, and it is also a major area where conflicts between the legislators and the executives always arise. Ms. Seember Nyager, Barr. Ray Esebagbon and Dr. Otive Igbuzor were part of these sessions.
Another session on conflict management was offered to the parliamentarians. This sought to sensitize the parliamentarians to recognize the different areas where conflicts can arise, and how to manage them. Conflict in itself is not bad, but the ways such conflicts are managed determine the outcome, which can be good or bad. Aa good parliament is not a parliament without conflicts, but a parliament that can manage conflicts well. Prof. Tajudeen Akanji from the Univerity of Ibadan pointed out that the parliamentarians should see themselves as partners in progress of their states, and should also regard the executive as their partners as well. The concept of separation of powers does not mean the executive be regarded as enemies, but as part of the actors to lead their states to progress and have dividends of democracy. A short animation film was a welcomed and lively tool used to bring the concept and stages of conflicts home.
Sessions on improving the relationship between the parliaments and the executives as well as good governance, good leadership and millennium development goals followed. The essence of incorporating MDGs in the training is to make the parliaments get ready for the stage beyond MDGs, as they are ending in 2015. Every state should start preparing for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and legislations should accompany this effort.
The participants quite appreciated the opportunity KAS gave them to interact with other parliaments, to compare themselves and to learn and share experiences and ideas on many issues. They also appreciated KAS for putting together a very good training, which compared to what they earlier had in Abuja by a national agency, is beyond their imagination. As a participant put it, ‘I came in as a green horn, but I’m leaving as a parliamentarian prepared for the job, thanks to KAS’.