Section 143 of the 1999 constitution has made it impossible for the National Assembly to remove the president or vice president from office via impeachment, according to Yakubu Dogara, Speaker, House of Representatives.
He expressed this view when he spoke on the theme, ‘Deepening Democracy: Role of the Legislature,’ at the third public lecture series of Nasarawa State University, Keffi, on Monday.
Dogara, who described the provisions as “satanic verses”, said the Nigerian parliament’s contribution to deepening democracy through its various functions helped to stabilise democracy in the country.
Giving reasons for his assertion, the speaker recalled how the bill he sponsored in the 7th Assembly – which sought to simplify procedures for the impeachment of the president and vice president – was defeated during the constitution amendment exercise.
He maintained that democracy is a government of laws and not of men, and that with section 143 in place, presidents could choose not to obey the law, “because he can choose the laws to obey without any retribution.”
In his view, democracy would not thrive without citizens’ active participation because it was the responsibility of the people to protect democracy and hold leaders accountable.
“There can be no democracy without the active participation of the citizens.
“Any country where the government fears the citizens, then it is a democracy.
“The legislature in Nigeria has contributed immensely in deepening the practice of constitutional democracy in Nigeria, especially since the introduction of the 1999 constitution, in its various functions.
“If democracy rests on the due process and the rule of law, it therefore means that our democracy can only be as deep as the laws upon which it is built,” he stated.
Dogara also noted that the 8th House of Representatives under his leadership as speaker had made outstanding contributions to deepening democracy in Nigeria through the faithful implementation of its legislative agenda, which served as a compass of its legislative activities for four years (2015 – 2019) to deepen democracy in Nigeria.
He disclosed that the 8th Assembly achieved this by providing leadership in the areas of accountable and transparent government, citizens’ engagement, constituency representation, collaboration with its counterpart in the Senate and other arms of government to legislate for the common good of the Nigerian people.
Other areas where they contributed include legislation to create reforms in Nigeria’s national economy and development; tackling poverty, unemployment; confronting the scourge of corruption, terrorism and security challenges in the country; environment, and reduction in the cost of running government, reducing wastage and tackling national revenue leakages.
He explained that there are other areas the House has been committed to playing its part which include rescuing Nigeria from the clutches of hunger, poverty, disease, social, economic, political and infrastructural quagmire, and ensuring transparency and accountability, not just by the House of Representatives but also by government at all levels.
According to him, “Even the most casual observer of Nigeria’s democracy in the last three electoral cycles would admit that despite perceived gaps in the exercise of its oversight mandate, the legislature at the national level has achieved a modicum of institutional growth.
“At the national level, the legislature is increasingly becoming more assertive in the process of law-making.”
Speaking further, he said: “It was in view of the fact that a weak legislature is antithetical to good governance and consolidation of the country’s hard-won democracy that the National Assembly, through various legislative measures, intervened to specifically strengthen the legislative institution in order to position it to play its prominent role in our constitutional democracy.
“The National Assembly amended the constitution in 2010 that placed it on the first line charge, thereby ensuring its relative financial and administrative autonomy.
“Furthermore, the National Assembly set up the National Institute of Legislative Studies to provide crucial capacity enhancement for legislators, legislative staff, and the institution as a whole,” he stressed.