1st June, 2011
It was last Thursday and the occasion was the four-day induction programme organised for both the returning and newly elected lawmakers of the Lagos State House of Assembly. That day, the Clerk of the House, Adewale Taiwo Olatunji, who may have been bottling up issues relating to the lawmakers, finally opened up, lamenting their attitude and how the House has been affected.
Olatunji had begun by extolling the virtues of the lawmakers of the sixth Assembly and reminded the newly elected members that once they are sworn in, the task of lawmaking and oversight functions as enshrined in the constitution would rest on their shoulders.
He also said he trusted their abilities as was sure they would affect the lives of their constituents positively.
The clerk, who is also the Permanent Secretary of the legislative arm of the state government, then informed the lawmakers that they must submit a recommendation letter from the Code of Conduct Bureau as condition for their swearing in.
He also informed the newly elected members about the importance of the standing rules of the House, emphasising that the success of the rules depended on the operators. He advised them to study them and adhere strictly to them.
The clerk, while maintaining that the House expended a huge amount of money on the several trainings and retreats in order to enhance human capital development, however, said â€œit is demoralising and disheartening to observe that the trainings and retreats which usually gulp so much financial resources have not really met this objective.
â€œFor us to move forward in our legislative responsibilities and earn the respect of the electorate, our attitude surely must change in this regard, more so, when the intent of the training is to widen our intellectual horizon.
â€œWith the experience of hindsight, our attitude to punctuality would continue to be an albatross and a militating factor if not improved upon. A situation where daily sittings that are scheduled to commence at 12 noon would not start until about 2 to 4 p.m. and even 6 p.m. in some other days, surely does not speak well of us.â€
He explained that punctuality on their part would afford the legislative staff the opportunity to meet with other official business and prepare for the following dayâ€™s work.
The clerk also spoke on the importance of bureaucracy in government and announced that although political aides of lawmakers are recommended by them for appointment, they do not have the power to fire them without due process, while the lawmakers donâ€™t also have the right to collect any financial entitlement on behalf of the aides.
The Clerk advised that lawmakers should always retire funds collected for official duties as this has become a challenge the House has been facing and which has always reflected in the yearly Auditor-Generalâ€™s report.
He maintained that the security system in the House has become porous and that it required an urgent solution.
Reacting to the clerkâ€™s complaints, the Speaker, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, said the seventh Assembly would no longer be business as usual for the lawmakers.
While stressing that the issue of lateness would not resurface in the next session, the Speaker said â€œwe must get the task of making good laws for effective governance and administration of Lagos State paramount.â€
But the Speaker lamented the place of the legislature in the political history of the country when compared to the executive arm, adding that this has made it difficult for the lawmaking arm to effectively carry out its constitutional mandate.
The Speaker expressed the desire of the House to work closely with the executive arm to fasten the pace of development in the state.
â€œBut the collaboration must be anchored on the understanding that the legislature is the most critical link between government and the people and for that reason, we must take precedence over the executive in serving as custodians of the interest of the citizens,â€ Ikuforji added.