The legislative institution in any democracy serves as the true representatives of the people; and thus remains the hallmark of democracy. This is an attestation to the fact that being an assemblage of the people elected under a legal framework to make laws for the good of the society. It is therefore an arm of government responsible for making laws for the betterment of the society. This is the basis through which the collective will of the people or better part of it is articulated, expressed and implemented.
Of course, the peculiarities in the various democracies across the globe vary; notwithstanding the foremost characteristic of a legislature is its fundamental link to the citizens of the nation or State. It well acknowledged that an effective legislature is essential to democracy, the rule of law, human rights, as well as economic and social development of the people. The legislature thus, plays a pivotal role in the life of any developed or developing nation in bringing about the entrenchment of good governance.
Having established that the role of legislators in societal development goes beyond making laws as the legislature carries out many other important functions in the polity, with the sole intent of promoting credible governance and development; the core legislative, representative and oversight functions of the legislature like that of the Ninth Assembly of the Ogun State, inaugurated on June, 2019 under the leadership of the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Olakunle Oluomo offers an essential input to governance through quality service delivery with value for money in all facets.
Consequently, a chronicle of the functions of the 26-member House in the State within the last three years indicates that of service-oriented; resulting in socio-economic development with high regards for the promotion of accountability, transparency and efficiency leading to good governance being enjoyed by all and sundry.
It is therefore worthy of note that within the period, the current administration led by Governor Dapo Abiodun, has promoted mutual interdependence among the three arms of government to achieve steady progress in all sectors of the State economy through effective collaboration taking advantage of effective legislations provided by the Assembly. It could be recalled that at the inception of the current legislative session in the State, the membership configuration of the legislature was a rainbow-like political composition; and within two years, members have been able to identify with the progressive and government of togetherness anchored by the Speaker as exemplified in the leadership style of the executive arm led by Governor Dapo Abiodun, and as such, members from the other political parties have thus joined the ruling party.
The above no doubt helped to eliminate unnecessary rancor and thus, enhanced the smooth working relationships of Assembly members leading to remarkable achievements through relevant and people-oriented bills, resolutions, oversights and project facilitation to the various constituencies. This was in line with the current administration’s ISEYA mantra involving Infrastructure, Social Welfare, Education, Youth Empowerment and Agriculture. The State lawmakers have continued to work relentlessly on their core mandate of legislating for the benefit of the common man to further consolidate on the democratic gains through robust activities with no fewer than 46 bills passed. All of which touched on virtually all sectors of the State economy, with over 16 other bills currently being examined at various committee stage.
Some of the legislations passed, which have an immediate and direct impact on governance during the period under review were the yearly Appropriation bill and the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), meant to ensure the day-to-day running of government and execution of all the policies and programmes of government including medium term expenditure framework leading to sustained development in line with the global best practice in budgeting system.
Others are “A Bill for a Law to Amend the Ogun State Public Procurement Law, 2014”, which was meant to aid accountability and prudency. The legislation equally allows for competitive pricing under procurement process by all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) with proper record keeping as well as blocking leakages in line with the procurement process.
In the same vein, “A Bill for a Law to Amend the Ogun State Statistics Law, 2012” was considered; the amendment was meant to promote easy access to statistical data to enhance good planning in governance, thus creating some level of independence for the Bureau of Statistics to aid its operations. The implementation would allow for accurate gathering of data and statistics; thereby providing a more viable economic index to attract more foreign and local investors into the State.
On its part, the passage of “A Bill for a Law to Provide for the Establishment of the Ogun State Waste Management Authority and other Matters Connected Therewith”, was meant to bring about “a cleaner society, remove, collect and dispose of municipal and industrial special wastes including but not limited to medical waste, garden and agricultural waste, waste from public institutions, construction and demolition of waste and waste generating from commercial premises and any other waste generated in the State in accordance with all applicable regulations and laws by relevant regulatory agencies, clear public drainage facilities of waste in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment”.
The passage was another milestone by the 9th Assembly towards safeguarding the environment through a well-coordinated waste management system.
The last three years equally saw to the passage and implementation of a law christened: “A Bill for a Law to Repeal the Ogun State Debt Management Office Law, 2012 and enact the Ogun State Debt Management Office Law, 2020 to Provide for the Establishment of Ogun State Debt Management Office and for Connected Purposes”. The alteration was meant to establish a more coordinated Office that would be saddled with the responsibility of preparing and submitting to the Governor, a forecast of debt service obligations of the Government for each financial year; prepare and implement a plan for the efficient management of the State’s Debt obligations at sustainable levels compatible with desired economic activities for growth and development; participate in negotiations aimed at realizing those objectives.
In addition, the current legislative session in the State ensure the passage of a “ Bill For A Law To Provide For Prudent Management of The State’s Resources, Ensure Long-Term Macro-Economic Stability of the State’s Economy, Secure Greater Accountability and Transparency In Fiscal Operations within a Medium Term Fiscal Policy Framework, and the Establishment of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission to Ensure the Promotion and Enforcement of the State’s Economic Objectives; and for Related Matters”.
This law was passed to ensure the monitoring and audit the implementation of capital expenditure in accordance with the annual budget of the State as may be contained in the Appropriation Law for each year, prepare forecasts and provide technical advisory papers for the fiscal and macro-economic consequences of proposed capital and recurrent budgets for the State in time for consideration by the House of Assembly before enactment of the Appropriation Law for each year, just as it would undertake fiscal, financial, macro and micro-economic studies, analysis and diagnosis and disseminate the result to the Governor, House of Assembly and the general public.
In order to ensure improved access to justice dispensation, another law titled: “A Bill For A Law To Establish the Ogun State Multi-Door Courthouse And Other Matters”, was also passed for the purpose of providing alternative mechanisms to litigation in the resolution of disputes.
This has helped to minimize citizen’s frustration and avoid delays in justice delivery by providing a standard legal framework for fair and efficient settlement of disputes through Court-connected Alternative Dispute Resolution.
Another effort by the lawmakers towards strengthening justice administration in the State was the passage of the “Ogun State Law Reform Commission Law, 2021”, which allowed the State commenced the review of its operational laws in line with the societal realities and international best practices, with a view to enhancing their implementations for improved service delivery; thus allowing the State retain her leading position in the comity of States in the country.
In order to raise the bar of performance through the adoption of a modern and all-inclusive scheme of service to boost workers’ morale thereby enhancing the dignity of labour, “A Bill for a Law To Make Provision For the Schemes of Service For Registrars, Process Servers and Change of Nomenclature of Messengers And Cleaners in the Judicial Service of Ogun State, 2020”, was equally passed during the period.
The law was aimed at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the workers of the judicial arm of government by aiding their productivity through change of nomenclature of some officials like bailiff to process servers, from messengers to office assistants and cleaners to utility servers in line with international best practices.
The energy requirements of residents and investors also got the attention of the legislative arm, as the Assembly immediately provided a legal frame work for activating the process that would aid the socio- economic development of the State through the passage of a law titled: “A Bill For A Law To Establish The Ogun State Energy Board to Coordinate Programmes and Initiatives to improve Energy Generation Supply and Drive Socio-Economic Development in the State and for Connected Matters”. The law was meant to ensure the creation of a State-owned energy board to serve as an alternative to the epileptic power supply and hiked electricity tariff, thereby creating an enabling environment for private sector investment in the power sector to thrive.
The board would be empowered to establish electric power stations in various areas in the State, with a view to generating, transmitting and distributing electricity within the limits prescribed under the Electric Power Sector Reform Act or other relevant legislation; while considering rural electrification as parts of the components of the bill. The bill went a step further to institutionalize an educational body christened: “Ogun State Energy Academy” to provide educational training on subjects integral to the Power Sector value chain including training on electrical fundamentals, renewable energy, energy metering and auditing, and other training fit for the development of the power sector in the State.
The law establishing the Tai Solarin College of Education also underwent legislative milling to address the institution’s identity issues, which prevented it from accessing intervention funds from the various education trust fund / intervention bodies because of the similarity in nomenclature with its sister institution. Thus, the amendment has now reflected a new name: “the Sikiru Adetona College of Education, Science and Technology, Omu-Ajose, Ogun State”, with the institution now being restored to its glorious past.
Concerned by the need to address incessant clashes between herders and farmers in the State, which have led to loss of lives and property, particularly in the Ogun West Senatorial District, the Assemblymen initiated a bill titled: “HB No. 045/OG/2021- A Law to Regulate Animal Grazing, Establishment of Cattles Ranches in Designated Grazing Areas of Ogun State and for other Matters incidental thereto and connected therewith”.
The legislation which enjoyed the massive support of the members of the public in view of the reoccurring clashes was subjected to public hearing, where all stakeholders agreed that the bill remained an antidote for checkmating further destruction of farms caused by open grazing of livestock. Part of a section of the bill which was aimed at controlling activities of herdsmen and reduce degradation of land in the State prescribed a jail term of not less than three years without the option of fine including the forfeiture of the herds of cattle or livestock under his/her control to the State government for anyone who rears, herd or graze any livestock in any part of the State except within the permitted ranches after the commencement of the law which was assented to by Governor Dapo Abiodun in September, 2021.
The ninth Assembly during the period under review also held interactive sessions with the State Commissioner for Finance, Dapo Okubadejo and his Budget and Planning Counterpart, Olaolu Olabimtan, as part of measures towards ensuring the sustainability of sound and feasible financial system that could deliver the many lofty programmes contained in the ISEYA mantra. To achieve the foregoing, the Assembly requested a strict adherence to fiscal responsibility frameworks in planning for the rainy day, particularly as the monthly allocation from the federation account becomes dwindling.
The State lawmakers further presented other measures including the immediate assent of State Audit Law, 2019 to boost revenue from audit and aid accountability and transparency, as well as the timely presentation of budget proposal for the next fiscal year to the legislative arm latest by the beginning of the last quarter of each financial year (October) for thorough legislative process.
Part of the take home from the robust engagements the State lawmakers had with Heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies was the need for the current administration to avoid policy summersault and economic wastage that always characterized public governance in the past whenever there was a change of government; especially at the State level. They therefore canvassed for a law to codify the State long-term development plans and blueprints with a view to ensuring continuity of development projects.
The process of the passage of all the aforementioned legislations was thorough, as deliberations on the various laws preparatory to their passage involved key stakeholders’ engagements and equal participation were accorded all segments of the society.
Also, the ninth Assembly’s commitment to setting the necessary legislative instruments for prudent management of public funds and entrenchment of accountability and transparency in the running of government business in the State was tenaciously activated through the Assembly Committee on Public Accounts and Anti-Corruption, which swung into action by embarking on its ‘watch-dog role’ as conferred on it by Section 128 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
The process saw to the consideration of the 2015-2019 Auditor general’s reports on MDAs to ensure that all appropriated funds are properly accounted for to ensure value for money.
The exercise was meant to create an avenue to point out the need for MDAs to always respond swiftly to audit queries and avoid any form of financial misconducts that violate the principles of accountability and transparency. Hence, the Committee had on several occasions of its sittings made some recommendations to head of agencies on adherence to due process in all their activities to achieve transparency and probity in the administration of public fund.
The legislative arm also engaged its members and staffers on human capital development as it organised various trainings on legislative business both local and foreign for members and all categories of staff, and this had assisted tremendously adding values through improved service delivery; thereby enhancing the overall set goals of the current administration in the State.
The above listed legislations, resolutions and engagements, whose impacts cut across the various sectors of the State economy including education, infrastructure, finance, justice administration, energy, commerce and investments amongst others were carefully processed and passed following careful considerations on the need-assessment of the State in line with ongoing development initiatives of the current administration in the State which are being enjoyed by the people of the State in the last three years.