19 January 2013

Nigeria: NASS More Powerful Than the President - Kwankwaso

Kano State governor Rabiu Kwankwaso has decried what he called the overbearing attitude of the National Assembly, saying that the most powerful individuals in the country today are members of the legislature at the federal level.

During an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP WEEKEND, the governor noted that the powers of the federal lawmakers were so intimidating to the extent that they decide for everybody in the country including President Goodluck Jonathan and the total amount of what the other two arms of government would spend.

"Now, the National Assembly is so powerful because they decide everything for the country. The most powerful persons today in the political circle, in my opinion, are the members of the National Assembly as they decide what everybody in this country should get," Kwankwaso said. "They want to decide what the state houses of assembly and the local governments should take. That is the problem. I foresee a situation where we will run into a serious crisis. And I believe that there is the need for checks and balances."

The governor further condemned the attitude of the federal lawmakers toward constituency projects, saying the concept was contrary to the principle of separation of powers. "Only God can moderate what they are doing in the National Assembly," he said.

"Look at it this way: when Mr. President sends a budget, when it includes what they call constituency projects - roads, water, hospitals - they constitute themselves into another executive arm of government, thereby competing with Mr. President, competing with governors and competing with the local chairmen. A legislator has no business in coming out of his own constituency to construct a road, and that is telling the general performance of the federal government."

When reminded that the lawmakers are independent of the executive, the governor stated that the governors are not under the lawmakers: "We are also independent of the legislature. I am a governor; I don't do what they call security vote here, whether it's wrong or not; we don't believe it here.

A salary should be determined by a body. What they want to do is try and transfer such things to the state assembly. That means I will sit here, because they have independence they should give themselves whatever thing is due to them as allowances and salaries. If they bring it to me, whether I approve it or not doesn't matter; they will do it. That is very dangerous."

On the issue of immunity, the governor said there was the need to ensure that governors are not distracted from performing their duties. He said: "There is need for immunity at this particular time in our history because people have turned themselves not only to opponents but to enemies. But that is not to say that if you have a petition you cannot go and petition against your governor.

"So, immunity for now, I think, is okay so that governors can concentrate. When they finish their tenures, you can take them to court."

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