When passed into law, the proposed Institute of Legislative Studies being considered by the Lagos State House of Assembly will be the first in Nigeria to be backed by law.
This was made known the Director of the National Institute of Legislative and Democratic Studies, Abuja, Dr. Shuaib Danwaka, at a stakeholders’ meeting in Lagos on Friday in consideration of the bill for the state’s version of the Institute of Legislative Studies.
Danwaka, who was the guest speaker at the event, said that the institute is predicated on the need to provide training for lawmakers and legislative staff.
He commended the Assembly for following the footsteps of the federal government while arguing that democracy is sustained through capacity development.
“The bill is to establish the institute that would provide capacity so that the Assembly would be able to discharged its duties of law making and oversight.
“The duties of the legislature cannot be discharged without capacity. With the institute the capacity of the legislature and staff is guaranteed and it will go beyond Lagos and Nigeria,” he said while noting some parts of the bill that should be considered.
Like Danwaka, Prof. Sylvester Odion Akhaine, a Nigerian activist and academic, supported the bill, but noted areas that could be reviewed.
The bill sponsored by the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon.(Dr) Mudashiru Obasa, shows that the proposed institute is to be charged with the responsibility of conducting quality academic and professional research, training and advocacy on democratic governance, legislative practices, procedures and for connected purposes.
According to the bill, the institute would act as a centre of excellence for research and publication on democratic governance as well as be a centre for continuing education on democracy and legislation.
Among other functions, the institute is to “conduct courses for all categories of legislative officers and the support staff with a view to expanding their overall knowledge and performance in different sections of service;
“Provide continuing education for all categories of legislative officers by undertaking, organising, conducting and facilitating studies, courses, lectures, seminars, workshops, conference and other programmes related to Legislative education;
“Promote and disseminate among legislative Assemblies and Local Governments in the State the practice of science-based methodologies of lawmaking.”
The institute is to also disseminate information through the publication of books, journals, records, reports and other means regarding its activities subject to the approval of its Board.
“The institute would also promote and protect constitutional due process in legislative practices and encourage private sector participation and collaborate with national and international organisations on research and training on issues relevant to its mandate,” the bill stated.
The institute will also have the power to conduct periodic short and refresher courses for National and State legislators, staff, committee secretaries and political aides on democracy and good governance.
It will provide research reports to aide legislation for the House of Assembly, its committees as well as the Legislative Drafting and Legal Services of the House.
The institute will have a council which would comprises the Speaker as Chairman, or at his instance, the Deputy Speaker and five serving members from the five Divisions of the State, who would b nominated.
Others members of the council will include the Chairman, House of Assembly Service Commission, the Clerk of the House of Assembly; and the Director-General of the Institute who would be the Secretary.
The bill states that members of the council other than the ex-officio members will hold office for a term of four years and may be eligible for reappointment for another term of four years only.
A member of the council may resign from the appointment by giving one month notice in writing.
In his keynote address, the Speaker Obasa, represented by the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Wasiu Eshilokun-Sanni, said that it was the tradition of the House to organise stakeholders meeting before any bill is passed into law.
Obasa recalled the establishment of the Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies by former President Good luck Jonathan in 2011 adding that the proposed institute in Lagos would enhance governance.
Earlier, the Chairman of the House Committee on Education, Hon. Ganiu Okanlawon, said that the meeting was aimed at involving relevant stakeholders and members of the public in the process of passing the bill.
He said that the institute would provide education for lawmakers and all kinds of legislative officers through seminars, workshops, conferences and other forms of training.
This was corroborated by the Chairman of the House Committee on Tertiary Education, Hon. Owolabi Ajani, who said that the Assembly would do what was expected of it before the bill is passed to the Governor for his assent.
The overview of the bill was done by the Leader of the House, Hon. Sanai Agunbiade, who said that the legislature is the major arm that differentiates a democratic from a military government.