A professor in the Faculty of Law, University of Benin, Edo State, Omoregie Edoba, who is currently on secondment to the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, Abuja, speaks on the recently amended Electoral Act and the urgent need to recruit more policemen to address the growing insecurity, in this interview with BEN OGBEMUDIA
What are the functions of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies?
The institute has been in existence for about 15 years. It started as project support for African policy and capacity and it was then called the policy project of the National Assembly, but later the institute was established through an Act of the National Assembly as the National Institute for Legislative Studies in 2011.
In 2017, the institute was given an additional mandate by way of an amendment to the Act which now gave birth to the National Institute of Legislative and Democratic Studies for it to be involved in democracy and governance issues. So, that is an additional responsibility and the institute has been involved in many things. First, as an organ of the National Assembly which is tied to the National Assembly organogram, the Senate President is the chairman of the council.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives is the alternate Chairman. This also includes the Director-General and other members of the management team of the institute.
The institute has several departmental heads and directors with divisions and units under the directors, so that is the organogram. As to what the institute does, the institute is involved in governance generally and will first help to build capacity and train those who are involved in parliamentary matters, so, we do a lot of pieces of training such as short training in terms of workshops, seminar, and conferences.
When we started training, we had a lot of masters’ programmes where people come to study parliamentary work. They bear different names, they have masters’ of laws in the senate draft, masters’ of the parliamentary institution, masters’ in election and politics and we also run Higher National Diploma programmes for parliamentary official reporting, while some other technical aspects which are too obscure are mounted by other mini level positions. So, we answer to the National Universities Commission for programmes that have degree content and for those that have diploma content.
We are also answerable to the body that is responsible for regulation, so that is for training. We also participate along with other schools working with the National Assembly in drafting bills and that is where I come in, as someone heading the business support services department, we are involved in bill drafting, scrutiny of bills, and then we engage in the analysis of bills drafted, some will be drafted and some will be brought to our attention by legislators to analyse. We also draft motions that could lead to debates at the National Assembly.
When members of the National Assembly are moving motions on the floor, most of them have our inputs. We do other things that will be required of us in the National Assembly, we have other components, and whatever we are asked to do we do it.
Do you always get prompted by the National Assembly to carry out your tasks?
Sometimes you think some things will be needed to strengthen governance, we don’t wait for the National Assembly to ask us to do it. We get it done and bring it to the attention of the parliament. Then for other departments, we have the department of economics and social science research, that department is involved in serious budgeting analysis every year when the budget is presented to the National Assembly. That department engages in analysing the budget thoroughly, they spend a lot of time with committees of the National Assembly to scrutinise the budget presented by the legislative arms and I assure you it is a line by line thorough research by our team of experts.
There is also the department of democracy and governance, that department engages in governance matters, particularly issues of elections, election monitoring, like the recent Anambra state election. A team was sent there to work closely with INEC to ensure that they monitor and even engage in what is prescribed in other democratic institutions in linkage and so on to provide enlightenment. By and large, the institute is a multi-physical environment from what we can see. My department is strictly made up of lawyers, a lot of them working under me have PhDs while other departments like democracy and governance are full of political scientists, those who are trained in the area of governance, and the department of economics is full of economists, finance experts. The institute from what you can see is quite robust in terms of composition and mandate.
What role did the institute play in the recently amended Electoral Act?
We had some inputs, we participated in some of the committee work. Last year, we did a lot of webinar programmes on the electoral system in the country. We feel very strongly about the issue. We debated and the outcome was forwarded to the National Assembly. Many of the issues we discussed formed part of what the National Assembly considered in the cause of passing the current electoral bill.
Still, on the Electoral amendment bill, does the National Assembly have the power to interfere in the management of political parties?
Well, I think I will rather not be speaking as a staff of the institute, I will extract my personal opinion as a citizen of the country. Honestly, you cannot blame the National Assembly for whatever it is. There is a procedure in the past dealing with how political parties should conduct their elections, this was an established system providing for choices open to the political parties.
They were to either adopt the direct or indirect primaries. What the National Assembly has done now is to limit the process to only direct primaries. Honestly, for Nigeria’s composition, I am of the school of thought that the National Assembly should as much as possible de-legislate management of political parties. The National Assembly should be less involved in micro-managing political parties as much as possible.
That is a controversial position, but that is what I feel strongly about from the political analysis of what political parties are about. Political parties exist to jostle for power and it is difficult to legislate how they manage themselves internally. It is better left to the dynamics of politics than to try to legislate because there are areas where you can legislate on issues of finances but to go about saying you have to do your primaries through direct or indirect, whatever it means.
I think that may be going too far, that is why I say the current National Assembly is not the first to get involved, maybe that is why this flexing of muscle is coming.
I am sure the process is still on, there will still be some advice and you know the president is involved too in legislation, he indulges as the case may be. I am not saying he should. My point is that I am very sceptical about any excessive form of legislation as far as the internal side of political parties is concerned.
Political parties are created by law, they are created even by the constitution, and they are recognised to exist. Section 40 of the constitution provides that no political party can seek votes without being recognised by INEC and then in section 222 and the rest concerning how a political association can become a political party. At the end of the day, political parties are not established but must be recognised. So, why would you spend so much energy and time to micro-manage political parties, they are not public institutions per se.
Political parties should be less subject to legislative interference by way of the specific manners by which they manage their affairs as much as possible, maybe the best approach will be to say that the political parties shall submit the names of those who are nominated to contest an election, give them a timeline and so forth. In the Second Republic, the Electoral Act of 1981 says that if there is any problem in the nomination of a candidate of a political party, the issue will be resolved by the leader of the political party in conjunction with INEC.
By the previous law, it is the leader of the party that determines who is the nominee, which may sound dictatorial, but you see the consequences of the leader not including people in the decision, the party can lose an election when the leader becomes a dictator. It is my view that political parties should be left to their own devices as far as nomination issues are concerned. If you don’t end that, there will be no end to which you want to micro-manage them. You can as well just create them as it was done during the military era including that created the SDP and NRC. But as I have said, political parties are created by law so leave them alone.
How do you react to the growing security problems in the country, the most recent being the kidnapping of lecturers and their families at the staff quarters of the University of Abuja?
Well, this is not only tied to the university, even the Nigerian Defence Academy was also attacked. It is just too unfortunate, and it recognises the fact that there is a major national crisis as long as policing the country is concerned. Most of these problems are internal security problems, they point to a lack of internal security. It is a general issue of the absence of basic security.
What is needed is proper policing, the people who came to attack the University of Abuja are just miscreants, but if you have a proper police system, where police are everywhere, they can’t get away with what they are doing. I am advocating that the country should be better policed, there should be an increase in police everywhere. Look at Abuja, we are in Maitama, you can drive from the beginning to the end, did you see any policeman anywhere. But that is not the case elsewhere, if you go to other countries, things are orderly and the people believe in the law.
You have to enforce the law on the ground and there is no other way for the law to be enforced than to provide enough men. Let’s be sincere, the number of policemen is less than 500,000 in a country that is more than Two hundred million people. We need to increase security personnel, the federal government cannot ignore that, they should adopt what is done in other places, in India for example which is also a federal system, the officer of the union police system are trained by the national committee and deployed to their state, so they have a single training system so that what the officer will say or do, is the same across the country.
The men are trained by their respective states; they are the ones that recruit them. It depends on what you want, if Edo wants to recruit up to 50,000, it is the people of Edo that will ask questions. If you decide to recruit 200,000, so be it. The officer cadre which is the officer corps are the ones that are not supposed to be many, they are the ones to provide instruction and all.
My point is that in Nigeria today, we don’t have enough policemen, not police officers, we should have nothing less than two million policemen in this country. We currently have about 50,000 police officers, but the number of men doing the work should be about two million or more. They should be seen with their guns, with their gadgets, if possible, running the streets of Abuja, Lagos, and everywhere. If we have that, none of these things you see will continue to happen.