By G9ija

National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) has admonished Abia State House of Assembly to brace up for demands of financial autonomy as the practice begins to take root in some parts of the country.

According to a statement, the Director-General of NILDS, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman, gave the advice at a two-day capacity building workshop for members of the House of Assembly held at Owerri, Imo State capital.

Underlining the imperativeness of autonomy for state assemblies, Sulaiman said:” It is a pre-requisite for democratic consolidation in Nigeria. Unless legislatures at the sub-national level are truly independent by way of controlling their own finances, they will remain perpetually at the mercy of the governors.

“This underscores the need to immediately implement the provisions of the Fourth Alteration that state that funds standing in the credit of the Houses of Assembly in the states are to be paid directly to them for the benefit of legislators and the management of the state legislatures.”

Sulaiman described legislature as one of the most important institutions of public accountability in the country.

“It is a watchdog over the executive to reduce waste, guarantee value for money and impose sanctions on erring government officials. Together with the judiciary, supreme audit institutions and the civil society, the legislature exercises control over and limits the excessive powers enjoyed by the executive, especially in developing democracies like ours characterised by a long history of military dictatorship and executive dominance.

“However, to be able to fully exercise these enormous powers granted it by the constitution, the legislature requires vital resources that include human and technical capacities”

The DG specifically noted that autonomy places serious demands on state assemblies who will be expected to prepare their budgets, manage their resources and account for them in a manner that is transparent and accessible.
According to him, operationalisation of autonomy at state assemblies will also depend on ability of the legislatures to build internal capacity in core areas of financial management.

Sulaiman said the workshop had addressed the important issues in operationalising autonomy for the lawmakers, including standardisation of practice and procedure; development, implementation and tracking of legislative agenda; improving committee systems and processes as well as development of legislative ethics and code of conduct.