By James T Apev Esq.
Poverty means much more than having no income, food and education. The majority of the poorest are also characterized by fear and helplessness, lack of security and rights, discrimination and arbitrary government. Efforts to promote rule of law, human rights and justice are crucial for sustainable poverty reduction and guaranteeing development. The purpose of legislation is to propel development and security of lives and property. Development cannot come at the cost of human rights or cultural identity. The purpose of development is for the benefit of the people. Laws should reflect the interest of most people and the needs of the society. The Nigerian society has for a long time been grappling with the problem of underdevelopment. The important role the legislature ought to play in facilitating this development cannot be overemphasized.
There is a general and growing consensus that political institutions like the legislature are critical for economic development. In simple terms the legislature performs three basic roles namely: law making, representation and overseeing the executive arm of government which include Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to ensure that government is held accountable to the people from where it derives its sovereignty. Furthermore, sustainable socio economic growth is a process and content of legislation. It demands accountability, transparency, certainty, competitiveness, continuous improvement, efficiency, innovations, integration, evidence-based decision making, and responsibility.
The legislation is a big force for development, but it is not the only one. Sustainable human development depends in part on creating jobs that provide enough income to improve living standards. It is not in doubt that the primary source of opportunity for productive employment is the private sector. Thus legislation must ensure that private enterprises are encouraged and supported to be more transparent and competitive.
Equitable growth, gender balance, environmental preservation, expansion of the private sector and responsible and effective participation in commerce cannot be achieved by the market alone. The legislature should be seen spearheading the drive to foster private sector development that is sustainable by:
- Creating a stable macro economic environment
- Ensuring that the poor (especially women) have easy access to credit
- Nurturing enterprises that generate the most jobs and opportunities.
- Enforcing rule of law etc.
Human rights including socio economic cultural rights are basic rights and freedom that all people are entitled to regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, race, religion, language or other status. These rights are conceived as universal and egalitarian with people having equal rights by virtue of being human. In Nigeria, these socio economic and cultural rights are found in chapter II of the constitution. They are termed fundamental and directive principles of state policy. The role of the legislature in fostering socio economic growth cannot be overemphasized.
Studies have shown that countries with more powerful legislatures not only possess higher levels of economic growth, they also enjoy higher levels of human development and low levels of income inequality. It is time for both legislation at the national and state level to be more proactive in carrying out its responsibilities in enhancing the economic development of the nation. In simple terms the legislature performs three basic roles namely: law making, representation and oversight functions.
In Nigeria, while it might be true that the legislatures at the national level have been quite assertive and proactive , most state legislatures regrettably, have allowed themselves to be completely emasculated and castrated by the state governors who in several instances, have been very over bearing in the way they conduct the affairs of their various states. Hopefully this is another area where citizens shall see change.
In additions parliaments are responsible for ensuring that the benefits of democracy are realized in practice by protecting basic rights and freedoms, representing the needs of the people to govern and in the legislative process, treating constitution with equal respect, and maintaining dialogue.
The challenge is for the members of the legislature to convince the populace that they are conscientious and hard working; that their work is important, and that they are not a remote class of people enjoying unjustified privileges at the expense of the tax payer. Surely fighting over leadership positions and exchanging blows at the floor of the house is not a good way to start.