THE IMPERATIVE OF COOPERATION OF ARMS OF GOVERNMENT IN A DEMOCRATIC DISPENSATION- Prof Yemi Osinbajo
DIALOGUE OF ORGANS OF GOVERNMENT ON REFORM OF JUSTICE SECTOR AND CAMPAIGN AGAINST CORRUPTION
27th February, 2018
BANQUET HALL, STATE HOUSE
VICE PRESIDENT’S ADDRESS
THE IMPERATIVE OF COOPERATION OF ARMS OF GOVERNMENT IN A DEMOCRATIC DISPENSATION
1. Let me first commend the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption and the Federal Ministry of Justice for putting this dialogue together. A dialogue of all arms of government is imperative, as it offers a veritably platform for all key players in government to converse, exchange ideas and build on an already established relationship.
2. The doctrine of separation of powers, as we all know, is an essential requirement of a presidential democracy such as ours. It provides for division of powers of government into three distinct arms; that is, the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. The importance of this clear division cannot be over emphasized, for it is only by separating these functions that a democracy can truly thrive.
3. However, one of the greatest strengths of a sustainable democracy is the proper coordination of separation of powers. This paves way for constructive relationships among the three arms of government, which are vital to the effective sustenance of the constitution and the rule of law.
4. We are all aware that absolute separation of powers is unattainable in any system. Governmental powers and functions vary, are complex and usually overlap and this makes the entrenchment of checks and balances imperative.
5. The very renowned French philosopher, Montesquieu eloquently articulated the doctrine of separation of powers as follows: “Political liberty is to be found only when there is no abuse of power. But constant experience shows us that every man invested with power is liable to abuse it, and to carry this authority as far as it will go. To prevent this abuse, it is necessary from the nature of things that one power should be a check on another … When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person or body …. There can be no liberty …. Again, there is no liberty if the judicial power is not separated from the legislative and executive … there would be an end of everything if the same person or body whether of the nobles or of the people, were to exercise all three powers”.
6. What this simply means is that the three arms of government would have to co-operate to be able to maintain a workable government. And when this cooperation happens, it strengthens the democratic process; promotes good governance and responsible leadership; promotes transparency and accountability in governance; assist the executive to be focused and committed to delivering good governance to the citizens and helps the legislature to make efficient laws that will promote good governance and curb corruption. Causes of Conflicts Amongst Organs of Government
7. In spite of the obvious benefits of the application of the principles of separation of powers in a cooperative government, there are still tensions and conflicts between the arms of government. This is in reality inevitable but each arm has a duty to make the system work, in the interest of the overriding common good of the people who mandated us to take charge.
8. Various factors can be identified as the causes of conflicts between organs of government, especially between the legislature and executive who have to constantly interact in the course of discharging their respective constitutional duties. Conflicts could arise from misunderstanding of constitutional responsibilities; inordinate foray or venture by one organ into the territory of another organ, inordinate ambition or domineering attitude by one over others, power struggle, greed or self interest, hypocrisy; lack of patriotism and corruption.
9. For a harmonious collaboration between arms of government, each arm must carry out the functions assigned to it by the Constitution effectively and within the limits of its power and confines of the Constitution. As such, usurpation of the others’ power will definitely, without any hesitations lead to friction. The Impact of Conflict Among Organs of Government
10. Failure of any constitutional democratic government to resolve conflict slows down the pace of governance; creates suspicion and hostility between organs of government; encourages bad governance; creates distraction to the process of governance; creates tension; encourages the culture of impunity and disregard for the rule of law among the political class with attendant political instability and it divides the populace. Importance of Cooperation Amongst all Organs of Government
11. In order to avoid these consequences and for a government to deliver development to the people it is imperative for the three arms of government to constantly bury the hatchet and focus on collaborative efforts within their constitutional responsibilities to formulate and implement effective governance laws and policies. All three arms must be development focused in fulfillment of their roles and be ready to subsume personal interests to the overriding public good. As I understand it, this is what this dialogue is about, although it will focus particularly on two key areas, i.e., reform of the justice sector and the campaign against corruption.
12. This Dialogue could not have come at a better time because, only recently, Transparency International released a report suggesting that Nigeria declined in the perception index. For reasons which I will discuss shortly, we are firmly of the view that real progress is being achieved in the fight against corruption, and perception may indeed lag behind reality. But, as the saying goes, perception is sometimes stronger than reality, so we have to keep up the fight, until the full effect of our efforts can be clearly seen and perceived.
13. In that regard, the ranking of Nigeria by the 2017 Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index released on February 21st 2018 should not in anyway be seen as a setback, but rather as an opportunity to continue building on the many successes that have already been recorded by this government in all key sectors.
14. It is also important to note that the main reason for Nigeria’s decline on the Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index is that Nigeria recorded a major decline in score on just one out of the nine internationally recognized indexes used by TI to ascertain perceived levels of public sector corruption from the perspective of experts and business people.
15. The index scored Nigeria low on the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Country Risk Service, with a decline from 37 points to 20 points. This is an index that analyses the risks of financial exposure in countries. The question to be asked is what changed so dramatically between 2016 and 2017? As we speak the budget for 2018 is under public scrutiny at the National Assembly. The allocation and use of public funds is guided by the budget and represents one of the key areas of consultation and interaction by two arms of government – the Executive and the Legislature.
16. The endless number of probes of the use of public funds going on within the Executive and Legislature underscore the transparency of this government to ensure that funds are used for purpose. As I said recently at the Kogi State Investment Summit, what sets Buhari’s leadership apart from others is the prudent and transparent management of National resources.
Despite up to 60% drop in revenue, we have, by stopping grand
corruption, made the highest capital spend in the history of Nigeria, in the sum of N1.3 trillion in 2017. We are, for the first time, taking on the game-changing infrastructure projects. So we are today building the Lagos Kano standard gauge rail line, beginning with Lagos-Ibadan segment. We are also building, after 40 years, the Mambilla hydro project. Construction of the Second Niger Bridge is going on daily. We have signed up for the Lagos-Calabar rail project. We are daily increasing power supply and, once we conclude some strategic transmission projects, we would see a truly appreciable improvement in domestic and industrial power supply.
17. Also we have given more support to State Governments than any other government since 1999. As of September 2017 total support (excess crude account loan and Budget support facility) excluding Paris club refunds, is in the order of N876. 3 billion. If we add the Paris club refunds, we will have disbursed N1.91 trillion to States, outside of their regular monthly allocations.
18. Also, this Government should be applauded for exuding restraint and discipline in its appointment of public servants. The number of appointed public servants pales in comparison to the number of civil servants. The process of appointing public servants is also guided by legislation. Thus, the assessment of the TI inquiry into whether or not there is a professional civil service and whether large numbers of officials are directly appointed by the government should have taken these into consideration.
19. We are currently making further inquiries into the EIU Country Risk Service report for Nigeria to ascertain if the CPI index used singular indicators such as delay in appointments or confirmations as a yardstick for its conclusions. The inquiries will also provide an opportunity for us, as Government, to engage directly with the EIU to enable them have a better understanding of our systems and processes.
20. Most importantly, for all the other eight indexes used in the CPI ranking, Nigeria either remained stable or improved on its scores. For example, on the Bertelsmann Foundation Transformation index, there was a 5-point improvement in score, from 28 points to 33 points. The CPI extracted the average score assigned to two questions surveyed by experts who, in this case, perceived that the government’s effort to combat corruption had significantly improved. It is interesting to note that Nigeria also improved in its anti-corruption rating on the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index Expert Survey, African Development Bank Country Policy and Institutional Assessment and World Economic Forum Executive Opinion
21. Just last year, an Amnesty International Report was released, which suggested a range of abuses by Nigeria’s security forces on the civilian populace. Government set up a high-powered enquiry headed by a distinguished Justice of the Court of Appeal. The panel actually invited Amnesty International to substantiate its claims so that remedial measures could be taken, but the organization was not forthcoming on providing proof for many of its allegations against the armed forces. As a country, we must therefore not be afraid or intolerant of criticism, rather we must take a
constructive and collaborative approach to addressing the structural issues, especially knowledge gaps, thrown up by these reports and indexes.
22. Government is therefore not discouraged by the recent CPI report. By Government, I speak for the three arms. We are encouraged to work harder, to close ranks and bring development to our people. We recognize that democracy strongly relies on the tripod of the executive, legislature and
the judiciary. The primary focus of the government and democracy is the people, and not power struggles among those of us in power.
23. We are conscious of this position and each arm is disposed to negotiate and compromise where necessary in order to derive maximum benefit for the people. Dialogues like this should be encouraged for a healthy interface between all arms of government and other stakeholders as evidence of our determination to run a cooperative government.
24. It is impossible for the arms of government to function without one another. Just as the organs in the human body, work together to produce a healthy being, so is the cooperation among the organs of government vital in promoting lawfulness, peace and order, national security and good governance in any democratic dispensation. A bad or ineffective government is not just one that is corrupt or unconstitutional but also one where the arms of government are in constant conflict.
25. We are persuaded and should always be reminded that all organs of government are ultimately working towards the same goal of ensuring the good of the nation and the survival of its citizens. This government pledges to continue to do this.
26. I wish you a fruitful dialogue and hereby declare the conversation open.