The 102-page response offered by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, minister of finance and coordinating minister for the economy, to the 50 questions posed to her by the House of Representatives Committee on Finance on the December 19, 2013, bordering on the actual state of the Nigerian economy is a copious and historic response to an uncommon inquest from the legislative organ.
Whatever misgivings the House of Representative members have over Okonjo-Iweala’s responses to their 50 questions, her responses no doubt are informative and enlightening.
However, what is striking about this exchange between the House of Representatives and a serving minister is the depth of the inquest and the deluge of details and data provided in the response by the minister who even took on a pedagogic approach, ensuring that the legislators are properly educated on issues of finance and economic management.
While some may dismiss some of the questions posed by the legislators as pedestrian, we believe that one reason why the questions were so numerous comprising both the crucial and the ephemeral is the absence of a proper and routine process of interaction between members of the executive and the legislators, the former intimating the latter on the intricacies of their activities.
We have observed that in our democratic experience, ministers have usually conducted themselves with pomp, and operated as if they were only accountable to the person of the president and not to Nigerians that the two chambers of the National Assembly represent. As a result of this, ministers and even heads of government agencies tend to dismiss the oversight inquest of the National Assembly considering such a distraction or an undue interference.
As a fledgling democracy, such perceptions and disposition by the Executive arm may be pardoned, especially against the background of a bullish Executive tradition drawn from the long stay of military rule in the country. But if the young must grow into maturity, we must begin to insist that all organs of government should begin to exchange notes as a routine process devoid of rancour and media blitz, and for the sake of good governance and the general welfare of Nigerians.
The ongoing anomalous tradition of summons by the National Assembly, often times, fuelled by punitive zeal, and the backlash of resistance it evokes in the members of the Executive, should be discontinued.
The National Assembly and the Executive should in their routine interface, work out a modus operandi through which they can educate themselves on their activities.
We believe that this interface mechanism will reduce unnecessary friction and create a harmonious work relationship that would make governance more effective.
We seize this opportunity to commend the Minister of finance and coordinating minister for the economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for taking pains to respond to the issues raised in the 50 questions posed by the House of Representatives. We equally call on all serving ministers to take a cue from this remarkable response and adopt such in their interface with the National Assembly rather than reacting negatively to legislators’ inquests.
Political actors at the Executive and National Assembly are also reminded that their primary responsibility on their beats is to ensure that the Nigerian people get the much touted democracy dividends. In all their actions and inactions, governance must not be sacrificed on the altar of unnecessary bickering and muscle-flexing.