REVIEW BY DR. OTIVE IGBUZOR, CHIEF OF STAFF TO THE DEPUTY PRESEIDENT OF THE SENATE AT THE PUBLIC LAUNCH OF PARLIAMENTS AND PANDEMIC: SHIFTS IN CITIZEN PARTICIPATION AND INCLUSION: A PROGNOSIS ON NIGERIA POST COVID-19 ON 25TH MAY 2020

Title of Publication: Parliaments and Pandemic: Shifts in Citizen Participation and Inclusion: A Prognosis on Nigeria Post COVID-19

Publisher: OrderPaper Nigeria

Date: May, 2020

 

INTRODUCTION

Let me join the chief presenter Rt. Hon Sam Unuigbo and co-panellist Senator Shehu Sani to commend and congratulate the management and staff of OrderPaper for consistent focus on the legislature and for launching the maiden edition of Legislative Intelligence Forecast Entry (LIFE).

The legislature is very important in modern democracy particularly with its core functions of law making, representation and oversight. But the legislature in Nigeria is probably the weakest among the three arms of government (Executive, Judiciary and Legislature) because of the impact of military rule and historic interference from the executive.  This is why this initiative by OrderPaper is commendable and worthy of emulation. The focus of LIFE is very timely. The pandemic of corona virus is ravaging the world and met governments, institutions and individuals unprepared. The challenge of citizen participation and inclusion is engaging all lovers of democracy across the world.

The 9th House of Representatives and 9th Senate have developed legislative agenda. The agenda among other things have addressed issues of reform, voice and accountability, citizen participation, inclusion, oversight and the key areas and sectors to focus upon. Over the years, NASS has responded to the need for citizen participation and inclusion through constituency engagement, public hearing on bills, national public hearing on annual budget and one-week programme of OPEN NASS every year. But COVID-19 presents new challenges to citizen participation and inclusion which makes this intervention by OrderPaper very timely.

THE PUBLICATION

The first edition of Legislative Intelligence Forecast Entry (LIFE) looks at how NASS reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic; how the pandemic has changed the way business is conducted and suggestions for the way forward learning from other countries.

The 51 paged publication is divided into five chapters. Chapter one is the background. It traces the history of the legislature to the legislative council of 1861 during the colonial era. It describes the legislature as provided for in the 1999 Constitution (as amended) with focus on the 9th assembly and legislative governance of the health sector. It also describes the corona virus and Nigeria’s national public health institution created by law in 2018 to deal with such pandemic-the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

Chapter two deals with National Assembly’s reaction to COVID-19 including motions, bills and engagement with the executive. Chapter three is a comprehensive analysis looking at the response of Parliaments across the world to the pandemic and lessons for Nigeria. The countries examined included Argentina, Chile, Brazil, United Kingdom, Cape Verde, Tanzania, Tunisia, South Africa, United States of America, Australia, Canada, Germany and Ghana.  Chapter four examines the question of citizen participation situating it within the context of the Infectious Diseases Bill and the need for a shift from the normal. Chapter five titled Windows for citizen engagement in a new world argues for online engagement to bridge the gap between citizen and the National Assembly.

CONCLUSION

The publication by OrderPaper Parliaments and Pandemic: Shifts in Citizen Participation and Inclusion: A Prognosis on Nigeria’s Post COVID-19 is a beautiful addition to the contemporary literature on Nigerian legislature. The publication contains a lot of information that will be useful not only to legislators but to anyone interested in deepening of democracy in Nigeria. More importantly, it contains practical suggestions on how the Nigerian parliament can ensure citizen participation during this period of COVID-19 and the new normal in the post-COVID-19 era.

I strongly recommend the publication to all legislators at the national and sub-national levels and indeed to anyone interested in the progress of Nigerian legislature and democracy in Nigeria.

God bless you all.

Otive Igbuzor, PhD

Chief of Staff to the Deputy President of the Senate

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