President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday appealed to legislators in the continent to guide against collapse of democracy through their legislative conducts.
Jonathan who explained that separation of power should not be seen by the African Parliamentarians as separation of government, gave the admonition in Abuja during the opening ceremony of the 3-day 1st Africa Legislative Summit currently going on at the International Conference Centre (ICC).
He said: ”Parliaments should legislate against issues and actions that could lead to the collapse of the current democratic arrangements in African countries.
“Separation of power is not separation of government, government is always one. If our parliaments work to make laws that promote good governance, and design an enduring electoral system, it will always ensure emergence of elected officials who will be the true representatives of the people. Within few days in office, I made efforts to make sure that our legislature remained independent and vibrant so that they can carry out their responsibilities effectively.
“Parliamentary and presidential elections had been held in many African countries including Nigeria. Leaders of our parliaments have great roles to play in ensuring the sustainability of the current democratic governance through vibrant and robust legislation”.
He added that in sustaining the current democratic governance in most of the African countries, parliamentarians should collaborate more with the executive on promulgation of laws that would make all forms of threat to democratic growth in Africa like terrorism, religious intolerance, ethnic bigotry etc, things of the past.
“African legislature had demonstrated enough zeal and commitment to the success of the current democratic arrangement in the continent. This had led to the growth of the economy. African Union had also taken sold steps to support all legal and constitutional means to ensure that the current democratic system was sustained.
“NEPAD is also making its own contributions towards promoting democracy and we should not allow issue of violence and terrorism to destroy the lofty achievements. We should therefore avoid those factors that could lead to the collapse of democracy in Africa.
“We should embrace transparency, greater commitment to human rights. We should discourage political gangster ism, act of terrorism. Cross border organized crimes”, he added.
Also in his speech,the Senate President, Senator David Mark, said that the purpose of the summit was to bring African legislators together for more robust legislative inputs into African Democracy at a time it is at a cross road.
He said: ”This summit is most desirable at this point that African democracy is at the crossroads, with mixed results of consolidation in some countries and regression in others. The desirability stems primarily from the need to underscore the central role of the legislature in giving true meaning to democracy on the African continent and to continue to reassure our people that functioning and institutionalized legislatures will contribute to reversing the poverty, corruption, underdevelopment, and, sometimes disenchantment and cynicism about democracy. Our citizens continue to be cynical despite the steady progress in electoral democracy on the continent over the past three decades.
“The continental flavour to this summit is informed by our conviction that despite varying experiences across the continent as a result of regime types and institutional designs of the legislatures, there are mutual experiences to be shared and mutual benefits to be derived from free and frank exchanges amongst the academia, statesmen, parliamentarians and business leaders that have been brought together for the next two days”.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, in his contribution stated that the Summit was organized for African parliamentarians to rub minds on how the parliaments in Africa could help further in democracy consolidation in the continent.
“After three decades of democratic renewal across the continent, it is only proper that we take stock of the common challenges faced by African parliaments. So like students of comparative politics, we shall use the next couple of days to compare and contrast the experiences of the various parliaments in Africa and see what lessons can be learned as we move towards democratic consolidation,” he said.