By Bukar Bolori
Lawmakers from West and East African regions are to benefit from capacity building at the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by ECOWAS Parliament and the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA).
This training is to enhance is to enhance the capacity of African parliamentarians and advance democracy on the continent.
The resolution was reached at a roundtable on Friday when a delegation of the regional bodies visited the institute in Abuja.
The Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament, Mr Sidie Mohamed Tunis said that there should be a policy for ECOWAS member states to send their parliamentarians to the institute to build capacity.
Tunis, however, said that he is happy to align ECOWAS Parliament with NILDS, noting that it was better to train parliamentarians and parliamentary staff at NILDS than The National Democratic Institute (NDI) in the United States.
He said: “If we have something like this here in Nigeria, I believe it is the responsibility of us in the legislature from everywhere in the subregion to take it as our own.
“I want to confirm to you that with immediate effect, we will sign an MoU between NILDS and ECOWAS Parliament.
“We are going to ensure training of not just legislators across the sub region but also our parliamentary staff.”
Tunis added that Africa is witnessing an emergence of young people coming into the legislative field as against the usual destination, the civil service.
He said that most of the young people do not have the requisite qualifications, hence the need to build their capacity in motion bill drafting among others.
Tunis said that Africa is trying to unite and that regional bodies like the African Union must lead the initiative.
In his remarks, the Speaker of EALA, Hon. said the EALA is made up of parliamentarians from seven countries of Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Rwanda.
He said that his primary aim in Nigeria was to canvass support for the Speaker of Tanzania parliament, Dr. Tulia Ackson to emerge President of Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).
The EALA speaker said he was happy to learn about NILDS, adding that the job being done at NILDS was the best for Africa.
He said that the EALA will also sign an MoU with NILDS to build the capacity of parliamentarians and parliamentary staff for effective legislatures on the continent.
The Director-General of NILDS, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman said that the institute was established to train legislators and parliamentary staff.
He said the reason was to support the arm of government which had suffered casualties over the years of military rule.
Sulaiman said that the mandate of the institute which is fully funded by the government of Nigeria and has autonomy, has been expanded to provide for support political parties and civil society organsiations among others.
He said that the institute has 11 departments out of which seven are academic while the other four provide support for the parliament.
The DG said that laws or policies made in ignorance and devoid of research will not stand the test of time saying that African democracy needed institutions like NILDS.
“This institute is involved in what ECOWAS parliament is doing, beyond that we want to expand our hand of friend to East African Parliaments.
“We are ready to enter into MoU with you, we are ready to work with you in any area you want us to, whether in the area of election, parliamentary administration, legislative studies and procedures, we are ready to work with you,” he said.
Welcoming the dignitaries, the Institute’s Director of Legislative Support, Edoba Omoregie, a professor and SAN, said NILDS is Nigeria’s think-tank for the country’s National Assembly and even state assemblies.
Mr Omoregie listed some of the mandate responsibilities of the institute, including drafting bills, analysing bills, provision of a wide array of legislative products, election monitoring and supervision, research and many more.