As the 2019 general elections draws closer, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, has urged state legislators to make concerted efforts to ensure that there is a level playing field for all to participate.
Speaking when he received Speakers of the 36 State Houses of Assembly in his office Tuesday, he charged them to defend the electoral process in order to surpass the standard that was set in 2015.
The Speaker stated, “I want to charge you on the added responsibility of defending our democracy at the grassroots. You have to stand firm, especially now that the elections are approaching, to ensure that we create an enabling environment where there will be free, fair and credible elections.
“When we talk about free, fair elections, we mean that the elections will be conducted, there will be no grounds for violence, there will be no grounds for intimidation.
Some of us will attest to the fact that, maybe, when we contested for elections, we weren’t that strong, but others struggled to ensure that the elections were free and fair and on account of that, we won our elections. So, we owe that moral duty to replicate that same environment to others who are contesting and even to our opponents, that at the end of the day, let there be credible elections in this country.
“We have a the standard in 2015 election and we shouldn’t go back. We should improve, only sustain, we should improve.”
Speaking on the autonomy granted to state legislatures in the last constitution amendment exercise which President Buhari signed into law, Hon Dogara explained to the visiting state legislators that “the essence of the law is for good governance and not to better the lives of the legislators”, while calling on them to use it as a tool of vigilance for upholding democracy in the states.
“Now that you have financial autonomy, hopefully, some of the critical areas that we felt will better deepen democratic process will be dealt with,” he added.
Responding to a request by the delegation, he also disclosed that the National Institute of Democratic Studies will train the lawmakers when needed, on application of the new law.
Earlier, leader of the delegation, speaker of Kebbi State House of Assembly and chairman of the conference of Speakers of State Legislators, Hon Abdulmumin S. Kamba, commended the speaker for his visionary leadership, the House of Representatives and the entire National Assembly for conceiving and granting autonomy to state assemblies, saying it will make them more efficient in the discharge of their duties.
He urged the speaker to assist in the training of state legislators to improve their capacity on legislative means of safeguarding against abuse of the law by the lawmakers on one hand, and non-implementation by the executive on the other.