Chris Steven, Abuja
Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Yussuff Sulaimon Lasun has called for harmonious relationship among African parliamentarians.
He stated that good working relationship would go a long way in enhancing their work noting that this would lead to rapid growth in the continent .
Deputy speaker who led Nigerian delegation to the ongoing 15th Commonwealth Speakers and Presiding Officers Conference, African region, in Accra, Ghana, explained that there were a lot of similarities among African legislatures, therefore, imbibing good ethical conduct would help a great deal.
Deputy Speaker who doubled as deputy chairperson of the conference explained that the conference offers African parliamentarians an opportunity to share experiences and where necessary, copy from one another.
“We compared notes. For example, in Cameroon, they said you have immunity while you are still a parliamentarian for the period you are tenured. But in Nigerian experience, what you have immunity on is what you said on the floor. Of course you cannot be prosecuted for that and you cannot be arrested within the precincts of the National Assembly. I think that is good enough”.
“In other climes too, they don’t have immunity as such. Again, we go to parliamentary conducts, and that is basically what happens when you are in session; we compared notes too. For us to be able to present ourselves to the public as orderly and disciplined people, the speaker must take charge and be respected because he is the one who is going to interpret the rules, he added.
“We advise that point of order is an important clause in our rules. It is when a member rises to call the attention of the House to matter related to the one under discussion. It may be more germane. That’s why I should be allowed. We advise other countries to take this.” He said
Lasun added,”one thing that I have discovered since yesterday (Monday) is that all over Africa, parliaments are being treated the same way. Our functions are specific: representation, doing oversight and making laws.”
He said he realized at the conference that all over Africa, “people still ask parliamentarians to come and build roads and bridges, so it is the same experience. I’m taking this one home, and I’m no longer going to be angry with anybody who is asking me that, since I know that it is similar all over Africa.
“Again, we have discovered that the conducts of members in parliaments all over Africa are the same. So, we are only looking for where those conducts will be regulated so that they do not disrupt the proceedings of the House,” he said.
While making contribution earlier during a presentation on ‘Perspectives on enforcing. Ethical codes of conduct in parliament: sharing country experiences,’ Lasun said the Nigerian House of Reps had to come up with a new rule on those that might try to snatch the mace, which is the symbol of authority, to curtail such.
Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, who chaired the session said there was need for training and retraining to remind lawmakers about the various responsibilities regarding their conducts.
“This can happen at the beginning of a session; we can organize training for new members and continue to meet from time to time. In Nigeria, sometimes we hold retreat for parliamentarians and try to emphasize these things. It is important that we continue to train and remind ourselves of our conducts as parliamentarians.
“It is important for us to articulate these codes of conduct because they are scattered all over the place, some in the constitution and some in penal codes. If we don’t enforce them, it will be very difficult for people to obey. For that, we should find a way of enforcing them,” he added.