Abuja – The Speaker, House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara, has urged opposition members in parliament to avoid sensationalism in their criticisms of government policies.
Dogara made the call at a five-day workshop organised by the National Institute Legislative Studies for members of Ugandan parliament on Monday in Abuja.
The workshop is centred on strengthening capacities of opposition in parliament.
Dogara, who was represented by the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, said it was expedient for opposition to make sound contributions toward efficient running of the economy.
”As opposition members, your contribution in committees must be based on facts and not conjecture and must be for the purpose of providing a different perspective to whatever issue is being considered.
”It should not be for the sole aim of countering the majority’s position for the sake of it.
‘By so doing, you are able to win the trust and confidence of members from the majority party.
”You must strive to be credible both in committees and in plenary. The exercise of your role as shadow governments should be done in a responsible manner, devoid of the need to be sensational or confrontational.
”You must be balanced and objective in your approach. Opposition parties should be able to commend government and majority parties when they are on the right path.
”In the same vein, they should chastise them if they are on the wrong path,” he said.
The speaker said he was aware of the difficulty opposition parties faced while supporting government on a piece of legislation or in working to a consensus on a policy matter.
According to him, while such move will be in the national interest, there might be negative perception of such stances by civil society and the citizenry which can be damaging to the status of the opposition.
Dogara stressed that minority interests that they represented as members of parliament, may feel aggrieved or neglected if consensus was easily reached with the ruling party.
”I will like to note that while there are no perfect systems, we must continually strive to improve upon our systems.
“This is especially where we have assessed and found that they fall short of assisting us to reach the desired heights in democratic governance.
”The high turnover rate that characterises parliament as an institution, means that robust systems and procedures are required to ensure that from one election to the other, the quality of parliamentary work is not diminished.
”As we continue to learn from each other, it is my hope that these experiences would not remain in the bosom of individuals.
”It is my hope we act and ensure that our institutions benefit from these lessons and implement them for the benefit of posterity, growth of our representative assemblies and the countries at large,” he said.
The Director-General of NILS, Prof. Ladi Hamalai, said being an opposition in many African countries was a risky undertaking even after introducing multi-party democracy.
She said that the primary aim of the workshop was to strengthen the capacities of the opposition in the Ugandan parliament in undertaking oversight of government programmes and projects.
”Effective opposition in democracies helps to guarantee transparent and responsible government.
”Effective opposition’s role is also to criticise government’s programmes, decisions by closely examining its draft laws and budget as well as offer political alternatives,” Hamalai said.
She said that the workshop would cover areas which included change management and making accountability committees effective and efficient.
She assured of the institute’s continued commitment to quality support not only to the Nigeria’s National Assembly but parliaments of ECOWAS member-states.