Understanding contributions of Hamalai to deepening legislative knowledge
On May 10, 2019 the National Institute of Legislative and Democracy Studies (NILDS) became literally empty, because the pioneer Director General, Dr. Ladi Hamalai had exited. The exit of the pioneer DG after completing eventful eight years provides a window to evaluate how far she was able to raise the ancillary parliamentary institution from little consequence to its present status as a bulwark of democracy and legislative competence in the country.
With stern and penetrating looks, it was evident that Dr. Hamalai didn’t have time for side distractions, apart from nursing the institute quickly into relevance. Good enough, she got the National Universities Commission (NUC) to recognize the programme under her watch.
By the time she became the Director General, NILDS had neither magnitude nor direction, so the challenge fell on her not only to chart the right path, but also making its import known to Nigerians, especially lawmakers and legislative aides and workers.
Now affiliated with the University of Benin, NILDS awards Masters Degrees and particularly Diplomas in Legislative Drafting, Legislative Studies and Parliamentary Administration. She came on board in 2011 during the leadership of Senator David Mark. It is not known how the leadership found her deserving of that appointment, but knowing how she provided the necessary transition that stabilized the original vision, shows those who spotted her did not make any mistake.
Prior to her appointment as DG of NILDS in 2011, she was the first Project Coordinator of the Policy Analysis and Research Project (PARP), the bureau that provided intellectual and technical support for the National Assembly at the onset of Nigeria’s current democratic experience.
At that time, the National Assembly was the only arm of government that had no institutional memory to tap from. All the military regimes made sure the parliament did not exist, while the executive and judiciary continued to thrive.
By 1999, it became clear that only the legislature did not have any background memory to draw from. It had no preexisting tradition to learn from, having been wiped off the collective governance history of the federation. PARP became the bureaucracy that helped the new parliament to gain quick knowledge in all aspects of legislative practice.
To bring the new legislature at par with 21st century practice, PARP was furnished with up to date Information Communication Technology. Under the watch of Dr. Hamalai and PARP staff, the Parliament was furnished with hardware and hands-on tool kits for enhanced parliamentary experience. It was a quiet revolution that very few outside the parliament knew about.
With her rich background and relationship with the success story of NILDS, memories of her works and time would be hard to remove, especially given the fact that she invested a total of 16 years to initiate and build unique projects and programmes that have helped to bring value to Nigeria’s democracy and legislation.
Outgoing President of Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who announced her retirement succinctly, described her eventful stay at NILDS (2004 to 2019) as a period of “meritorious service.” It could be said that Dr. Hamalai made NILDS what it has become given the fact that it was under her watch as Project Coordinator that the enabling statute that created the institute as knowledge-management organ of the National Assembly was passed into law in 2011.
Although it was in her second term as Director General that National Institute for Legislative Studies became National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) via an amendment of the establishment Act, Dr. Hamalai had used the greater part of her first term to win the confidence of international scholars and professors in the institute, which ultimately led to the affiliation with UNIBEN.
As part of the vision of expanding the institute, Dr. Hamalai saw to the foundation laying of NILDS’ permanent site along the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Road in Abuja. The massive infrastructure planned for NILDS gives hope for the improvement in the quality of Nigeria’s legislative process and democracy.
A former lawmaker who is pursuing his Masters Degree in the institute, Barrister Patrick Mgbebu, said as far as NILDS was concerned, Dr. Hamalai “came, saw and conquered,” stressing that the rich intellectual content of the institute, particularly in the area of legislative drafting and parliamentary administration would go a long way in enhancing the country’s practice of presidential democracy.
Mgbebu noted that as at the time Dr. Hamalai came it was not easy to understand the relevance of the institute, pointing out that within a short space of time she proved that accurate knowledge was needed to grow legislative business that has suffered from prolonged military interregnums.He said: “Currently, I am pursuing my master’s degree in Legislative Studies, which is one of the courses she introduced. As a lawyer I wish I was exposed to the body of knowledge made available by NILDS before my election to the legislature.
“The former DG worked hard and raised the curriculum and reputation of the institute. For instance, she ensured that infrastructure development in the permanent site along airport road attained more than 90 percent completion stage before her retirement. She demonstrated great interest in the intellectual input in our legislative process and democracy, which made the institute into a world class learning centre, as her influence helped to attract quality resource persons from outside the country, including Harvard University.”
NILDS was founded in 2003 as a capacity building institution to leverage the activities of the National Assembly in deepening the country’s democratic practice, especially through research and in-depth analysis.The appointment of Dr. Hamalai, who had been with PARP as DG was ostensibly to enable the institute achieve the objectives of the founding fathers, including provision of quality academic and professional research, policy analysis, training, documentation and advocacy in all aspects of democratic governance, legislative practice and procedures.
Dr. Hamalai’s contributions have become a permanent feature of NILDS, which the current DG, Prof. Abubakar Suleiman, is expected to sustain and possibly take to the next level.A member of the Governing Council and member representing Ndokwa/Ukwani Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai, told The Guardian in an interview that with NILDS, any individual or organisation sponsoring lawmakers for refresher courses abroad should not be taken serious.
Ossai noted that all those foreign travels do not have any value to governance in Nigeria, stressing that we have a lot of resource persons in this country that can mentor people in government. “Where did I get my Masters degree in Legislative Studies? It was in Nigeria. Did I go abroad? Is it the foreigners that taught me? No. I was taught in Nigeria. It should get to a time when every travel by persons in government should be banned or self-sponsored. We have a lot of our eggheads that can generate ideas in this country. We do not need foreigners to teach us any longer,” he asserted.
In a report on Resource Competence and Legislative Performance in the National Assembly, Dr. Hamalai had described the legislature as “a cardinal institution of governance in a democracy. Its functions are generally defined in terms of representation, legislation and oversight.”
She noted that attempts by the legislature to “measure up to public expectations in the discharge of these responsibilities is challenging the world over,” pointing out that it demands adequate allocation and effective utilisation of resources.Her words: “Ironically, as is often the case in emerging African democracies in general and Nigeria’s in particular, it is the same public that places so much expectation on the legislature that is also usually in the fore front of the outcry about the perceived high cost of legislative governance, particularly with respect to Nigeria’s National Assembly (NASS).”
She was of the opinion that steering public debate about the costs of legislative governance in Nigeria is necessary to bring representatives and their constituents to be on one page in the democratic process. “(But) for any constructive public engagement on the subject, there must be sufficient and accurate information in the public domain. From all indications, there seems to be a wide gap in this respect,” she added.
As the Nigerians await the inauguration of the 9th National Assembly, there is no doubt that the body of researches and recommendation done by Dr. Hamalai and her colleagues at NILDS would serve the lawmakers in good stead to provide better raw materials for the executive to deliver good governance and thereby deepen the nation’s democracy.
After 20 years of continuous practice of democracy and five election cycles, there is no way Nigeria’s democracy should continue to be described as fledgling, especially in the light of the quantum of work and literature delivered by such noble institutions as NILDS.
Analysts believe that bringing knowledge of parliamentary processes as well as getting the executive to understand the importance of synergy with the legislature would not only enhance the practice of presidential democracy in the country, but above all deliver good governance that redounds to much benefit to the greatest number.
Bringing the people element, including constant exposure of research findings and the works of NILDS should be a veritable way of understanding the vision and mission of Dr. Hamalai and the founding fathers of the institute.
Speaking when she handed over to the Director, Research and Training, Dr. Adeyemi Fajingbesi, Dr. Hamalai had in her characteristic self-effacing manner assured that the management and staff of the institute are capable of taking NILDS to greater heights, even as she expressed her gratitude to the NASS leadership for availing her with the opportunity of heading the institute for eight years.
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