In March 2011, former President Goodluck Jonathan, signed into law the Act establishing the National institute for Legislative Studies (NILS). NILS, an organ of the National Assembly, is involved in active research on the dynamics of parliamentary process, current and emerging key issues, legislation and policy reviews. The institute – through its training programmes – enhances capacities of parliamentarians and parliamentary staff to become more effective in carrying out their mandate.
Quality conversation and citizen engagement are crucial for legislative success. The modern method of connecting with people has become so important that NILS recently declared open a two-day National Assembly dialogue on Economy, Security and Development, which yielded some key policy recommendations. A follow up to this was the gathering of young social media users at the Institute where these policies were discussed and more inputs were made.
The dialogue focuses on four key areas – economy, unemployment, extensive and efficient infrastructure, and security. Further paragraphs will highlight brief examples of cited recommendations.
Management of the Economy
To absorb the teeming unemployed youth, it was recommended that: “Youth entrepreneurial villages can be developed at pilot level (one in each geo-political zone). In addition to this is the establishment of a pilot agricultural village which will have: (a) a number of agricultural science graduates; (b) cleared farms; (c) solar power infrastructure for lighting; (d) tents or simple hostel and general bathrooms for housing; (e) bank loans guaranteed by government; basic farming equipment; and (f) assistance with marketing intelligence.
Two success stories on Korea’s economy were recommended to be implemented in Nigeria and are – “The National Investment Fund” with capital from National Investment Bonds, banks and insurance companies, and the implementation of a phased “Economic Development Plan.”
Wealth Generation and Inclusive Growth
Again, citing the Korean example, policy makers recommended investment in research and development as this is pivotal to a country’s industrial revolution. A decentralised and integrated approach to poverty reduction was also strongly recommended to accelerate poverty eradication, rural growth, and social protection.
Education, Youth and the Girl Child
Here, it was recommended that there should be structural reform of the education sector, increased focus on the role of science and technology in Nigeria, and revaluation of investment promotion agencies for active facilitation of community based development.
The Budget Process
It was suggested that a selective targeting approach be adopted to concentrate resources on a few targeted sectors on medium term basis. Additionally, strong legislative oversight should be cultivated to track use of resources and the implementation of projects/programmes.
As one of the most crucial sectors, it was recommended that government should focus on public investments and utilise objective criteria in project approval to cut down on “white elephant” projects. Government should also ensure stricter control and support for low-income earners, provide an adequate legal regulatory framework for a more efficient and effective housing delivery system that will attract private sector investors, and promote use of alterative and inexpensive but durable building materials and new technologies in housing.
Reconstruction in North Eastern Nigeria
Just as we are getting over the insurgency with no territory reportedly in control of the insurgents, the government can draw from the Malaysian experience by creating development agencies to mobilise resources and attract investment.
Recommendations here further include reconciliation through traditional means, understanding and addressing “root causes” of the various conflicts in the Niger Delta and the North East, undertaking security and justice reforms, employing intelligent and creative management of the conflict to overcome the strands of fragility that haunt Nigeria, and ensuring that a significant majority of the citizens reap the dividends of revised growth to generate and sustain a sense of economic inclusivism.
The full list of recommendations can be viewed here. (http://nils.gov.ng/docs/key_policy_recommendations.pdf)
In addition to these, however, the National Institute of Legislative Studies (NILS) continues to seek inputs from the general public, as the Director-General, Dr. Ladi Hamalai, believes that just as we are part of the nation, we must be part of finding solutions to its numerous problems. “Let’s have more citizen engagements”, she advocates.
Please do join the conversation on twitter by tweeting at @nilsnigeria and by using the #NASSDialogue hashtag.