By Bayo Jimoh
It is now twelve months that Professor Abubakar Sulaiman assumed office as the second Director General of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS). So, how well has the institute fared under under his leadership in the last one year?
The essence of this write up is to keep you abreast of what Professor Sulaiman has been able to achieve in his one year in office vis-a-vis his efforts at improving the academic contents of courses offered at the institute; the capacity building of legislators and legislative aides as well as providing technical support to the legislature in Nigeria.
NILDS is an organ of the National Assembly established by an Act of Parliament. Former President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law the National Institute for Legislative Studies Act 2011 on March 2nd, 2011 following the passage of the same by the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Also, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the (NILDS) (Amendment) Act, in 2017. The amendment gave room for expansion of the less than one decade institute which enables the institute to provide capacity development services to democratic Institutions and governance in the country
For the records, on 28th of May, 2019 Professor Sulaiman became the second DG of NILDS. On his assumption of office, he did not waste time in declaring his readiness to build on the giant strides recorded by the pioneer (DG), Professor Ladi Hamalai.
Sulaiman, former National Planning Minister in Jonathan administration, who had served as Deputy Chairman, Nigeria Economic Council and Transition Technical Committee and Nigerian delegate to the United Nations Ordinary General Assembly in 2015, is a professor of Political Science and International Relations. No doubt, he possesses the credentials and vast experience to deliver. So, has he delivered in the last one year?
In case, you may have forgotten, it is pertinent to say that Prof Sulaiman was a resource person for the induction courses, organized by the Institute for new legislators in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. So, he has over the years familiarized himself with the institute. On his assumption of office, therefore, he already knew the challenges confronting the institute and how to tackle them. Those who know the DG very well are not surprised about the giant strides he has recorded so and he is confident he will do for the period he will serve as DG.
When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream (Psalms 126:1). The above biblical verse aptly sums up the staff of NILDS as Professor Sulaiman is determined to make life more convenient and enjoyable for the staff. For the first time in the history of the institute, a training calendar was drawn to ensure that all staff benefit from either local or international training in the core arrears of their competencies. As a matter of immediate priority, in his first year in office, DG can boastfully say ninety-five (95%) of all staff of the institute have been trained in one way or the other on capacity building. Without mincing words, this will boost staff morale and improve their capacity. Few weeks at the helm of affairs, as promised during his inaugural speech to prioritize staff welfare in all ramifications, he promptly addressed the lingering challenges affecting staff morale; issues like training and retraining, promotion, and proper placement.
In order to improve the NILDS’ Scheme of Service, an academic advisory board was constituted to address the discrepancies in the system; the committee was chaired by a prominent bureaucrat and former permanent secretary, Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, and other six eminent academics. The seven-man committee inaugurated on January 15, 2020, has since submitted its report. The recommendations made by the Committee, when implemented, will have a major impact on the institute and the National Assembly.
When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. This was why one of the DG’s first actions was to organize a joint management retreat for the institute and the National Assembly, headed by Mohammed Ataba Sani-Omolori, Clerk to the National Assembly, which further cemented the relationship between the former and the latter. And further to strategize on how the mandates of the democratic Institutions are delivered. Besides, as part of his vision for the institute, he embarked on a positive organizational reform and expansion. In view of this, additional departments were created to cater for effective service delivery thereby strengthening the Institute.
One of the key objectives of the institute is to provide support services in the billing process with a view to enhancing quality of legislation. After one year as the DG, he has strengthened the institute’s capacity in attending to requests from lawmakers. As a matter of fact, the National Assembly Liaison Office has been reorganized and expanded from one office it used to be, to one in the new Senate wing and another in the House of Representatives new building with core staff who can address legislators’ challenges on the spot. Undoubtedly, the restructuring is responsible for the unprecedented number of bills and motion drafted so far. Because of this reform, in the one year since Sulaiman has been DG, the Institute has drafted (64) sixty four Bills and tracked another (25) twenty-five. It also analyzed (226) two twenty six Bills and scrutinized another (20) twenty. Experts at the Institute also drafted (64) sixty four Motions and (13) thirteen Briefs of Argument/Lead Debates.
Besides, the institute also provides analytical services to the legislature. Given the academic background of the (DG), the scope of research in the institute expanded and the quality of the institute’s analytical services have significantly improved. At the last count, the institute has conducted (24) twenty four policy analysis, (296) two ninety six issue/sector/data briefs and thirty one research papers.
Another significant achievement of the DG in the last one year is that his carefully thought out strategies have been implemented by the institute to improve the quality of its training activities and to expand its reach especially to State Houses of Assembly across the country. As a result of the engagements, there has been a remarkable strengthening of the institute’s partnership with State Assemblies. The institute organised and conducted training for legislators and staff from various state houses of assembly. A total of (18) eighteen such training activities were successfully conducted with a total of (228) two twenty eight beneficiaries. The States that have benefited from the institute’s training activities in the first twelve months of Prof. Sulaiman’s time as DG include Zamfara, Delta, Kogi, Benue and staff of the Office of the Governor of Borno State.
Aside that, a total of (319) three hundred and nineteen federal and state legislators (Senators, Members of the House of Representatives and Members of State Assemblies) have benefited from the Institute’s training programmes. Some of the high profile training activities for legislators include a Roundtable for Conference of Speakers, which had over thirty (30) Speakers in Attendance and Retreat for Chairmen of Standing Committees of the House of Representatives. Worthy of note is the fact that the institute has invested heavily in the training of parliamentary staff. A total of three hundred and nine (399) legislative staff – this includes staff of the National Assembly and the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies. These trainings consisted of training workshops and seminars, short-term courses, conferences and retreats, exchange of experience visits and dialogue sessions.
In realization of the role played by the legislative bureaucracy in providing essential support to legislators both in the chambers and in committees, Prof. Sulaiman has emphasized capacity development for Committee Clerks and Official Reporters. Also, to his credit is the renewal of old alliances with the ECOWAS Parliament. The immediate impact of the advocacy resulted in an avalanche of training programs participated by the national parliament in the sub-region.
Professor Sulaiman has remained focused on the path of building and providing analytical services to the legislature. In the last year, the Institute has assisted the Appropriation, Finance and Public Accounts Committees of the National Assembly in analyzing the annual Appropriation Bills and Auditor General’s reports. Over the years, Nigeria’s civil service has been dysfunctional; as a result, there have been several attempts to correct the misnomer in the system. As a way of providing support, NILDS has reviewed the Oronsanye Report on rationalization and restructuring of the federal ministries, department, and agencies of the government.
To demonstrate his passion for academic brilliance, Professor Sulaiman instituted the Abubakar O. Sulaiman Endowment Fund through the FCT Quiz Competition for Secondary Schools. Winners of the annual event are rewarded with the cost of tuition in any public university in Nigeria. Eight schools from the eight zones of FCT participated at the finale where each school was represented by two students. The 2020 winners are the first beneficiaries. He has also ensured that the institute’s postgraduate is expanded. Some of the concrete measures taken in this regard are setting up an academic advisory board made up of renowned academics and headed by Professor Nuhu Yaqub. The committee has as its core mandate to ensure that the institute’s academic programmes are of the highest quality and in line with global best practices. Also, the renewal of the Memorandum of Understating between the Institute and the University of Benin (UNIBEN) birthed the unprecedented number of students that applied for the 2019/2020 academic session. Eventually, out of the over (140) one forty applicants, (139) one thirty nine enrolled for the ongoing 2019/2020 academic year.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the energetic DG set up a technical committee to examine the impact of the pandemic and suggested areas for legislative action. The legislative framework submitted by the committee has greatly contributed to the debates in the National Assembly.
For his quick-win projects, he has also taken advocacy to John Hopkins University in the United States and participated in other high-level programmes like the Tokyo International Conference of African Development among others. Also, as a partner in Nigeria fledgling democracy, the institute under his leadership carried out electoral observation during the 2019 election and submitted its findings to the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The completion and relocation to the institute’s permanent site located in Piwoyi District along the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in the FCT has been his priority. To this effect, he wasted no time, in his first week in office, to embark on a thorough inspection of the site handled by Julius Berger Nigeria and invited the then-new leadership of National Assembly to familiarize themselves with the world-class edifice. Pre-press time, with sufficient goodwill and support by the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan and Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, 2021 relocation to the permanent site is feasible.
In the last twelve months, Prof Sulaiman has devoted his time and energy to making NILDS a 21st-century institute and leading institution in the globe. In view of his achievements in his index year as DG coupled with the guidance provided by the Governing Council led by President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives Professor Abubakar Sulaiman is well-positioned to make history.
Bayo Jimoh is an Abuja-based journalist and student of Elections and Party Politics with the NILDS