Anyim Pius Anyim, the president of Nigeria's Senate, (pictured in the red cap) spoke to our correspondent, Pini Jason, on the troubles between parliament and the presidency.
Pini: What has it been like, after a prolonged military rule, to have a Legislature that is trying to find its feet?
Anyim. Well, I must say it has been a very difficult task, because it was like we were coming from a background where the Legislature had no role. In fact, that feeling was carried over from the era of military rule. People are still finding it difficult to realise that Parliament has a role to play in governance. The real problem is that the principal actors in the Executive have not come to grips with the fact that the Legislature has a role to play in the whole system.
So it has been a situation of battling to exist, to assume our role and to get the other key actors to realise that we have a constitutional role to play, that we have a say in the basic issues affecting the people and country, ie, how the system is run, and how the laws and budgets are implemented. Often, this has generated some misunderstandings between the Executive and the Legislature.
And I can tell you that at every step we have learnt from each other. And we have made some progress. We believe that even the last crisis between the Executive and the Legislature has opened eyes on both sides to see that you cannot wish away any arm of government. And I think that is a remarkable progress.
Pini: In this confrontation, the word blackmail has been used to describe the action of the National Assembly. How much of the confrontation is based on principle, and how much is personal?
Anyim: There couldn't have been anything personal about it. For example, as the president of the Senate, I will not want to sacrifice the institution of the National Assembly. But, take for example the situation where recently there was a news item that 20% of the budget of the National Assembly had been released. This is money that had been budgeted for, to cover their salaries and allowances plus their overhead costs.
What is the need for the Executive to advertise it? It is not even his [Obasanjo's] responsibility in the first place. As long as the budget is signed into law, he has performed his duty. It is now for the Ministry of Finance and the Accountant General's office to release the funds as and when due. When people hear such news, they will feel that much more money than the Assembly deserves was...