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NILDS Hosts Sister Institute From The Republic Of Benin

NILDS Hosts Sister Institute

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The Director General National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) Prof. Abubakar Olanrewaju Sulaiman hosted delegates from the Institut Parlementaire Du Benin (IPAB) on Monday May 9, in its Maitama office Abuja. IPAB is an institute established by the National Assembly of Benin Republic to provide legislative support ser- vices. Formerly called CAPAN (Cellule d’analyse des politiques de développement de l’Assemblée natio- nale), the Parliamentary Institute of Benin (since September 2019) aims to strengthen the capacity of the parliament and to carry out re- search and studies in development policy.
The visit is a benchmarking visit by IPAB to under- study advanced legislative processes and international best practices from its Nigerian counterpart. The Personal Assistant to the Speaker of the Parliament of Benin Mr Fabrice in his remarks thanked the DG NILDS and management for the warm reception and the gifts that were presented to the delegation. The Beninoise delegation also reciprocated by presenting gifts to the NILDS DG. The Secretary General Administration, National Assembly of Benin Republic Mari- ano Ogoutolou thanked DG NILDS and the National Assembly for the warm welcome and opportunity he noted that politicians are not technicians and need to build strong institutions for the improvement of democracy.
The remarks of DG NILDS: I wish to welcome you to the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies. I am particularly delighted that this visit is finally taking place given that it has taken several months in planning. On behalf of the President of the Senate and Chairman, NILDS Governing Council, Sen. Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, PhD., CON and the Alternate Chairman, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives, I wish to congratulate the National Assembly of Benin Republic for establishing the Parliamentary Institute of Benin (IPAB), an important step toward providing institutional support to the Assembly.
An effective parliamentary support institution is strongly correlated with the existence of a viable democracy. Through their lawmaking, oversight and representative roles, parliaments are fundamental to establishing the rule of law, protecting human rights, overseeing transparent governance processes, and ensuring national compliance with international obligations. Parliamentary institutions, such as ours, are critical in supplying the information needs of parliaments, providing technical expertise and building the human capacity of legislators and other personnel.
This benchmarking visit is particularly interesting to us for various reasons. Benin Republic is connected to Nigeria geographically, historically and culturally. Also, we are both members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and thus share strategic economic and security interests. This visit is a further illustration of that kinship and close partnership between our two countries.
Additionally, it demonstrates that African countries can learn from each without necessarily always looking up to the advanced democracies. By virtue of our shared history and myriad similarities, there are important opportunities for experience sharing in various aspects of democratic governance, including institution building. It is gratifying to note that the Institute has hosted delegations from Ghana, Gambia and Uganda in the last few years.
The National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) has a long and distinctive history with an equally excellent record in providing support to the legislature in Nigeria at both the national and sub-national levels but also to other parliaments in the ECOWAS sub-region and beyond. It was birthed as a project in 2004 following recognition by the Nigerian government that the legislature was relatively weaker than the other arms of government following the transition to democracy in 1999 after long years of military rule.
Supported by the World Bank, the Africa Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) and the National Assembly started the Policy Analysis and Research Project (PARP) to support the nascent National Assembly to build the capacity of legislators, parliamentary staff and legislative aides. The Project achieved remark- able successes and greatly impacted the capacity of the National Assembly to deliver its constitutional mandate. The details of these achievements will be presented in subsequent sessions and can provide valuable lessons for the new Parliamentary Institute in your National Assembly.
The successes of PARP convinced the leadership of the National Assembly of the need for an autonomous and statutory body to provide support to the legislature on a sustained and deeper basis. This led to the establishment of the Institute in 2011 through an Act of the National Assembly. Over the past decade, the Institute has become integral to parliament providing strategic support to committees, legislators and the bureaucracy. Since I took over as the Director-General in 2019, I have focused on consolidating its previous achievements and expanding its functions to cover sub-national legislatures, broadening engagement with political parties, media and CSOs as well as facilitating a more direct technical intervention on issues of critical national importance that are under consideration at the National Assembly. Of note is our recent engagement with security-based committees of the National Assembly as well as security agencies and MDAs towards a holistic review of the legal and institutional frame- works governing the security sector in Nigeria.
This has led to the drafting of seven (7) critical bills that have passed the House of Representatives and await concurrence at the Senate.
Allow me to conclude by briefly reflecting on some of the factors that have contributed to our numerous accomplishments. These include the relative autonomy of the Institute having been established by an Act rather than making it merely an administrative extension of the legislative bureaucracy. This has shielded the Institute from some of the traditional challenges that have plagued other public sector institutions. Additionally, the governance structure with the President of the Senate and the Speaker and as the Chairman and Alternate Chairman has given sound policy direction and greater level of embeddedness within the parliament. This has also ensured a dedicated funding stream to the Institute for its routine activities.
The operational structure of the Institute that includes the use of strategic plans, annual work plans, clearly defined targets for all categories of staff as well as a culture of performance appraisal have been critical to our success. Another critical success factor is a robust Conditions of Service that outline job functions, criteria for promotion and discipline. Finally, institutional linkages as well as collaboration with various national and international development and donor organisations have contributed to augmenting our funding and reaching out to other democratic actors outside the legislature.
I am optimistic that this visit will expose you not only to the history of the Institute but also to the details of our operations. By sharing knowledge with some of our experienced staff, you can draw important lessons on how to position your own Institute to achieve a comparable level of success. You would also learn other success
factors and landmines to avoid in your role of pro- viding balanced and non-partisan support to Members of the National Assembly of Benin Republic. Finally, you have the opportunity to visit key structures and facilities here in our temporary offices, including the library, lecture rooms, ICT centre and our databases. Also, you will visit our permanent site, which is in its final stages of completion and de- signed to be a state-of-the-art facility that will serve Nigeria, the region and beyond.
Once again, welcome to Abuja, Nigeria and the Institute and I wish you a pleasant stay and satisfying experience during this benchmarking visit.

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