The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, has said that the National Assembly Library project’s primary aim is to deepen the legislative competence of lawmakers and by extension, strengthen research on policy formulation for the whole country.
Gbajabiamila said the 9th Assembly viewed the project as one of its most cherished initiatives, envisaged to serve several functions, including a resource centre, a national museum and a digital archive for Nigeria’s democratic journey.
He spoke in Abuja on Wednesday while declaring open a public hearing on a “Bill for an Act to Establish the National Assembly Library Trust Fund”, organised by the House Committee on Legislative Library, Research and Documentation.
He noted that it was saddening that Nigeria, which prided itself as having the largest legislature in Africa, had no legislative library, adding that it was the reason the 9th Assembly took up the challenge to initiate the “ambitious” project.
The speaker gave details of the services the library will render, “We have set out to build a legislative library, archive and research centre comparable to any that exists anywhere else in the world.
“It is our vision that when this library is complete, it will dramatically improve the legislative capacity of the National Assembly by providing legislators and their aides with the resources they need to conduct thorough research and advance policies that serve to make our world better.
“The National Assembly Library will host professional development programmes that attract some of the best thinkers and experts from across the world. Public dialogues and other civic engagement programmes organised through the National Assembly Library will help improve the public’s understanding of the legislature’s role in our democracy.
“In addition, the National Assembly library will house the National Assembly Museum and a digital archive of our nation’s democratic journey thus far. ”
He described the ambitions as “enormous”, requiring the sacrifice of time, resources, collaboration amongst stakeholders and partnerships with those “who share the vision of what we hope to achieve.”
Besides seeing to the early completion of the project, Speaker Gbajabiamila informed the session that the legislature must also articulate a statutory framework for sustaining the future of the library.
He explained, “For that purpose, we have convened here today to consider the Bill to Establish the National Assembly Library Trust Fund.
“This bill seeks to define the funding sources, administrative operations and management of the National Assembly Library and to ensure thereby that the library, from inception and through the years, will remain a centre of excellence according to the vision we have for it.”
He urged participants to thoroughly examine the bill and make contributions that would help the legislature to achieve the vision of the project.
“The bill, as it is, is a proposal, a statement of our intent. As it makes its way through the legislative process, it will change in substantive ways, and it will improve substantially.
“By the time we arrive at the final version, I fully expect that we will have a bill that is clear in its intent, confident in its mandates and innovative in the solutions it proposes.
“This goal is only possible if all those who share the vision of what we hope to achieve with this project work to critically examine this legislation and make well-thought-out recommendations based on considerations of our national best interests”, the speaker stated.
Delivering his welcome address earlier, the Chairman of the committee, Rep. Gaza Jonathan Gbefwi, stressed the urgency to complete the library project.
He cited the case of the United States of America, which he said started its own legislative library as far back as 1925, an indication that Nigeria was almost a century behind the US in having such a project.
He called on participants to be open and free to make inputs to help realise the goals of the National Assembly Library.