Functions Of Legislature In Nigeria

The legislature is an arm of government under a democratic system of government that is charged with the responsibilities of making laws and checking excesses of the executive arm of government. The legislature is an assemblage of individuals who are legally elected as representatives of a larger number of people to make laws for the overall good of the society. Also, the legislature is the institutional body responsible for making laws for a nation and one through which the collective will of the people or part of it is articulated, expressed and implemented. The legislature through legislation, controls all the economic, social and political activities of a nation. Also, the legislature scrutinizes the policies of the executive arm of government and provides the necessary framework for the judiciary to operate. Based on the above, it is almost impossible to talk about removal without the legislature.

Functions Of Legislature In Nigeria

FUNCTIONS OF LEGISLATURE IN NIGERIA

The following are the functions of the legislature in Nigeria as contained in the 1999 constitution.

  • The legislation is the power of making laws. Legislators are known as lawmakers and they are empowered by the Nigerian constitution to do so.
  • Representation is the function of protecting the interest of the constituents or people represented by being their eyes, ears, and voice in governance. Legislators are representative of the people and as a result, they are charged with the duty of protecting the interests of the people they represent.
  • Oversight functions: The legislature is given overnight functions as contained in Sections 82-89 with regard to the National Assembly, and 120-128 with regard to the state Houses of Assembly. The oversight function gives the legislature the power to supervise the other arms of government to ensure that they implement government policies and programs as contained in the Annual Appropriation Act/Law of Government.
  • Investigative function and Watchdog of public funds. The legislature also has the power to investigate the other arms of government and watch over public funds to prevent misappropriation and theft.

The concept upon which democracy is built is the idea that the people are sovereign and power belongs to them. However, since the people in a country cannot exercise this power directly, they then elect some amongst themselves to exercise it on their behalf.

  • What Is Legislature In Nigeria And The Type We Operate?

The National Assembly

In Nigeria, we run a bifocal legislative system consisting of two Chambers. The upper and the lower chamber. The upper chamber in Nigeria is the Sent and is made up of 109 members. It is the superior legislative arm. The lower chamber is the House of Representatives. It consists of 360 members. Both chambers are vested with legislative powers of the federation. Both Chambers basically have the same functions. Section 4(1) Part II of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states that “The Legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be vested in the National Assembly of the federation consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives”. It goes on in Section 4(2), to state as follows: “The National Assembly shall have the power to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of the federation with respect to any issue that is included in the Exclusive Legislative List”. The Exclusive Legislative List which is contained in Part I of the Second Schedule to the Constitution deals with specific items that only the National Assembly has the sole power to legislate upon, to the exclusion of the States as well as Local Governments. Also, there is yet another category of powers described as Residual List. This is the exclusive prerogative of the states. These are the implications of the contents of the constitution of Nigeria.

Challenges Facing Legislature On Nigeria

  • Funding

Lack of adequate funds is the major challenge facing legislature in Nigeria especially at the state level. This has resulted in legislative houses that are often weak and are controlled and manipulated by the executive. Unless the legislature at the state level especially, achieves the status of full financial autonomy, they will never begin to set themselves free from the string of the executive branch at that level.

  • Poor Public Perception

The legislature in Nigeria has constantly suffered from poor public perception. Frequent truncation of the democratic process in Nigeria has made it so that the average Nigerian is not acquainted with the legislative process. This has resulted in the legislature not being able to fully evolve and entrench the legislative tradition with which people are conversant.

  • Lack Of Capacity And Experience

Another big challenge facing the legislature in Nigeria is the lack of capacity and experience. It has been documented that Nigeria has the highest number of legislative turn-over in the world. Each election cycle in the country removes an average of two-thirds of trained and experienced legislators to the detriment of the institution.

  • Neutralization Of Legislative Powers By The Executive And Judiciary

A noticeable difference between emerging and developed democracies is the separation of powers which often isn’t the case with emerging democracies. There is always an attempt by one arm of government to usurp or scuttle the power of another arm. Neutralization may be active or passive as the case may be. It is active in a situation where the undermining arm of government takes positive steps to achieve the aim, while it is passive if neutralization is achieved by deliberately leaving undone what is required to be done legitimately. Both methods have been used I. Nigeria to undemocratically neutralize the power of the legislature. It is done either through the judiciary or by the use of force often turning violent.

  • Wrong Impression

The legislature is the most obscured of all three arms of government in Nigeria. This is because of the influence of military rule between 1960 and 1999. This has made the legislature to be for most times an absentee arm of government since it is always scrapped by the military. Therefore, members of the public including those in the public sector are used to both the executive and judicial arms of government but not the legislature. This had led to the role of the legislature being grossly misunderstood and thus when the National Assembly performs its legitimate duties as enshrined in the constitution, it is perceived as interfering in governance. This arises from genuine ignorance in some cases but outright mischief in others. In the area of oversight function of the legislature, there is an erroneous impression that the main objective of the oversight is pecuniary benefits to lawmakers. Indeed, the idea behind overnight is for the legislature to curb the excesses of the executive, prevent waste, theft, and misappropriation of public funds. This has unearthed monumental fraud in governance in accordance on so many occasions in Nigeria. Although, there have been a few incidences in which members of the legislature have allegedly conducted themselves in manners that are not expected of occupants of such lofty positions.

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Conclusion On Functions Of Legislature In Nigeria

The legislature is a very powerful arm of government. It is charged with the responsibility of making laws and checking the excesses of other arms of government. The functions of legislation in Nigeria are discussed in this article to help enlighten people more about the legislature and its role in democracy in the country.

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