A major characteristic of the Nigerian legislature is its principles of bicameralism predicated upon a two chamber legislature namely senate and House of Representatives at the Federal level. The art of governing is associated with cost to the government and the governed. The government incur cost while carrying out its essential duties of protecting lives and property of the people, defence of the territorial integrity of the nation, administration of justice, social services such as education, public works, provision of electricity, good road network, portable water, and a host of other services, all these cannot be achieved without the efficiency of the legislature. Bello & Mike (2004) emphasised that problem of stable democratic tradition has for long caused displeasure and angers virtually every country in the Less Developing Countries (LDC) of the world. Nigeria who is a prominent actor in this group of countries has had an epileptic experience vis-à-vis participatory democracy since the attainment of political independence on 1st Oct, 1960. But based on the question above “7th National Assembly in perspective” it is a double edge sword, whereby the negative and the positive perspective of it will be achieved.
The main purpose of this work is to analyse and examine the role of the 7th legislature in the National Assembly, its impacts, functions and effective measures toward achieving good governance in Nigeria, as well as the its problems or failure which it has incurred over the years.
Good governance has taken on increasing importance in the last 15 years in development cooperation and is regarded today both in partner countries and by donors as an essential prerequisite for human development. There is international consensus on the basic components of good governance. wikipedia.org/wiki/campaign/governace. (4th June, 2015).
“In the context of a political and institutional environment that upholds human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law, good governance is the transparent and accountable management of human, natural, economic and financial resources for the purposes of equitable and sustainable development.
According to Udombana, (2009). Good governance is all inclusive and includes an efficient civil service, elimination of corruptionin government, a predictable, transparent, and accountable administration, democratic decision-making, the supremacy of the rule of law, effective protection of human rights, an independent judiciary, a fair economic system, appropriate devolution and decentralization of government.
Legislation is defined as the making of laws, the process of writing and passing laws.
However, a common and also more acceptable meaning refers to it as a law passed by an official body especially a government assembly. Ranny, A. (1958).
According to the Black law Dictionary, legislation is the act of giving or enacting laws, the power to make laws, the act of legislating, preparation and enactment of laws, laws enacted by law-making body.
Thus, legislation either refers to the process of making laws or the laws that emanate from such process. An important feature of it is that it must have emanated from a government body known to the laws of that society and this body is known as the legislature
Composition of the legislature
Literally, the Legislature is a group of people who have the power to make and change laws for any given complex organization. Nigeria practices a Bicameral Legislature that composes of two chambers which are The House of Senate and House of Representative. The legislature is one of the three principal organs of government in a nation-state. The other two are the Executive and the Judiciary. Bello & Mike (2004).
In Nigeria there had been agitation for equal representation in the polity. But what determine the legislature in Nigeria are the Constitution and certain social and political factors. Membership of the Senate is based on equal representation of the states of the federation. Except Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. The 1999 Constitution provides as follows:
The senate shall consist of three Senators from each state and from the Federal Capital Territory.
The House of Representative shall consist of three Hundred and sixty members representing constituencies or nearly equal population as possible, provided that no constituency shall fall within more than one state. Ayanwu, N. D., (1999).
A Brief Overview of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Nigeria is a Federal Republic composed of 36 States, and a Capital Territory, with an elected President and a Bi-cameral Legislature. It operates the Presidential system of Government with three distinct but complementary arms namely the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary, each acting as a check on the other two.
Nigeria is a country with varying climatic conditions. It is tropical in the centre, equatorial in the South and arid in the North. It lies between 3oE and 15oE, and between 4oN and 14oN in Western Africa. Nigeria has borders in the North with Niger and Chad, Republic of Benin in the West, Republic of Cameroun in the East and the Atlantic Ocean in the South. Nigeria has a total land mass of 923,768Km that is made up of 910,768Km of land and 13,000Km water. Nigeria is a country endowed with a lot of mineral resources like fossil fuel (crude oil, natural gas, coal and lignite), radioactive minerals (Uranium, monazite and zircon), metallic minerals ( tin, columbite, iron, lead, zinc, gold), non-metallic minerals (limestone, marble, gravel, clay, shale, feldspar) and arable land. Americanessays.com. (2nd June, 2015)
The Legislature and Good Governance in Nigeria
Functions of the legislature
According to Bello & Mike (2004) give the following four global functions or roles of the legislature:
Legislation: the first important functions of the legislature are, of course, to enact laws. Every provision of a law requires to be framed with the most current and long-sighted perception of its effect on all the other provisions; and the law when made should ba capable of fitting into a consistent whole with the previously existing laws. It is impossible that these conditions should be in any degree fulfilled when laws are voted clause by clause. The mere time necessarily occupied in getting through bills renders parliament incapable of passing any except on broad principles.
Oversight Function: parliament plays a crucial role in the administration of a country by overseeing the actions of the executive arm of government. This is done to hold all state institutions accountable with a view to throwing the light of publicity on the government’s acts; to censure them if found condemnable, and, if the men who compose the government abuse their trust or fulfil it in a manner which conflicts with the deliberate sense of the nation, to expel them from office, and virtually appoint their successors. Their successes in this regard however depend on their individual and collective willingness to act as well as the constitutional capacity they have.
Finance: in matters of finance, it should be a rule that public money cannot be raised or spent without parliament’s sanction; but proposals for raising and spending money must come from the Executive. Further, the right of private members to propose new items of expenditure should be restricted, because this puts a premium upon particular interest instead of on the general interest, or upon the immediately apparent instead of the more essential.
The Ventilation of Grievances: finally, a legislature is a useful organ of public opinion, ‘the nation’s Committee of Grievances, and its Congress of Opinions’, a place where interest are shade of opinion can have its cause presented. This is a most important function in a democracy, which has been well described as a government control by public opinion.
The Achievements of the 7th National Assembly
It is no doubt that the Nigeria Legislature the 7th Assembly in perspective had failed Nigerians in some no of ways, as it has been painted with some level of corrupt practices. Giving for example the Nigerian Legislature (7th National Assembly) had exhibited the habit of fattening their paycheques by awarding themselves outrageous allowances. Nigerian parliamentarians were reputed to be the highest paid in the world, earning more than even their British and American counterparts. Despite these there were some achievements they were able to make.
The 7th Senate achieved some measure of success in the areas of the number of bills that were passed, motions moved, in our oversight functions and in our legislative duties. Some landmark bills passed by this Senate include but not limited to; Pension Reform Act 2014, National Health Act, Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act and the Terrorism (Prevention) Act. The 7th Senate confirmed a total number of 429 persons between 2011 and 2015.
In addition, a parliamentary delegation was received from Gambia, Benin Republic and China while over 27 delegations from the Senate attended international conferences and seminars. Invitations were also honoured from the Parliaments of Czech Republic and China.
In spite of the difficult political condition and economic climate within which they worked and despite their internal challenges, the Senate convinced that they represented their constituents and Nigerians with the most noble of intentions and to the best of their abilities.
Another area where the national assembly has made remarkable inputs bothers on the aspect of security in the country, the endorsement of the declaration of emergency rule in three states of the north by President Goodluck Jonathan. President Jonathan’s declaration of state of emergency in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states was made possible due to the cooperation and guidance the Presidency received from the legislature.
Also within the last four years, the former Nigerian Legislatures matured politically. That was why when some Senators defected from one political party to the other, one united Senate was still maintained. Even though the political intrigues of the last four years sometimes slowed down important legislative business, they nevertheless enriched our democratic understanding and these are consider equally important to the democratic process.
The 7th National Assembly also gave maximum support to NILS (No Interest Loan Scheme). The institute has made remarkable progress in such a short time with its influence extending to other African countries. It is the type of scheme that provides interest-free loans for individuals or families on low income. theeagleonline.com.ng/7th-senate (4th June, 2015).
Failures of the 7th National Assembly
As reported by the Premium Times, the outgoing Seventh National Assembly of Nigeria said it passed a total of 106 bills into law out of 1,063 bills sponsored and brought to its legislative attention in the past four years (2011-2015). Despite earning the world’s record as the most expensive parliament in the world, the number of bills passed by the referenced National Assembly is considered very abysmal when compared to what obtains elsewhere including the United States where the U.S. Congress passed 297 bills between 2013 and 2014. Emeka Umeagbalasi, (2015).
Missing $20billion oil money: In 2013, a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi, alleged that the NNPC failed to remit billions of naira in oil proceeds to the state. This caused a huge rift between the CBN governor and President Goodluck Jonathan, leading to the president suspending Mr. Sanusi from office. Although The National Assembly investigated the matter but she was unable to bring it to closure.
Stella Oduah: Before her removal as Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah was embroiled in a N255 million armoured car scandal. She was accused of abusing her office by compelling an agency under her ministry to buy her expensive cars. The House of Representatives has so far failed to release a detailed report of its investigation into the matter. Although Ms. Oduah was later dropped as minister, other officials involved in the matter remained untouched till date.
Farouk Lawan: House of Representatives member, Farouk Lawan, was caught on tape collecting $620,000 out of a $3million bribe while his committee investigated the fuel subsidy scam. He was seen collecting the money from oil mogul, Femi Otedola. The House of Representative referred the bribery allegation to its committee on ethics. But no report has been issued till date.
$15million private jet/arms scandal: A private jet conveyed $15million in cash to Johannesburg for a purported arms deal between Nigeria and a South African firm. That deal seriously embarrassed Nigeria, but the National Assembly failed to investigate. Attempts by lawmakers of the All Progressives Congress to table the matter at the House of Representatives were frustrated by their Peoples Democratic Party’s counterparts and this further led to the subdue of the matter up till now.
Police Pension Fund Fraud: Five people, including former Director of Police Pension Fund, Esai Dangabar, were accused of misusing N32.8billion from the Police Pension Fund. Mr. Dangabar accused some committee members of the Senate of benefiting from the loot. The senate denied the allegation without ordering an investigation. The world may never know whether indeed the Senate joint Committee on Establishment and Public Service Matter, and State and Local Government Affairs indeed took bribes from the pension thieves. This act also postulated part of their failure.
Ekiti Election: A leaked tape of the alleged electoral malpractices during the gubernatorial election in Ekiti State caused a major stir in the country. Four principal characters were heard discussing how to manipulate the election. The voices were those of former Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro; the Minister of Police Affairs, Jelili Adesiyan; former Deputy governor of Osun state, Iyiola Omisore, and the eventual winner of the election and current governor of Ekiti state, Ayo Fayose. Despite the huge evidence in the public domain, the Presidency said it would not investigate the matter.
The National Assembly has failed to investigate the matter, which is clearly a major assault on our democracy. Mr. Obanikoro indeed went ahead to receive a National Assembly approval for ministerial appointment.
Farouk Lawan: House of Representatives member, Farouk Lawan, was caught on tape collecting $620,000 out of a $3million bribe while his committee investigated the fuel subsidy scam. He was seen collecting the money from oil mogul, Femi Otedola. The House of Representative referred the bribery allegation to its committee on ethics. But no report has been issued till date. Richard A. Joshua O. (5th June, 2015).
The inevitable conclusion from the foregoing analysis of the legislature and the legislative process in Nigeria is that the legislature has not lived to the expectation of Nigerians in terms of making laws that will guarantee good governance for the benefit of all and sundry. The legislators, as has been shown, have not demonstrated enough patriotism in support of Nigeria’s fledgling democracy. Majority of the members are driven more by selfish desires of wealth accumulation than the patriotic desire of leaving enduring legislative legacies by taking cue from other advanced jurisdictions of the world.
Recommendations for the 8th National Assembly
In order for the coming legislatures to achieve efficiency in the aspect of good governance, first the legislature should be insulated from the influence of the executive. This influence, in most cases, is counter-productive as it is meant to sway the minds of the legislators from the serious business of law-making.
Second, law-makers should be more responsible and responsive to their responsibilities. The excuse that is often given that bills take time to go through the legislature because of lack of quorum is not tenable anywhere in the world. A solution to this ugly trend may be to make the salaries and allowances payable to the law makers vary directly with the number of times they participate in the proceedings at the floor of the house.
Third, the leadership of the house should be more financially responsible. Award of contracts should follow due process and be carried out in a transparent manner. This will prevent the ugly scenario that was painted recently by the allegation of contract manipulation levelled against those who were engaged in embezzlement.
Lastly, it is a truism that some law-makers display such an embarrassing level of ignorance of the legislative process such that one is compelled to wonder if such persons could contribute meaningful to the process on the floors of the legislative houses. It is therefore recommended that a regime of training and retraining should be put in place to educate the law-makers on the business of law-making in the best interest of Nigerians that have elected them.
Ayanwu, N. D., (1999). The Law Maker Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999-2003) (3rd ed). Start Craft International Publisher.
Bello-Imam I.B & Mike I.O., (2004). Democratic Governance and Development Management in Nigeria (Fourth Republic). Ibadan. Centre for Local Government and Rural Development Publishers.
Udombana, N. (2009). Akpabio’s Administration: A model of Democratic Practice and Good Governance. Weekend Pioneer. Friday, May 29 Vol. 19 No. 28, pp. 53 and 60.
Ranny, A. (1958). The Governing of men. New York. Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
http://www.blacklawdictionary.com-the-legislature-roles-misconceptions-and-experience/consolidation. html: Retrieved on 1st June, 2015.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campaign_for_Good_Governance/html: Retrieved on 4th June, 2015.
Americanessays.com.Exploitation of Crude Oil and Natural Gas in Nigeria. Retrieved on 2nd June, 2015.
http:www//theeagleonline.com.ng/7th-senate-our-successes-our-failures-by-david-mark/html: Retrieved on 4th June, 2015
Emeka Umeagbalasi, B.Sc. (Hons) Criminology & Security Studies (2015): Retrieved from http://www.elombah.com/elombah/detail.php?world=32550, on 5th June, 2015.
Richard A. Joshua O. & Chinenye U., April 26, 2015: Retrieved form http://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/182111-top-10-corruption-scandals-nigerias-national-assembly-hasnt-resolved.html: on 5th June, 2015