The legislature is the representative of the people. This is because it is elected by the people from all areas of the country. The primary functions of the legislature is to make laws. These bills are usually private or public bills, but most of the bills usually originate from the executive. The house of representatives is made up of 360 members while the senate has 109 members as provided for in SS.48 & 49 CFRN 1999 as amended.. Together they are referred to as the national assembly as provided in S.4(1). Their primary function is to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the federation in relation to matters in the exclusive list as provided in S.4(2). The national assembly also has the power to legislate on items in the concurrent list as provided for in S.4(4)(a) of the constitution. However, in doing this, the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary focus. S.14(2)(b).
OVERSIGHT FUNCTIONS OF THE LEGISLATURE
In order to carry out its functions effectively, the members of the legislature are usually divided into standing or ad hoc committees. S.62 CFRN 1999, empowers the legislature to create committees as may seem appropriate to it. However, they cant directly delegate the power of legislation to these committees. see AG Bendel vs AG federation; S.62(4) CFRN 1999. The purpose of these committees is to facilitate the carrying out of oversight functions of the legislature. The purpose of oversight functions is to ensure that acts of the national assembly are well implemented. This includes the appropriation act.
What then is the meaning of oversight? Oversight has been defined by Olezek as the continuing reviewing by the legislature of how effectively the executive branch is carrying out the legislative mandate. Unlike the parliamentary system of government, there is no ‘question time in the presidential system. This then makes oversight imperative in a presidential system of government.
It is argued in some quarters that the source of this power of oversight is contained in S.88 of the constitution. This is the section of the constitution that confers investigative powers on the legislature. However opposing this view is the opinion that the powers of oversight are broader than just investigation. Even if they are not stated in the constitution they will be inherent. This is due to the fact that pursuant to S.80 and S.81, it is the legislature that is in custody of the revenue of the federation and they are the ones to approve the budget of the federation. Therefore, since they are the custodian of revenue, it is inherent on them to ensure that the money is well utilised.
Another example of oversight of the executive by the legislature is the fact that it is the legislature that usually confirms the appointment of ministers and other officials of the federation. This is contained under S.147(2) CFRN 1999 where ministers have to be confirmed by the senate. Also, impeachment of the chief executive as contained in S.143 of the constitution can also be regarded as oversight function.
The mode of carrying out law making functions in general is contained in SS.58 & 59 CFRN 1999 (as amended) while it is S.100 for the houses of assembly. All other function of the legislature apart from law making can be categorised into oversight functions. Some of them include: being in charge of the public purse; S.80 to 84 CFRN 1999, the power of removal of the chief executive which is contained in S.143 for the president and s.188 for the governor.
WHY THE LEGISLATURE HAS OVERSIGHT FUNCTIONS
- To prevent the arbitrary use of public fund by the executive as provided in S.80 to S.84 of the constitution.
- To foster executive accountability.
- It helps to strengthen democracy. This is due to the fact that exercise of oversight functions keeps the executive on their toes.
- It helps to ensure effectiveness by the executive as they know that they are being overseen by the legislature.
- Expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution and administration of laws propounded by it or the appropriation fund as provided in S.88(2)(b).
WHY OVERSIGHT FUNCTION ISN’T EFFECTIVE IN NIGERIA.
S.14(2)(b) CFRN 1999 provides that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. However, with the way Nigeria is, it would be doubtful to conclude that this provision has been followed. One of the reason for this could be said to be the failure of oversight functions by the legislature. The following are some of the reasons why oversight function isn’t effective in Nigeria:
- Ethnic loyalty: Legislators who belong a particular ethnic affiliation are usually reluctant to indict members of the executive who belong to the same ethnic group as they are. This is due the fact that the legislators put their ethnic interests before national interests.
- Partisan Loyalty: As is the case with ethnic loyalty, so it is with partisan loyalty. Legislators of a particular political party are reluctant to also indict executives of the same partisan affiliation as them.
- Lack of solid legislative framework for oversight: Whenever oversight functions are carried out, most often that not, the legislature would pass a resolution to that effect. However,it should be noted that resolutions could be ignored by the executive. Thus it would be best if there were legislation making it mandatory for the executive to respond to resolutions and to give reasons for not implementing them.
- Docile citizenry: The citizens of Nigeria have the power under S.69 & S.110 of the constitution to recall representatives who they feel are not performing. However, this power is hardly made use of. Thus the legislators become lukewarm to their oversight functions.