What is Legislation?

Legislation can simply be understood as the law enacted by a body empowered to do so. It is the source of law that most people are familiar with. It can be rightly regarded as the main source of law. In present day Nigeria, legislation for the Federation is made by the National Assembly. This is backed up by the provision of S. 4 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria (as amended) which provides:

The legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be vested in a National Assembly for the Federation, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.

Legislation could either be Acts, Ordinances, Decrees, Edicts and laws. Acts are laws made by the central legislature during a democracy. Ordinances are laws made by the central legislature before 1st Oct, 1954 (when federalism was introduced). On the other hand, decrees are federal laws made in a military regime, edicts are state laws in a military regime while laws are state laws in a democracy.

Before legislation can be enacted in a democracy, it has to pass through some procedures as provided for in the Constitution. On the other hand, in the case of A.G.F vs. Guardian Newspaper Ltd and Ors[1] it was decided by the courts that all it takes for a decree to be enacted is the valid signature of the military Head of State.

All federal legislation till 31st January 1990 in Nigeria were consolidated in the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990. (L.F.N 1990). It was revised in 2002 and is now published as L.F.N 2004.

Delegated Legislation

Delegated legislation is law that is made by bodies other than those constitutionally recognised to make laws. Delegated legislation is valid due to the fact that its authority is gotten via enabling statutes. An enabling statute is one which is made by the legislature in order to delegate a certain power of legislation to a body other than the legislature.

Legislation is also delegated to non-legislative bodies by provisions of the Constitution. For example, the constitution in S.248 provides that the President of the Court of Appeal is empowered to make rules to guide the practice and procedure of the court. There are similar provisions for the head of other courts[2]

The rationale behind the delegation of legislation is due to the fact that the legislature cannot monitor all facets of public life. There are people who are experts in a particular field, hence they would be more qualified to make laws that would guide regulation in such areas. In the example presented above, legislative power is given to judges in order to make laws guiding judicial proceedings. It would be very tasking and redundant if the legislature is the one that has to make law for practice and procedure in the law courts. Such activities are best left in the hands of experts.

It should be noted that a body to whom legislation has been delegated cannot delegate same to another body without express permission from the legislature itself. This is encapsulated in the maxim “delegatus non potest delegare” which means that you cannot delegate what has been delegated to you.


[1] (1999) 5 S.C.N.J 324

[2] See S. 236, 254 and 259 of the Constitution


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