The National Assembly has contributed a lot in stabilising and deepening Nigeria’s constitutional democracy through strengthening of due process and the rule of law, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, has said.
Speaking on the topic, “Deepening Democracy: Role of the Legislature,” at the third Public Lecture series of Nasarawa State University, Keffi, on Monday, Hon Dogara said the Nigerian parliament’s contribution to deepening democracy through its various functions helped to stabilise democracy in the country.
Going down memory lane, the Speaker narrated how the bill he sponsored in the 7th Assembly which sought to simply procedures for impeachment of the President and Vice President was defeated during the constitution amendment exercise.
He lamented that the provisions of section 143 of the 1999 constitution makes it impossible for the National Assembly remove the President or Vice President and described it as “satanic versus”.
He maintained that emocracy is a government of laws and not of men and that with provisions of section 143 in place Presidents can choose not to obey the law saying, “because he can choose the laws to obey without any retribution
Hon Dogara, argued that democracy cannot thrive without citizens’ active participation because it is the responsibility of the people to protect democracy and hold leaders accountable
“There can be no democracy without the active participation of the citizens. Any country where the government fear the citizens then it is a democracy.
He declared, “The legislature in Nigeria has contributed immensely in deepening the practice of constitutional democracy in Nigeria, especially since the introduction of the 1999 Constitution, in its various functions. If Democracy rests on the Due process and the Rule of Law, it therefore means that our Democracy can only be as deep as the laws upon which it is built.”
The Speaker also noted that the 8th House of Representatives under his leadership as Speaker, has made outstanding contributions to deepening democracy in Nigeria through the faithful implementation of its Legislative Agenda, which serves as a compass of its legislative activities for four years (2015 – 2019) to deepen democracy in Nigeria.
He added that the 8th Assembly achieved this by providing leadership in the areas of accountable and transparent government, citizens engagement, constituency representation, collaboration with its counterpart in the Senate and other arms of government to legislate for the common good of the Nigerian people, legislation to create reforms in Nigeria’s national economy and development, tackle poverty, unemployment, confront the scourge of corruption, terrorism and security challenges in the country, environment and reduction in the cost of running government, reduce wastage and tackle National Revenue leakages.
The Speaker also said other areas the House has been committed to playing its part include rescuing Nigeria from the clutches of hunger, poverty, disease, social, economic, political and infrastructural quagmire and ensuring transparency and accountability, not just by the House of Representatives but also by government at all levels.
“Even the most casual observer of Nigeria’s democracy in the last three electoral cycles would admit that despite perceived gaps in the exercise of its oversight mandate, the legislature at the national level has achieved a modicum of institutional growth. At the national level, the legislature is increasingly becoming more assertive in the process of law making,” he stated.
Hon Dogara said it was in view of the fact that a weak legislature is antithetical to good governance and consolidation of the country’s hard won democracy, that the National Assembly, through various legislative measures, intervened to specifically strengthen the Legislative institution in order to position it to play its prominent role in our constitutional democracy.
“The National Assembly amended the Constitution in 2010 that placed it on the first line charge, thereby ensuring its relative financial and administrative autonomy.
“Furthermore, the National Assembly set up the National Institute of Legislative Studies to provide crucial capacity enhancement for legislators, legislative staff and the institution as a whole.”
On issues of national unity and resolving crises and stemming centrifugal forces in Nigeria, he appraised the legislature as outstanding, citing, among others, examples of the enactment of The Niger Delta Development Commission (Establishment) Act 2000 and The Revenue Allocation (Allocation of On Shore-Off Shore Dichotomy) Act, 2004 for which the National Assembly overrode presidential veto, and the North East Development Commission Act, 2017 to rehabilitate, reconstruct and re-develop the zone.
He also noted that the legislature shares in the success of Nigeria’s 2011 which were acclaimed the most credible since 1999 and that the 2015 general election was even much better because of the specific interventions on electoral reform as contained in the First and Second Constitution Alteration Acts, 2010-2011 to grant the financial independence of INEC, consent of the Senate for the appointment of State Independent Electoral Commissioners, enhance internal party democracy through the introduction of compulsory party primaries with monitoring by INEC, authorising INEC to de-register Political Parties, introduction of electronic accreditation by INEC, among others.
The Speaker also said the House of Representatives has exposed corruption through about hundreds of investigative hearings on economic crimes in the country over the years, with the 8th House of Representatives conducting over 50 Investigative Hearings.
“These include investigations on the award of contract for the rehabilitation of Nigerian Railways; Installation of CCTV Cameras in Abuja and Lagos, alleged $17 billion stolen from undeclared crude oil and LNG exports to global destinations; The investigative hearing on Centenary City Project; Pre- Shipment investigation, Amnesty programme and Several anti- corruption investigations have also been conducted by the 8th House of Representatives.”
Another area he said the legislature has deepened democracy is through representation, where the legislator, due to his or her close contact with constituents, get direct knowledge of their needs and petitions on their grievances and agitations.
The Speaker explained, “Representation is at the very heart of representative and constitutional democracy
“It is this democratic theory of representation that gave rise to what is now commonly known as Constituency or Zonal Intervention projects, which is now an entrenched policy deliberately crafted to ensure equitable representation of every constituency in the allocation and distribution of the resources of the nation.
“The rationale is that an elected member of parliament is closer to his people than unelected persons who hold sway in the budgetary processes and policy execution.
“The Representative role of the legislature includes providing democratic legitimacy for the government. The accessibility of the Legislature to the ordinary citizen helps to engender confidence in the system. Citizens who regard their government as legitimate are more likely to obey laws, support the regime and accommodate diverse points of view. Citizen participation in the legislative process is vital to creating this sense of legitimacy.”
The full speech:
“DEEPENING DEMOCRACY:THE ROLE OF THE LEGISLATURE”.
It is with great pleasure that I accepted the honour and privilege of
speaking to this ivory tower on the topic “Deepening Democracy: Role
of the Legislature”. This I understand is the third in the Public
Lecture series of the University. I am particularly delighted for the
opportunity to share my views and experiences with all of you, but
particularly, the students who will soon be saddled with the
responsibility of leading our country in various aspects of human
endeavour. It is my hope that at the end of the day you will be left
in no doubt that the legislature is the true organ of representation
of the people.
2. May I first bring to you the complements of the House of
Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, one of the two
chambers of the National Assembly vested with the ‘legislative powers
of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’ by the Constitution. The other
being the Senate (Section 4(1).
3. Permit me also to thank the Vice Chancellor, Governing Council,
the Senate, Congregation, Academic and Non academic Staff and Students
of this great citadel of learning for inviting me to speak.
INTRODUCTION AND DEFINITION OF KEY CONCEPTS:
4. I will approach this lecture by first defining key concepts. I
will thereafter locate the source of authority of the legislature, its
functions and role in a democratic society, and finally x-ray the
actual performance of legislative functions over the years to enhance
and deepen democracy in Nigeria. For the purposes of this lecture, I
will concentrate on the role of the National Assembly, knowing full
well that the functions of the legislature at the national and state
levels are basically the same. Moreover, there is not enough
information to appraise the performance of State Houses of Assembly in
5. Without sounding very academic it is obvious that this lecture
would not be complete without understanding some concepts relevant to
the topic of discussion, especially Democracy and Legislature. What
therefore is democracy and how has it evolved over the years? It seems
from available evidence, that there are no settled definitions of
Democracy. It means different things to different people and is
largely dependent on the type and system of government being practiced
by a given political entity. Historically, democracy comes from two
Greek words, ‘Demos’, meaning ‘people’ and ‘kratos’, meaning, ‘rule’
or ‘power’. It is thus, a system of government in which the people
rule. Democracy also has roots in the Magna Carta, England’s “Great
Charter” of 1215 that was the first document to challenge the
authority of the English king, subjecting him to the rule of the law
and protecting his people from feudal abuse. In our modern era,
perhaps the most popular definition of democracy is credited to
Abraham Lincoln, the former President of the United States, in his
Gettysburg Address, where he described democracy as: ‘Government of
the people by the people for the people’. It was Winston Churchill,
the former British Prime Minister who said: “Democracy is the worst
form of government, except all those other forms that have been tried
from time to time.”
The Britannia online description of democracy, is perhaps a good
foundation of understanding the different strands of democracy, thus:
“The term has three basic senses in contemporary usage: (1) a form of
government in which the right to make political decisions is exercised
directly by the whole body of citizens, acting under procedures of
majority rule, usually known as direct democracy; (2) a form of
government in which the citizens exercise the same right not in person
but through representatives chosen by and responsible to them, known
as representative democracy; and (3) a form of government, usually a
representative democracy, in which the powers of the majority are
exercised within a framework of constitutional restraints designed to
guarantee all citizens the enjoyment of certain individual or
collective rights, such as freedom of speech and religion, known as
liberal, or constitutional, democracy.” –
Britannica Online http://www.eb.com:180/cgibin/g?DocF=micro/164/95.html.
6. In this lecture, it may be more accurate to use the term,
constitutional democracy which Nigeria currently practices. That
Nigeria is a democracy is even stated in the Constitution itself.
Indeed S.14 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
(the Constitution) provides that ‘14. (1) The Federal Republic of
Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and
(2) It is hereby, accordingly, declared that
(a) sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government
through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority;
b) the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary
purpose of government: and
(c) the participation by the people in their government shall be
ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
7. The Constitution made an attempt above to itemize the ingredients
of the principles of democracy. S.14(2)(2(c) enjoins the observance of
some form of participatory democracy. The key elements of democracy,
A political system where the government is enthroned with the consent
of the governed through periodic free and fair elections; The active
participation of the people, as sovereign, in the affairs of State;
Protection of fundamental freedoms and human rights of all citizens;
Good governance which encompasses transparency and accountability of
government to the people; Ensuring fidelity to the Rule of Law, in
which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.
8. The system of government established by the Constitution meets all
the democratic criteria set out above. The Federal, State and Local
Governments can only be constituted through democratic processes which
requires all the key actors especially Legislature and key officers in
the Executive Branch like the President, Vice President, Governor and
Deputy Governor to be democratically elected. The Constitution also
guarantees ‘the system of democratically elected local government
Councils’. The tenure of the Chief Executives of both Federal and
State governments is constitutionally limited to two terms of Four
9. In addition, participatory democracy is constitutionally assured
through the right of a citizen to vote at elections for Executive and
legislative offices and be voted for, subject to a set criteria of
eligibility. There can be no democracy without the effective and
active participation of the people. And as stated by former President
“Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who
would protect the rights and privileges of freemen”
The Constitution further guarantees basic human rights and individual
freedoms in Chapter 4 thereof. It establishes a presidential system of
government that fairly separates the personnel and functions of each
arm of government namely, the legislature that makes law, the
Executive that executes the law so made and the Judiciary that
interprets the laws. Apart from separation of powers of government,
the Constitution introduced a lot of measures for checks and balances
of each arm of government. In Tony Momoh vs. Senate, the Supreme Court
“The Nigerian Constitution separates the three arms of government –
executive, legislative, and judicial – and each is supreme in its area
of authority, but only in so far as it confines itself to, and acts
within the powers conferred on it. If it exceeds such powers or acts
in contravention of or in conflict with the provisions of the
Constitution, it would be the duty of the judiciary to put it in check
at the instance of an aggrieved party.”
The purpose of these provisions is to ensure the enthronement of
democracy and the prevention of autocracy. It was felt that
concentration of governmental powers in one department and fusion of
the personnel of different arms would be anti democratic and may lead
to dictatorship. After all it was Lord Acton that said:‘ Power
corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. And as was admirably
stated by the Court of Appeal in Nemi vs. AG Lagos State, the rule of
law “is the first principle of democracy as exemplified in the
doctrine of separation of powers which is antithetical to autocracy”.
However, the Constitution has not created so rigid a separation of
governmental powers as to lead to anarchy and breakdown of democratic
governance. It was this spirit that led the Court of Appeal to declare
in Gadi vs. Male,that in spite of the allocation of powers to these
different arms, they ‘are under an onerous duty to work with one
another in a harmonious and congenial atmosphere, for the purpose of
promoting good governance and welfare of all persons in our country on
the principles of Freedom, Equity, and justice”
10. Having fairly dealt with the question of Democracy, it is now apt
to attempt a definition of what Legislature means.
Historically, the idea of Legislature has been around for a long time.
The Greek City States with Athens as the most prominent had a
legislature called “Ecclesia”, of which all citizens above twenty
years of age were members.They meet forty times a year.
The Constitution of Rome as far back as the 3rd Century BC, had four
classes of lower Assemblies. It also had an upper legislative Chamber,
called the SENATE with a membership of 300 eminent citizens. They
usually reviewed decisions of the lower Assemblies. The Senate was the
pre-eminent parliamentary body of the day and is one of the legacies
of the Roman Parliamentary System.
The idea of a central legislative Assembly, Congress or parliament can
be traced to Medieval Europe. The burning issue of Taxation and the
opposition to the ruling Monarch’s control of taxation led to the
cliché of “no taxation without Representation” as a banner of and the
bedrock of representative government.
This eventually led to the birth of the British parliament. The
Legislature in the USA was a creation of the Constitutional Convention
that produced the US Constitution.
Legislature just like Democracy has different meanings to different
persons. Loewenberg (1995:736) conceptualizes legislatures as
“assemblies of elected representatives from geographically defined
constituencies, with law making functions in the governmental
process”. John Stuart Mills clearly emphasized that ‘it is the duty
of the legislature to watch and control the government (executive); to
throw the light of publicity in its acts, to compel a full exposition
and justification of all of them which anyone considers questionable’.
It is useful to underscore the fact that these generic functions of
the legislature are adequately covered in the constitutional powers
assigned to the Nigerian legislature in the 1999 Constitution of the
Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
But whatever definition you may adopt, the legislature is essentially
a body of persons, who are empowered to make, change, or repeal the
laws of a country, state or entity. The essential purpose of this
lecture is to showcase the role of the legislature in deepening
democracy and democratic practices, especially in Nigeria.
POWERS AND FUNCTIONS OF THE LEGISLATURE:
11. The legislative powers of the Federation are provided in Section
4(1-5) of the Constitution and vested exclusively in the National
Assembly S.4(1). Furthermore, The National Assembly shall have power
to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the
Federation or any part thereof with respect to any matter included in
the Exclusive Legislative List set out in Part I of the Second
Schedule to this Constitution. – 4(2). It is further provided that
‘The power of the National Assembly to make laws for the peace, order
and good government of the Federation with respect to any matter
included in the Exclusive Legislative List shall, save as otherwise
provided in this Constitution, be to the exclusion of the Houses of
Assembly of States’ S.4(3).
These provisions were interpreted in Attorney General, Abia State vs.
Attorney General of the Federation, where the Supreme Court, per Niki
Tobi of blessed memory said: “By the provision(S.4(2)), the law making
power of the National Assembly is not restricted to the federal
government, but also extends to any part of the Federation if the
latter is in the Exclusive Legislative List. The second arm of Section
4(2), like the first arm, is not open ended. It is restricted to
matters included in Exclusive List set out in part one of the Second
Schedule of the Constitution.”
‘In addition and without prejudice to the powers conferred by
subsection (2) of this section, the National Assembly shall have power
to make laws with respect to the following matters, that is to say:-
(a) any matter in the Concurrent Legislative List set out in the first
column of Part II of the Second Schedule to this Constitution to the
extent prescribed in the second column opposite thereto; and
(b) any other matter with respect to which it is empowered to make
laws in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution’. S.4(4).
By virtue of Section 4(5) of the Constitution ‘If any Law enacted by
the House of Assembly of a State is inconsistent with any law validly
made by the National Assembly, the law made by the National Assembly
shall prevail, and that other Law shall, to the extent of the
inconsistency, be void’.
12. The Constitution also provides in S.4(6) for States Legislative
powers as follows. ‘The legislative powers of a State of the
Federation shall be vested in the House of Assembly of the State.”
And by virtue of ‘S.4(7): “The House of Assembly of a State shall have
power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the
State or any part thereof with respect to the following matters, that
is to say:- (a) any matter not included in the Exclusive Legislative
List set out in Part I of the Second Schedule to this Constitution.
(b) any matter included in the Concurrent Legislative List set out in
the first column of Part II of the Second Schedule to this
Constitution to the extent prescribed in the second column opposite
thereto; and (c) any other matter with respect to which it is
empowered to make laws in accordance with the provisions of this
The effect of the S.4(7) provision is that any matter that is neither
in the Exclusive Legislative List or Concurrent Legislative List is
squarely within the jurisdiction of the States as a residual matter.
This was the view of the Supreme Court also In reOlafisoye, agreeing
with Professor B.O. Nwabueze, thus, “The Federal arrangement under the
Presidential Constitution assigns to the federal government power over
enumerated matters, leaving to the state governments, the residue of
matters not so enumerated, called residual matters.”
S.4(8) states that ‘Save as otherwise provided by this Constitution,
the exercise of legislative powers by the National Assembly or by a
House of Assembly shall be subject to the jurisdiction of courts of
law and of judicial tribunals established by law, and accordingly, the
National Assembly or a House of Assembly shall not enact any law, that
ousts or purports to oust the jurisdiction of a court of law or of a
judicial tribunal established by law’.
S.4(9) says that ‘Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this
section, the National Assembly or a House of Assembly shall not, in
relation to any criminal offense whatsoever, have power to make any
law which shall have retrospective effect’.
13. Apart from S.4 of the Constitution which is essentially power to
make laws, the National Assembly has a plenitude of other powers
embedded in the Constitution, designed to enable it perform its
leading role in our democracy. These include power to conduct
investigations (S.88); to act as watchdog of public funds; power of
appropriations (S.80-84); power of confirmation of presidential
appointments, checks and balances, Oversight, removal of certain
officials, approval of declaration of state of emergency,
implementation of treaties, impeachment of Mr President and Vice
President and their removal from office; receipt of Auditor-Generals
Report; Power to make laws for the states in certain circumstances,
power to override presidential veto of legislation, power to regulate
political parties, power to approve troops deployments for war; power
to amend the Constitution; Power to regulate its internal proceedings;
Other powers include powers to establish Contingency funds and other
public funds of the Federation or states; power to authorize
expenditure from Consolidated Revenue Fund of the federation or states
through Appropriation Acts/Laws; power of the National Assembly to fix
remuneration, salaries and allowances for President, Vice President,
Chief Justice of the Federation and other officers specified in the
Constitution; and the power of the National Assembly to approve
proposals for revenue allocation from the Federation Account and
distribution of monies from the federation account between the
Federal, State and Local Governments. In fact, a recent study
identified about One Hundred and TwentyTwo powers of the National
Assembly embedded in the Constitution.
14. I have gone to this elaborate extent to leave no one in doubt as
to the plenitude of legislative powers vested in both the National
Assembly and the Houses of Assembly of the States in the Federal
Republic of Nigeria. The next question that arises is as to how has
these powers been used to deepen democracy in Nigeria?
15. I would answer this question by submitting that the very
existence of an elected legislature in Nigeria is a major development
in Nigeria’s democratic history as it was not always so. We are all
familiar with the story of military interventions in Nigeria and how
they ruled for 29 years without an elected legislature. In Nigeria
therefore the term democracy actually essentially refers to the
existence of an elected legislature as the Executive and Judicial
branches even though with an unelected Executive have always
functioned even under various military juntas.
16. An elected legislature has three essential functions; Law making,
representation and oversight. We have already exhausted the law making
functions of the legislature represented by S.4 and other enabling
provisions. The Constitution also clearly delineates the status of
members of the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly as
representatives. This is the inescapable interpretation of S.48 and 49
of the Constitution: “The Senate shall consist of three Senators from
each state and one from the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja”.
“Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the House of
Representatives shall consist of three Hundred and sixtymembers
representing Constituencies of nearly equal population as far as
possible, provided that no constituency shall fall within more than
one State”. This is the basis of the Legislatures’ representative
Oversight powers of the Legislature ensures that the parliament
exercises a supervisory role over the other organs of government in
order to enthrone good democratic governance. It performs its
oversight functions through scrutiny of executive branch agencies and
policies. The Constitution directly empowers the legislature to act as
a check on the Executive Branch.
This is the irresistible conclusion and interpretation of S. 88 thereof.
S. 88 says: “(1) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, each
House of the National Assembly shall have power by resolution
published in its journal or in the Official Gazette of the Government
of the Federation to direct or cause to be directed investigation into
(a) any matter or thing with respect to which it has power to make laws, and
(b) the conduct of affairs of any person, authority, ministry or
government department charged, or intended to be charged, with the
duty of or responsibility for –
(i) executing or administering laws enacted by National Assembly, and
(ii) disbursing or administering moneys appropriated or to be
appropriated by the National Assembly.
(2) The powers conferred on the National Assembly under the provisions
of this section are exercisable only for the purpose of enabling it to
(a) make laws with respect to any matter within its legislative
competence and correct any defects in existing laws; and
(b) expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or
administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the
disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it”.
For the efficacy of the powers conferred on the legislature in S. 88,
the Constitution provided the means for achieving the lofty goals
enunciated. Thus S.89 says “(1) For the purposes of any investigation
under section 88 of this Constitutional and subject to the provisions
thereof, the Senate or the House of Representatives or a committee
appointed in accordance with section 62 of this Constitution shall
have power to –
(a) procure all such evidence, written or oral, direct or
circumstantial, as it may think necessary or desirable, and examine
all persons as witnesses whose evidence may be material or relevant to
the subject matter;
(b) require such evidence to be given on oath;
(c) summon any person in Nigeria to give evidence at any place or
produce any document or other thing in his possession or under his
control, and examine him as a witness and require him to produce any
document or other thing in his possession or under his control,
subject to all just exceptions; and
(d) issue a warrant to compel the attendance of any person who, after
having been summoned to attend, fails, refuses or neglects to do so
and does not excuse such failure, refusal or neglect to the
satisfaction of the House or the committee in question, and order him
to pay all costs which may have been occasioned in compelling his
attendance or by reason of his failure, refusal or neglect to obey the
summons, and also to impose such fine as may be prescribed for any
such failure, refused or neglect; and any fine so imposed shall be
recoverable in the same manner as a fine imposed by a court of law.
(2) A summons or warrant issued under this section may be served or
executed by any member of the Nigeria Police Force or by any person
authorised in that behalf by the President of the Senate or the
Speaker of the House of Representatives, as the case may require”.
In addition to the above, the legislature uses the instrument of
legislation to strengthen its constitutionally assigned role of
providing checks on the Executive. This is the basis for the enactment
of The Legislative Houses, Powers and Privileges Act which further
expounds and gives teeth to the legislature to perform its functions.
17. Furthermore, the Constitution has given the legislature power to
control its internal affairs by Regulation. S.60 of the Constitution
is to the effect that the legislature shall have power to regulate its
The National Assembly has pursuant to this constitutional power,
creatively made its internal operational rules called STANDING ORDERS
to guide its operations. And because the Constitution directly
protects the sanctity and authority of the Standing Orders, it has
given the legislature further tools to use to safeguard its
legislative prerogatives and ensure good governance in our practice of
CONTRIBUTION OF THE LEGISLATURE IN DEEPENING DEMOCRACY:
18. The legislature in Nigeria has contributed immensely in deepening
the practice of constitutional democracy in Nigeria, especially since
the introduction of the 1999 Constitution, in its various functions.
If Democracy rests on the Due process and the Rule of Law, it
therefore means that our Democracy can only be as deep as the laws
upon which it is built.
The 8th House of Representatives under my leadership as Speaker, at
its inauguration set out an ambitious Legislative Agenda, which serves
as a compass of its legislative activities for four years (2015 –
2019) to deepen democracy in Nigeria. It committed in the Agenda thus:
“..The legislature’s contributions to Nigeria’s democracy remain
critical and important. The 8th House of Representatives will assert
its role in providing leadership in the areas of accountable and
transparent government, citizens engagement, as well as constituency
The House of Representatives will collaborate with its counterpart in
the Senate and other arms of government to legislate for the common
good of the Nigerian people. Our legislative activities will cover
critical spheres of life in Nigeria. The House will legislate to
achieve reforms in Nigeria’s national economy and development, tackle
poverty, unemployment, confront the scourge of corruption, terrorism
and security challenges in the country. The House will also give
priority to green legislations to address environmental challenges
such as desertification, erosion and pollution. The 8thHouse of
Representatives will also work assiduously to improve the governance
process in Nigeria by legislating to cut the cost of running
government, reduce wastage and tackle National Revenue leakages. The
House commits to playing its part in rescuing Nigeria from the
clutches of hunger, poverty, disease, social, economic, political and
The 8th House of Representatives, as a Peoples’ Parliament, will be
sensitive to public demands for transparency and accountability not
just by the House of Representatives but also by government at all
levels. Our legislative actions would therefore seek to build public
confidence and trust and be responsive to citizens’ questions
regarding the conduct of legislative business. The House will work for
public good and serve as the institution that defends the rights of
the people to an accountable and transparent government.”
CONTRIBUTIONS THROUGH LAW- MAKING:
19. In the area of law-making, it has used its extensive law-making
powers to make land mark legislations and critical interventions not
only to advance democracy in Nigeria but to promote the economic,
social and political wellbeing of Nigeria. The National Assembly has
over the years used legislative measures to also promote national
unity, democratic stability, national security and good governance.
Law-making is perhaps the most important aspect of the work of the
legislature. Legislation involves the introduction of bills by
legislators. In Nigeria, a member may introduce a bill, called
Private-Members’ Bills. The Executive, especially Mr. President may
also initiate legislation by informing the Presiding Officer of his
legislative proposals. This is referred to as Executive Bill. However,
apart from money Bills, such as Appropriation Bill, Supplementary
Appropriation Bill, Contingency Funds of the Federation, the
Constitution does not give the President express powers to initiate
legislation. This is a distinguishing feature of the presidential
system of government from the parliamentary system.
The 8th Assembly at the incipient empanelled a Committee of experts to
review all existing laws with a view to recommending ways by which
they can be made adaptable to existing realities. A record number of
Bills were produced by this Committee which if passed into law will
not only help deepen our laws but clean up our statute books. By
deepening our laws, the Legislature would have succeeded in deepening
our democratic process. This is one of the most important work of
deepening our democracy that the legislature is currently engaged in.
20. Even the most casual observer of Nigeria’s democracy in the last
three electoral cycles would admit that despite perceived gaps in the
exercise of its oversight mandate, the legislature at the national
level has achieved a modicum of institutional growth. At the national
level, the legislature is increasingly becoming more assertive in the
process of law making. The 6th, 7th and 8th National Assemblies
showed remarkable progress in terms of increase in the proportion of
Members’ Bill that were considered and passed into law over the number
of the Executive Bills that hitherto dominated Bills considered and
passed by the National Assembly. Many of them are high impact
legislation that includes anti-corruption, Freedom of Information, and
constitutional amendments that have deliberately sought to respond to
some of the lacuna in the 1999 Constitution and tended to impact
negatively on governance.
21. In order to ensure democratic accountability and ease the work of
the legislature, with respect to its law making functions, parliament
creates Committees with mandates on different areas or subjects
traversing the gamut of the entire governmental functions. This makes
specialists out of legislators and leads to better and more
qualitative legislative output.
22. I make bold to say that the National Assembly has been an
activist, enlightened and progressive institution, focused on the
people’s interest since 1999. It has demonstrated its efforts in
deepening democracy through the various legislations on all aspects of
our national life. It has been a formidable institution of the
Nigerian people over the years in spite of its shortcomings as a human
23. The National Assembly’s legislative response to the issues of
national unity and resolving crises and stemming centrifugal forces in
Nigeria has been outstanding. The following examples readily come to
mind. During the early Niger-Delta crises, the National Assembly
enacted two major pieces of legislation, namely:
– The Niger Delta Development Commission (Establishment) Act 2000 and
– The Revenue Allocation (Allocation of On Shore – Off Shore
Dichotomy) Act, 2004.
The National Assembly was so concerned with consolidation of peace and
democracy in Nigeria that it overrode presidential veto of the Bill
and provided more favourable financial terms than Mr. President
Only recently, the National Assembly responded to the socio-economic
devastation and displacement of over 3 million people in the North
East Zone by establishing through a Private Members Bill, the North
East Development Commission Act, 2017 to rehabilitate, reconstruct and
re-develop the zone.
24. National Assembly also sought to re-dress the educational
imbalances between various states and regions and to uplift the social
status of every Nigerian by intervening legislatively in the education
sector through the: Compulsory Free Universal Basic Education Act,
2004, which mandatorily requires every government in Nigeria to
provide “free universal basic education for all children of primary
and junior secondary school age”. Citizens of democracy cannot afford
to stay ignorant and free.
25. The National Assembly intervened to provide a level playing field
for the practice of freedom of religion by repealing the Nigerian
Pilgrims Act, 1989 which catered exclusively for moslem pilgrimages
and replaced it with the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON)
Establishment Act, 2006 and the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission
(Establishment) Act, 2007, to take care of both Moslems and Christian
26. In furtherance of the Constitutional prescription that security
and welfare of the people is the primary purpose of government, the
National Assembly through various legislative measures have promoted
democratic stability in the country. The passage of following laws
bears this out
• The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps Act, 2003;
• The Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 as amended in 2012;
• Approval of the state of Emergency proclamation in the States of
Plateau, Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
27. Perhaps the most important legislation passed by the National
Assembly is related to electoral reforms, geared towards ensuring free
and fair elections which is a sine quo non to any meaningful
In my own estimation, the contribution of the national legislature to
the review of the legal and constitutional framework of electoral
democracy stands out as a landmark contribution to deepening democracy
in Nigeria. If indeed, the widely shared reports of domestic and
international observers that Nigeria’s 2011 elections were the most
credible since 1999 and that the 2015 general election was even much
better, the legislature in Nigeria should legitimately appropriate
some of the credit.
The following are some of the specific interventions, on electoral reform:
• The First and Second Constitution Alteration Acts, 2010-2011
ensured the financial independence of INEC by placing them in the
first line charges;
• Various amendments of the Electoral Act ensured that the consent of
the Senate is obtained for the appointment of State Independent
• Internal party democracy has been enhanced by the introduction of
compulsory party primaries with monitoring by INEC;
• Authorising INEC to de-register Political Parties;
• Introduction of electronic accreditation by INEC;
• Proposed Constitution amendment introducing Independent Candidacy
with safeguards to avoid crowding the ballot paper.
• Proposed Constitution amendment introducing qualifications for
access to the ballot by political parties and Independent Candidates.
• Proposed Constitution amendment which will ensure that only
candidates that have passed through all the stages of the electoral
processes are declared duly elected, in a direct reversal of the
Supreme Court decision in the case of Amaechi Vs INEC.
• Proposed constitutional amendment reducing age qualification for
political offices A.K.A Not too young to Run in response to the
yearnings of young men and women who were excluded in the political
28. From our experience in the practice of democracy, the existence
of an enlightened and a well-informed electorate is very important for
making a democratic and credible choice of candidates or choice of
political parties that will best advance the interest of the voter. A
well informed civil society also plays a key democratic role of
holding the government accountable. It is in this respect that the
work of the National Assembly in passing the Freedom of Information
(FOI) Act, a Private-Members’ Bill, should be appreciated. This Act
liberalized access to public records and information as opposed to the
Official Secrets Act.
29. A major legislation by the National Assembly that helps to
promote democracy and Rule of Law and observance of human rights, and
accountability is the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)
Amendment Act, 2010, which gave the agency an independent status and
established it as a very important organ for redressing rights
violations and mechanisms for public enlightenment and citizen
engagement including a robust public hearing procedure. Funding of the
Commission is now a direct charge on the Consolidated Revenue Fund of
the Federal Government.
30. In the area of promotion of the Rule of Law, checks and balances
and judicial oversight, the National Assembly passed the …”Supreme
Court (Additional Jurisdiction) Act, 2002”, giving the Supreme Court
exclusive original jurisdiction in any constitutional disputes between
the National Assembly and the President, between the National Assembly
and a State of the Federation.
The National Assembly also passed “The Constitution of the Federal
Republic of Nigeria (third Alteration) Act, 2010” which established
the National Industrial Court as a superior Court of Record dealing
exclusively with employment, industrial relations and labour disputes.
A major contribution to stable labour relations in Nigeria.
31. Constitutional democracy cannot survive where there is
debilitating poverty and very weak economy. Corruption is one of the
major factors that contribute to the poor economy of many countries,
where it is endemic. It was therefore as a major contribution in
deepening our democracy when the National Assembly passed laws to
checkmate corruption in Nigeria.
The laws include:
• Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 which
established the ICPC
• The EFCC (establishment) Act, 2007, which established the Economic
and Financial Crimes Commission.
32. Further efforts at institutionalizing the fight against corruption
and promotion of transparency, was the enactment of the Public
Procurement Act, 2007, which in general sought to prevent fraudulent
and unfair procurement so that government could have value for money
for goods and services procured.
33. Other transparency related laws aimed at stabilizing Nigeria’s
• Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007 to ensure greater efficiency in the
management of public finances.
• Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) Act,
2007 which established a legislative framework for ensuring due
process, transparency, accountability and the elimination of “all
forms of corrupt practices…. in the reporting and disclosure” of all
revenues due or payable to the Federal Government and other statutory
recipients by extractive industry companies and the application or use
of those revenues by the government.
• The Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (Establishment etc) Act,
2011, set up an authority with an initial capital of $1Billion US
Dollars, to receive, manage and invest in a diversified portfolio,
revenues from the government in order to “prepare for the eventual
depletion of Nigeria’s hydrocarbon reserves”.
•The National Assembly has through various legislative measures
intervened to specifically strengthen the Legislative institution in
order to position it to play its prominent role in our constitutional
democracy. A weak legislature is antithetical to good governance and
consolidation of our hard won democracy. The National Assembly amended
the Constitution in 2010 that placed it on the first line charge
thereby ensuring its relative financial and administrative autonomy.
Furthermore, the National Assembly set up the National Institute of
Legislative Studies to provide crucial capacity enhancement for
legislators, legislative staff and the institution as a whole. The
institute has a mandate to also enlighten Nigerians on the role and
place of the legislature in our democratic process. The National
Assembly Service Commission Act has ensured that service matters of
the legislature are handled within the purview of the legislative
institution to enhance the separation of powers design of the
Constitution. The National Assembly Budget and Research Office Bill
(NABRO)has been passed by both chambers and is awaiting presidential
assent. This law is expected to provide the legislative arm of
government with a robust, well researched and accurate information and
data on the economy, budget data and other financial information that
will enable the Legislature adopt proper legislative measures on
subjects of interest.
• Many other bills have been processed to aid our economic growth and
development. These include the National Communications Communications
Act, Pension Reform Act, Central Bank of Nigeria Act 2007 and a host
34. The House of Representatives has received and processed over 2000
Bills between 1999 and 2017. Interestingly, less than 40% were
Executive Bills. The bulk were Private Members’ Bills. The 8th House
of Representatives has so far passed 159 Bills out of the 1055 bill
presented for first reading between 2015-2017 (November). 30 Bills
have so far received Presidential assent since June 2015. While about
6 had been vetoed. The National Assembly successfully overrode the
veto of Mr President on one of the bills, the Lottery Act Amendment
35. Perhaps one of the greatest contribution to deepening democracy in
Nigeria by the Legislature was the rejection of the proposed amendment
of the Constitution to extent the term of office of the President and
Governors beyond the limit of Eight Years. By so doing, the National
Assembly contributed in no small measure to ensuring that the
democratic process is entrenched as the means of ensuring respect to
term of office limit and for resolving the intractable problem of
succession which historically has bedeviled Nigeria’s democracy. It
was perhaps one of democracy’s finest hour. It marked out the
legislature in Nigeria as independent, enlightened, nationalistic, and
a credible institution that had come of age.
Again, in 2010, a constitutional crisis with potential to sound the
death knell of the Fourth Republic was averted by the National
Assembly, which had to invoke the so called “Doctrine of Necessity” to
make the then Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan Acting President with a
diminished prospect of the ailing President UmaruYar’adua returning to
office. The prospect of the ailing president dying in office created
anxiety within the then ruling party and the nation. The tension
generated across the country and the resurgence of North/South
political fault lines sent alarming signals, including rumours of
politicians seeking the intervention of the military to avoid a
catastrophe. The “Doctrine of Necessity” invented by the leadership of
the National Assembly culminated in the passage of a historic motion
by both Chambers of the National Assembly. This calmed nerves and
returned the country to the path of political stability.
36. Whatever contributions of the legislature so far elucidated, pales
into insignificance when the appropriate role the legislature plays in
the public finance sector of the economy is interrogated.
The annual budgetary process presents a yearly opportunity for the
legislature to allocate funds to all sectors of the economy. The
budget is perhaps the most important piece of legislation dealt with
by parliament annually. It is the instrument used by the legislature
to ensure that the needs of the people are provided for. Although the
Constitution gives the President the power to initiate financial
legislation by providing that “The President shall cause to be
prepared and laid before each House of the National assembly at any
time in each financial year, estimates of the revenue and expenditure
of the Federation for the next following financial year (S.81(1)), the
Constitution nevertheless grants the legislature power to scrutinize
the budget proposed by Mr. President on behalf of the people who
elected them. Ample authority for unimpeded legislative action on the
budget by the National Assembly can be found in many parts of the
Constitution including Sections 4, 80(2); 80(3) and 80(4). In any
case, the ultimate power over money Bills is provided for in S.59 of
the Constitution, where the National Assembly is given power to
override any veto or withholding of assent by Mr President on any Bill
including money Bill.
CONTRIBUTIONS THROUGH OVERSIGHT FUNCTIONS OF THE LEGISLATURE:
37. Oversight over the activities of mostly the Executive branch is
one of the cardinal functions of the legislature that helps to deepen
the practice of democracy, especially in a presidential democracy.
The model of presidentialism practiced in the United States of America
influenced Nigeria’s adoption of the presidential system of
government. Legislative oversight was developed by practice and
judicial approval in the USA. In Nigeria, however, legislative
oversight is imbedded in S. 88 of the Constitution, with the tools of
conducting it provided in S.89. It is a major devise used by the
legislature in Nigeria to expose corruption, waste and mismanagement
of public funds in the public sector. The sometimes mind boggling
revelations unearthed by various Committees of the National Assembly
helps deepen the democratic process and accountability of the
government to the people.
38. I will give a few examples of the work of the Nigerian legislature
in this field.
The House of Representatives has conducted about hundreds of
investigative hearings and presented reports on major economic crimes
in the country over the years. The 8th House of Representatives
conducted over 50 Investigative Hearings. These include investigations
on the award of contract for the rehabilitation of Nigerian Railways;
Installation of CCTV Cameras in Abuja and Lagos, alleged $17 billion
stolen from undeclared crude oil and LNG exports to global
destinations; The investigative hearing on Centenary City Project;
Pre- Shipment investigation, Amnesty programme and Several anti-
corruption investigations have also been conducted by the 8th House of
Representatives. Further instances where Legislative oversight was
used as a major instrument for uncovering various acts of corruption
and mismanagement of public funds which is healthy for development of
democracy and good governance, can be gleaned from these few examples.
• National Assembly oversight work exposed pension fraud worth
billions of Naira, about N195billion.
• Aviation sector had also witnessed major investigations and
resolutions over the years.
• House of Representatives investigation uncovered various sharp or
fraudulent practices by several MDA’s which included under
declaration, non-remittance and diversion of revenues generated by
them of over 2 Trillion Naira.
• Several National Assembly Committees exposed fraud in the management
of Ecological Funds.
• The Petroleum Sector has witnesses a series of investigative
hearing. The famous PTDF Investigation unearthed glaring
irregularities, in the Agency. The fuel subsidy investigation was a
landmark as it exposed the rot and scam in the fuel subsidy regime.
• A House Finance Committee investigation discovered various cash
balances in several accounts of Revenue collecting Agencies totaling
N563 Billion which had to be remitted into the Federation Account as a
result of the legislative intervention.
• NDDC Committee in 2005, secured the release of N18 Billion due to
the Commission from various oil companies.
• Frequent intervention of parliament has helped to ensure that
pensioners are paid as and when due, that workers returned to work,
and that the economy exited from the crushing recession we found our
selves in, not too long ago.
39. Parliamentary oversight has led to ensuring that only projects
with direct relevance or benefits to the people in accordance with the
MDGs now SDG’s were prioritized in budgetary allocations. In 2007,
MDGs committees ensured that about N38.5 billion was returned to the
coffers of the Federal Government which was traced to inefficiencies
and inability of MDAs to spend on MDGs-related projects.
CONTRIBUTIONS THROUGH REPRESENTATION:
40. Representation is the other important function of a legislator.
Representation is at the very heart of representative and
constitutional democracy. An elected representative is a person sent
by a constituency to represent the views and aspirations of his
people. He has a duty and responsibility to bring to the attention of
parliament the needs, problems and interests of his constituents.
41. It is this democratic theory of representation that gave rise to
what is now commonly known as Constituency or Zonal Intervention
projects, which is now an entrenched policy deliberately crafted to
ensure equitable representation of every constituency in the
allocation and distribution of the resources of the nation.
42. The rationale is that an elected member of parliament is closer
to his people than unelected persons who hold sway in the budgetary
processes and policy execution. “He who wears the shoe knows where it
pinches”, the adage says. Thus constituency A may require electricity
while Constituency B may require a road to enable them evacuate farm
produce. In the allocation of resources at the federal level, Mr
President, and Vice President who are the only elected persons in the
Executive branch are too far removed from the problems of a local
Constituency. The logic of democracy demands that the representative
be consulted on the prerogatives of his Constituency.
43. Furthermore, the only way a government can ensure even
distribution of projects, amenities and even appointments is to
consult elected parliamentarians or other representatives to ensure
that Federal character is respected. This is a critical role the
legislature plays in a democracy. It was not for nothing that S.14(3)
of the Constitution which is part of the Fundamental Objectives and
Directive Principles of State policy, which is the philosophical basis
of the Constitution, said:
“The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its
agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in in
such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the
need to promote National unity .. “
44. The Legislature sometime uses the mechanism of Resolutions to
express the will of parliament on different issues in furtherance of
its representational role in our democracy. Many landmark Resolutions
have been passed which serves the purpose of bringing the problems,
interests and aspirations of the people to the attention of the
government. Both Chambers of the National Assembly also maintain a
Public Petitions Committee with the primary responsibility of
entertaining complaints and petitions from constituents of
legislators. This ensures citizens democratic access to the
parliament. This process plays an invaluable role of providing
citizens with a listening ear and helps to douse tensions and
agitations in our polity. It is also a vehicle for political input and
a way to bring public concerns to parliament. The people feel that
they are part of the governing process and it vindicates the very idea
of democracy being a government of the people for the people. It has a
long history. As stated in 1947 by SpeakerGaspard Fauteux (House of
‘All authorities agree that the right of petitioning parliament for
redress of grievances is acknowledged as a fundamental principle of
the constitution. It has been uninterruptedly exercised from very
early times and has had a profound effect in determining the main
forms of parliamentary procedure’.
The right to petition is not a feature of only the parliamentary
system. The first amendment to the Bill of Rights of the United States
Constitution also acknowledged this: “Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free
exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press, or
the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the
government for a redress of grievances.”
The Representative role of the legislature includes providing
democratic legitimacy for the government. The accessibility of the
Legislature to the ordinary citizen helps to engender confidence in
the system. Citizens who regard their government as legitimate are
more likely to obey laws, support the regime and accommodate diverse
points of view. Citizen participation in the legislative process is
vital to creating this sense of legitimacy. I agree with the Political
scientist Norman Ornstein’s comments on the importance of legitimacy
of the legislature, using the example of Kenyan parliament: “The real
power and influence of the [Kenyan National] Assembly comes through
the exercise of its informal powers. The most important informal
function the legislature performs is to provide legitimacy to
government actions. This in turn promotes support among the populace
for the regime. The legitimizing function is vital in light of the
revolts and bouts of instability that have plagued other nations in
the region. By accommodating cultural and historical realities, the
Kenyan Assembly allows for opposition and dissent within the system,
yet also provides stability. As a result, the populace feels at ease
about the strength and legitimacy of the system; at the same time, it
feels it has some say in the political process.
45. Let me conclude by once again thanking the organisers of this
lecture and to thank all who attended. The legislature has a huge role
to play in stabilizing our democracy. It needs the support and
understanding of citizens as its work is intangible at times. The law
Making function is at times not dramatic like the functions of the
Executive but its stabilising and legitimising functions in our
practice of representative democracy is unquantifiable and
46. I thank you all for listening and may God bless you all and bless
the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Courtesy: Office of the Speaker, House of Representatives.