Proper constitutional roles of the legislature in the promotion of democratic governance in Nigeria remain paramount in legislative discourse; as democratic culture cannot be sustained without qualitative legislation for good governance.
In spite the weaknesses, fault-lines, and challenges that the legislators would continue to encounter in their struggles to build a truly inclusive, participatory, open and people-based democracy, it has become imperative that they will continue to build democratic governance, as their individual and collective survival, progress and prosperity depend largely on nurturing democratic values, institutions and practices.
The National Assembly, which, in our case consists of the Senate and House of Representatives, is vested with the legislative powers of the Federation. Section 4(1) under Part II of the Constitution states inter alia: “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”.
It goes further, in Section 4(2), to state as follows: “The National Assembly shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the federation with respect to any matter included in the Exclusive Legislative List”.
For the purpose of explanation, the Exclusive Legislative List, which is contained in Part I of the Second Schedule to the Constitution deals with specific items which only the National Assembly has the sole prerogative to legislate upon, to the exclusion of the States and Local Governments.
For example, the items, which are 68 in number, include defence, aviation, currency, customs and excise duties, citizenship, drugs and poisons, copyright, insurance, external affairs and meteorology. On the other hand, there is the Concurrent Legislative List provided for under Part II of the Second Schedule to the Constitution. It includes 30 items.
It is called Concurrent List because the Constitution allows both the National Assembly and the State Houses of Assembly to legislate on the items so specified.
The 30 items include the following amongst others: public funds at state and local government levels, antiquities and monuments, collection of taxes, stamp duties, voter registration in the local government councils, agriculture, education, cadastral and topographical surveys etc. There is yet another category of powers described as residual list. This is the exclusive prerogative of the States. This is the implication of the provisions of Section 4 (7a) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
A comparative study of the National and State Legislatures, in the discharge of the enormous powers bestowed upon them by the Constitution since the inception of the current democratic experiment, clearly shows that, whereas the National Assembly has been very assertive and proactive, most State Legislatures, regrettably, have allowed themselves to be completely emasculated and castrated by the State governors who, in several instances, have been very over-bearing in the way they conduct the affairs of their various States.
In simple terms, the legislature performs three basic Roles namely: lawmaking, representation and oversight. So, in the House of Representatives, we make laws, we carry out representative functions on behalf of the people who in our case, are demarcated in 360 federal constituencies, and we oversight the executive arm of government which include the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), to ensure that government is held accountable to the people from where it derives its sovereignty.