The National Assembly and Democratic Governance in Nigeria

Year : 2014

This book on the National Assembly and Democratic Governance in Nigeria, which was supported by a grant from the United Nations Development Program/Democratic Governance for Development (UNDP/DGD), continues the traditional of promoting robust analyses and documentation of the activities of the Nigerian National Assembly by NILS. In the book, thirteen scholars, twelve of which are Nigerian social scientists, offer their assessments of the contributions of the national Assembly to the Country’s democratic processes. The scholars also proffer cogent recommendations for enhancing the efficacy and vitality of the Assembly as a democratic Institution. The book’s Overriding objective is analysing, Documenting and Publicizing the Contributions of the National Assembly to democratic governance this is because the Legislature remains indispensable to good governance in any democracy it Serves as a Machinery of Political representation for Citizens in the conduct and composition of governmental affairs. The Parliament is also a key instrument of horizontal accountability and political oversight, furnishing critical checks and balances with respect to the activities of the other branches of government, especially the executive arm. Above all, as evident in various legislations and constitutional reforms initiated, approved or passed by the National Assembly since 1999, the Legislature plays a crucial role in debating and crafting the rules and laws that make democracies truly accountable, predictable, legitimate and sustainable.


Keywords: National Assembly, Democratic Governance, Law-making, Representation, Oversight

Subject Area: Legislative Matters

The purpose of this paper is twofold. First of all, it aims to show that effective oversight is a key determinant of government accountability which, in its turn, is a key determinant of the quality of a democratic regime and, ultimately, of a factors are responsible for the effectiveness with which legislators and legislatures perform their oversight function. In doing so, the paper suggests that political will is perhaps the single most important, determinant of oversight effectiveness.

This chapter reviews the legislature in post-1990 and see its impact on development in Nigeria. The chapter has seven sections. It starts with the introductory section and is closely followed by section two which gives the conceptual framework on development and governance, Section three captures development and governance indicators in Nigeria. Section four examines the role of the legislature in enhancing development in Nigeria, section five documents the challenges facing the legislature, section six recommends strategies for overcoming the challenges and section seven concludes the study.

The National Assembly, which is the central legislature of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, has passed through succeeding stages of institutional development from the Crown Colony System in 1862 to the present day presidential system of government. Its evolution is directly linked with the history of modern Nigeria and its constitutional development. This chapter traces the history of the great change in 152 years of the legislative institution from an advisory body to a legislature with powers and functions in governance and development; and of its transformation from unicameral to bicameral legislature through British colonial administration to national sovereignty. The changes in the institutional framework from interconnectedness of the legislature with the executive to separation of powers and enhanced institutional capacity for governance and development are discussed in this chapter.

This chapter examines how legislation by the Nigerian National Assembly has engaged the challenges of national unity, democratic stability, and socioeconomic development, which are the three overriding objectives of governance in the country. It provides a more focused and qualitative perspective that examines key flagship laws of the Assembly with a view to assessing the institution’s successes and shortcomings in using its legislative mandate and agenda to address the country’s governance challenges. The chapter is less concerned with the inner dynamics and conflicts of the law-making process than with the end product of the process, especially the goals and content of selected critical legislations by the Nigerian National Assembly. While it invariably interrogates the actual impact of legislations by the Assembly, the Chapter’s more immediate objective is to analyse the extent to which the legislative agenda and outputs of the Assembly can be described as demonstrating formal engagement with the country’s governance problems. The chapter begins with a brief analytical and historical exploration of the institutional travails and trajectories of the legislature in the context of Nigeria’s (and Africa’s) neo-patrimonial socio-political dynamics and authoritarian legacies. This is followed by a discussion of key provisions of flagship legislations of the Nigerian National Assembly in the areas of national integration, democratisation and development. The chapter then critically assesses the shortcomings and successes of the National Assembly’s law-making functions, while preferring suggestions for enhancing the National Assembly’s legislative responses to Nigeria’s governance dilemmas and conundrums.

This chapter examines issues in the federal budget and appropriation, especially over the current period of democratic dispensation, in the spheres of process, performance, critical issues, and development outcomes, among others. Particular attention is paid to the role of the National Assembly in the budget process, especially in the spheres of budget enactment and oversight of budget implementation. The rest of the chapter is organized as follows: Section 2 highlights the legal framework for budgeting while 3 examines the budget process including the roles of the executive and National Assembly (NASS)/committees and the attendant tensions and conflicts. In Section 4, is a discussion of revenue projections, budget size, expenditure priorities, recurrent and capital budget implementation, factors affecting capital budget implementation, and impact of budgets on development outcomes. The role of NASS is highlighted as appropriate. Section 5 discusses the oversight role of NASS in budget implementation. The lessons from budget implementation experience/policy recommendations are outlined in Section 6.

This chapter examines the efforts of the National Assembly in the reform of the 1999 Constitution as a contribution to democratic governance. The chapter provides an analysis of the process, issues and forces that have shaped the constitutional reform agenda and specific amendments that deal with electoral matters. Finally, the chapter provides some broad indications of the role of the National Assembly in the constitutional reform agenda in future.

This chapter draws upon data and findings from a recent empirical study of the oversight activities of the National Assembly and shows that the Assembly has increasingly deployed its power of oversight through instruments such as questioning, oversight visits, audit reports, and public and/or investigative hearings. Data provided in the chapter depict the growing confidence of National Assembly members in questioning executive actions, especially through investigative hearings. Furthermore, the output and outcomes of oversight work of the Assembly are considered as noteworthy and expository, as many improper executive actions have been brought to public knowledge. However, the effectiveness of the oversight work of the National Assembly has been weakened by multiple constraints such as low capacity to access information, lack of political will, and lack of constitutional powers to enforce resolutions emanating from legislative oversight. This, however, does not invalidate the relatively appreciable performance of the Assembly in its oversight duties.

Democracy assigns a central role to the Legislature, such that, through its oversight functions, the “will” of the people is expected to be made to prevail. This chapter argues that historically, the Legislature has played peripheral role in foreign policy making, it expresses the belief that national, developmental aspirations would be stimulated by a more meaningful contribution of the Legislature. However, this has not been possible because of institutional opposition to a more effective involvement of the National Assembly in foreign policy process and lack of enthusiasm by many Legislators to get involved in that sphere of governance. Despite these obstacles, the legislature has been making some efforts towards meaningful engagement of the nation’s foreign policy, through screening of ambassadorial appointments, the ratification and domestication of treaties, the deployment of parliamentary diplomacy and more activist interrogation of the Nigerian Diaspora. It concludes by noting that the continued marginalisation of the National Assembly by some critical elements in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reflects lack of appreciation of the critical significance of the role of the legislature in giving strength and validation to the nation’s foreign policy. It is further argued that the Legislature would have to overcome its own lukewarm attitude to the whole process of foreign policy making, make more efforts to increase the knowledge of members in international relations, through capacity building and, where necessary, engage consultants in making meaningful input into the nation’s foreign policy agenda.

This Chapter argues that although Nigeria’s national parliament has recorded improvement in terms of legislation and oversight roles, it offers little hope in championing constituents’ interests due to socio-political and economic forces that continue to undermine the country’s legislative efficiency. The chapter is divided into nine sections. Following this introduction, the second section deals with conceptual issues relating to the discourse on legislature, constituency and representation. The third, fourth and fifth sections focus on the importance of legislative constituency representation; importance of legislative constituency relations and interaction, and issues and challenges respectively. In the sixth and seventh sections, the focus is on the general legislative perception and effects of legislative perception on participation respectively, while discussion in section eight is on activities and structures to enhance legislative constituency relations accordingly. The last section contains the conclusion and policy recommendations of the study.

This chapter addresses the important role that civil society has been playing in sustaining Nigerian democracy, with a focus on the civil society-legislature interface. Civil society played a critical role in combating military rule and creating conditions for the restoration of multi-party democracy in Nigeria. Since 1999, civil society has been very actively engaging the three arms of government to sustain and deepen democratic rule. The chapter starts with an analysis of the role of civil society in activating citizenship and promoting the expansion of democratic space. It then explores the powers of the legislature in a democracy and point out the reasons why there are sometimes tensions between civil society and legislators in the operation of democracy. Both civil society and legislators believe that they speak and act for citizens even if legislators have the legitimacy of being elected to do so while civil society has no electoral legitimacy but believes its actions are designed to help and promote the interests of the people.

In this chapter, the potential of social media in promoting greater public engagement and good governance is explored particularly within the context of parliaments. Specifically, it explores how Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and the use of social media have revolutionised society and changed the way and speed with which information is shared. These changes have similarly affected public institutions, as political processes have come under the searchlight and citizens demand for more transparency. The significance of these changes is explained with a special focus on how parliaments are using or can use social media as a tool for public engagement and how this bears on good governance. Latest data on innovations in ICT are presented to show how these drive the social media revolution. Also, the spread and impact of social media are analysed to show the indispensability of these new tools to public institutions. More importantly, this chapter explores the ambience that is presented by recent developments in ICT, such as expanded opportunities for information and knowledge sharing on the activities and business of parliament. The chapter is structured thus: section two examines social media and its import on democratic governance; this is followed by section three which examines the ways in which social media is being used by government agencies and parliaments to reach out to more citizens; and in conclusion, section four provides an in-depth analysis of the role of social media in governance with specific reference to the Nigerian National Assembly. An assessment is then made of the opportunities, risks and implications presented by this new form of engagement. Though this chapter recognises the advantages that social media offers to citizens to hold government and Parliaments accountable, it is primarily concerned with how Parliaments can, through social media, promote greater public engagement and good governance. Thus, this chapter contributes to a general understanding of how governments and parliaments can, through social media, promote greater citizen engagement, increase accountability and promote good governance especially in Nigeria.

Globally, it is increasingly known that women’s issues are important for effective human resource management for development. Nigeria however, is marked by huge gender disparity. This chapter examines the socio-economic and political location of women in Nigeria and propose realistic and sustainable policy positions and strategies that the legislature can follow to improve the human development index for girls and women in Nigeria. The chapter is structured into five sections, namely: women’s rights and the state, the role of the legislature in meeting women’s needs, strengthening the legislature from lessons learnt, conclusions and recommendations. The chapter concludes with the assertion that the legislature (NASS) needs a formal system for understanding and engaging with the issue of the rights of girls and women in Nigeria premised upon the demands of the National Gender Policy. The chapter argues that the legislature holds the potential to be a great catalyst for change in the socio-political and economic status of women because of its capacity to make progressive and repeal discriminatory laws, monitor the executive to implement people-centred policies and laws and create spaces for different voices to connect for change through its representative, investigative and consultative processes.

The chapter advances the following main arguments, which are easily discernible from previous chapters. First, the institutional development of the legislature and inevitably its functional delivery and institutional reputation have been historically encumbered by a number of forces, most notably its troubled colonial origin and legacies, the character of the state and prolonged military rule. Second, under the current democratic dispensation since 1999, the national legislature seems to have regained some measure of “life” in its institutional development and contributions to the growth and relative stability of democratic governance. Yet, it is confronted with certain challenges and/or shortcomings that must be surmounted if the legislature is to emerge as truly the people’s institution and fulfil its statutory obligations. Finally, the future location and viability of the legislature, particularly its capacity to genuinely and sustainably promote democratic stability and development in Nigeria will depend on a number of factors. These include: (a) the survival of the current democratic order, despite its so many imperfections; (b) strengthening of legislative institutional capacity and autonomy; (c) sustainable, credible “relevant” international assistance for the legislature; (d) strengthening internal accountability mechanisms within the legislature; (e) devising means to engender party cohesion and discipline; (f) strengthening other institutions of horizontal accountability, particularly the anti-corruption agencies; and (g) creating and sustaining multiple channels of communication and constructive engagement with the people beyond the formal platforms (online platforms -social media, people’s assembly, etc.).

  • Ladi Hamalai

  • Rotimi Suberu