Volume: Volume 1 | Pages: 0 | Year Published: 2015
Publisher: National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS)
Author: Dr. Jake Dan-Azumi |
The book is a March 2015 publication of the National Institute for Legislative Studies Edited by Dr Jake Dan Azumi of the Institute. Written in six (6) chapters of 175 pages, the purpose of the manual is to assist new lawmakers understand the rudiments of the legislative process by helping towards a better understanding of the Nigerian legislature in juxtaposition with similar bodies around the world. The manual is geared towards the making of a more successful legislator who is better equipped to represent constituents and groups and play both law making and oversight rules successfully.
Ultimately, this review critically evaluates the merits of the manual with a view to identifying any gaps and proffering recommendations towards bridging such gap
Considering the intended audience and the common knowledge that not all Nigerian Legislators may possess the capacity to grasp the rudiments of the legislative processes especially in the first instance, the manual should have struck a balance between not being too advanced and not being too elementary. In certain parts, great detail (almost too advanced for some of the intended audience) is put towards elucidating on points adduced, but in other parts, vital points are also left to imagination. For instance, while discussing the "Steps in the law making process" on Page 29, the manual should have provided a more illustrative analysis of the process because the law making process is the core job of a legislator. However, instead of providing the legislator on more insight into this, the manual veers into discussing the "types of Legislature" instead.
While it could be argued that reading through the manual as a whole may provide a full picture into the whole process of legislation, it must be reiterated (again) that considering the target group, a simpler and more straightforward approach should have been employed in discussing the "steps in the law making process."
There is not enough reference made to Nigeria by way of examples. For instance, while discussing the types of legislative systems (page 16-21), the United States of America is identified as practicing the Presidential System, the British identified as practicing the Parliamentary system, and the French referenced as practitioners of the Dual system. Further reference is made to a number of countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Kenya, Zambia and Uganda all as examples of the various parliamentary systems in those countries. What system Nigeria practices should have been explicitly stated therein and not left to the legislator's imagination.
The manual does not, and should have elucidated more on the variation between country to country in the extent of Parliamentary involvement in the budget process.
Reviewer: Dr Mohammed Amali
Rank: Research Fellow 11
Department: Legislative Support Services/ Bills and Legislative Drafting
Date Of Commencement: June 19, 2018
Date Of Completion: June 29, 2018
Chapter OneThe book opens with a standalone introduction into the background, and a rationale/purpose, objectives, focus and scope of the manual. Chapter One deals with types of Legislative Systems around the world. There is a great effort in explaining what a Parliament is and what happens within the precincts of a Parliament (Page 11). Parliament's importance to the state cannot be overstated, and this stems from the fact that its members are directly elected by the people and as such, considered by the people as a source of power. Due to this, the manual argues that raising the level of parliamentary performance to a recognised and measurable standard of professional competence enhances the contribution of parliamentarians to facilitating a more effective Government (Page 12).
The capacity of parliaments to function especially in developing economies like Nigeria's includes problems of institutional capacity in terms of available resources, expertise and facilities. As such, increasing the capacity of members of Parliament to perform their parliamentary functions and especially to make an effective early start is of paramount importance. Consequently, the National Institute for Legislative Studies- the capacity building body of the National Assembly organises an intensive induction course to train and equip new legislators with the necessary knowledge and skills to be effective in carrying out their responsibilities as lawmakers. Generally, the course focuses on the parliamentary process, organisation, and practice, and on the relationship between the National Assembly and the other arms of Government. The programme pays special attention to the practical aspects of being a parliamentarian- the functions, operations and roles of legislators, and through inputs from experts and practitioners as well as interactions with former presiding officers, the new legislators get to understand how procedures, organisations, rules and practices shape the National Assembly
Chapter TwoThe previous chapter ends by identifying three types of legislative systems in the Presidential system, the Parliamentary system and the Hybrid/Twofold system. (PP 17-21) Each of these systems are analysed based on their distinct quirks, with discussion questions formulated at the end, aimed at gauging the level of knowledge the reader may have gleaned from the experience. Irrespective of these systems, the functions of the legislature are sacrosanct in that the legislature represents the society by ensuring that the specific concerns of peoples and groups are heard at the national level because legislators are the "nerve endings of the polity."(Page 23) These regime types are also identified as being a factor that influences the role a legislature plays in the law making process. And in the process of these functions, the legislators are introduced to the concepts of representation and constituent relations ranging from being representatives as delegates, to representatives as trustees, or the responsible party model, the vanguard party model or the exemplar model of representation. (Page 24)
The budget process is another key part of the jobs of the legislature and this can be traced back more than 600 years to the British House of Commons, the "Mother of all Parliaments." The requirement that parliaments approve executive taxing and spending continues today in virtually all democracies and Nigeria is no exception even though the extent of parliamentary involvement varies from country to country for a variety of reasons. The manual elucidates on these reasons and discusses with country examples, the constitutional requirements in those countries as regards the extent of these parliamentary involvements.
Similar to the budget process as regards the duties of the legislature is its oversight functions, and this involves the monitoring of executive activities for efficiency, probity, transparency and fidelity, to ensure that funds appropriated by the parliament are used legally, effectively, and for the purposes for which they are intended. The manual describes several tools legislators have developed over time to assist them in practicing oversight and these ranges from "question period" in countries like the United Kingdom, to audit and oversight agencies as practiced in the United States of America, and the Public Accounts Committees used by a majority of the legislatures descending from the British Parliament
Chapter ThreeThe structure, formation and powers of Legislature in Nigeria is discussed extensively to enable the new legislator grasp what the structure of the Nigerian Government is, to enable the composition and structure of the National Assembly, the powers, privileges and immunities of the legislature, procedure and convention for the opening of the National Assembly as well as the procedures and traditions of the workings of the chamber. Constitutional provisions regarding the establishment and powers of each of the components of these structures are well illustrated in the manual. To elucidate further on this, an organizational chart of the National Assembly is provided in order to provide a clearer and easier to decipher picture of the structure of the body. (Page 56)
Being a Legislator comes with certain privileges, and even though the scope of legislative privilege covers a broad spectrum of rights under statute and legislative rules in the form of standing orders, it is important that a legislator knows the bounds of those privileges. As a result, extensive effort is made towards analyzing these privileges under convenient headings that allow for easy comprehension. The scope of these privileges as discussed in the manual include freedom of speech, freedom from arrest or molestation, privilege of evidence before committees, restriction on evidence as to certain matters, restriction on access to legislative house, restriction on service of court process within legislative chambers or precincts as well as a glossary of other privileges of the legislature. Constitutional, statutory and House provisions are cited in great detail while discussing each and every one of these privileges.
However, legislative privileges and immunities are not restricted to conferment of rights on members of legislative bodies but extend also to punishment of breaches of these privileges of the legislature. This means that just as the law confers rights, privileges and immunities on the legislature and its members, it also endeavours to punish breaches of such privileges and contempt of the legislature. The acts which could be construed as contempt and breaches of the privileges of legislative bodies are provided for under the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act and the manual proceeds to stating each and every one of those offences and also elucidate on them all with particular reference (as an example) to the debacle that was witnessed in the House of Representatives in June 2010 where the disorderly behavior by aggrieved members of the House fell under the realm of misconduct in the presence of the House or a Committee of the House (Page 81).
Misconduct in the presence of a House Committee is particularly bad because of the importance of committees to the Legislature. Almost all Legislatures depend on committees to conduct their businesses because the Committee (especially in a Presidential system of Government like Nigeria's) is the machinery of the Legislature in the performance of its legislative duties and oversight functions. More so, the size of a Legislature is usually too large and incongruous to examine effectively, efficiently and in any meaningful detail, the many Bills and other matters that come before it. This make the Committees more suitable and better equipped to consider the technical details of draft laws because it is comparatively easier for a Committee to agree to a compromise position acceptable to the Legislature in plenary, thus facilitating the process of law-making and decision making.
The manual therefore enables the new legislator have a better understanding of the functions of the legislature and the use of legislative committees to help towards the efficient performance those functions by aiding such legislators to know the committee systems, its different types and the powers they possess. The role of the legislative staff in the effectiveness of such committees is paramount too, and the manual aids the new legislator to grasp a basic understanding of those. Towards this end, the manual educates the new legislator on the various types of committees i.e. the special committees, the standing committees, the joint committees, the conference committees, the select committee, the ad-hoc committees, and the committee of the whole. A greater detail is shared on the Committee of the whole because it is in fact the full membership of the house presided over by a chairman instead of a presiding officer
Chapter FourThe functions and activities of the committees generally, and their powers are analyzed as clearly itemized in the Rules or Standing Orders of the Houses. The role of the committee staff in the effectiveness of these committees cannot be overemphasized because appropriate staffing is essential if legislative committees are to function effectively. The manual illustrates this with examples of what specific roles these staff play. (Page 115)
Every serving Legislator belongs to a political party in Nigeria, therefore it is important for legislators to know how the type of political system in operation affects the role of a political party in the legislature. Equally vital to the new legislator is an insight into the different challenges party members inside the legislature face in comparison to those outside the legislature
Chapter FiveThis Chapter contains general information on political parties in parliament, Nigeria's political system, party and legislative leaders, party discipline, and gender in political parties. The clamor for gender equality and female participation in politics has been a global trend for a while, so the manual provides a graphical illustration (by way of comparison) of women representation in the 1999, 2003 and 2011 General Elections (Page 127). The aim is to bring to the legislators knowledge, why it is important for the political parties they belong to have a gender policy in order to ensure equal representation within party structures and in party political positions
Chapter SixThis Chapter discusses the various responsibilities of a successful legislator and the keys to being one. The overriding aim of every new legislator is to successfully serve out his/her tenure by meeting the targets they may have set out at the start of the process. This means that such legislators must avail themselves with key factors that ensure they stay in the straight and narrow throughout their tenure. Suffice it is to state that it is important that such legislators keep abreast with documents like the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges Act), Standing Orders, Code of Ethics/ Code of Conduct, Body of Presiding and Principal Officers. The manual provides guidance to the new legislators on the factors that are most likely to be responsible for a legislator's success. Key to these successes is for legislators to possess an impeccable knowledge of common legislative terms that are used during the everyday course of the legislative process