Committees in the National Assembly: A Study of the Performance of Legislative Functions, 2003-2013

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Volume: Second Edition | Pages: 355 | Year Published: 2014

Publisher: National Institute for Legislative Studies

Author: not available

Subject Matter
This book is a study of the committee system of the National Assembly in the Fourth Republic, with particular reference to the performance of legislative functions from 2003-2013. The book focuses on the performance of legislative oversight functions of the National Assembly through the mechanism of the Committee system. This is in recognition of the significance of legislative oversight as a core responsibility of the legislature. Legislative oversight refers to the review, monitoring and supervision of government and public agencies, including the implementation of policy and legislation. It involves keeping an eye on the activities of governmental agencies especially the executive branch on behalf of the Nigerian people. This process brings to the knowledge of the public what the executive branch is doing, and affords the electorate the opportunity to determine whether public servants are really serving their collective interest or not. The book is divided into nine (9) unequal chapters.

The objective of the book is to evaluate the Committees of the National Assembly with respect to the performance of their oversight functions with a view to recommending measures for improved performance.

Gaps Identified
A lot has happened after the publication of this edition. Other challenges confronting legislative oversight have emerged, especially in the 8th Assembly which are outside the scope of this book

The book should be updated with current trends in legislative oversight at the National Assembly
Performances of Committees
Successes of legislative oversight of the 8th Assembly
Other emerging challenges of legislative oversight
Powers of the National Assembly to alter an Appropriation Bill
Judicial bottlenecks
Flawed electoral process etc.

Reviewer: Samuel Oguche

Rank: RF II

Department: DLSS/Legal Research

Date Of Commencement: June 25, 2018

Date Of Completion: June 30, 2018

Chapter One
Chapter one which is the introductory chapter gives highlights of background of the book, including a brief overview of the nature and significance of oversight. The chapter upholds the centrality of the legislature to democratic governance globally. It posits that legislative oversight is an instrument through which the government is held accountable to the electorate. Consequently, oversight powers are vested in the legislature as a fundamental principle of separation of powers and on account of the legislature being an institution of the people's representatives. Generally, chapter one lays the foundation for the study, setting out the objectives, rationale and significance of the study, framework, scope, methodology, limitation, and structure of the book.

Chapter two
Chapter two dwells on the legislature and its committees, particularly in the context of the operations of the National Assembly. This chapter discusses typology of legislatures such as integrative legislatures, legitimising legislatures, arena legislatures and transformative legislatures. The chapter briefly discusses the core functions of legislatures which are legislation, oversight and representation. It discusses legislative process at the National Assembly, particularly the first reading, second reading, bill referral to the appropriate legislative committee for further legislative actions, committee report on the bill, and third reading which is the final stage. This chapter pays attention to the Committee system, including its merits, types of committees which include standing committees, special/select committees, sub-committees, joint committees, and committee of the whole. This chapter also undertakes a survey of international practices on committee system as well as impact of committees in legislative process. The chapter concludes that the committee system in the performance of legislative functions is a global practice which has gained notoriety. Consequently, on the creation of committees, the general practice across the board is to take into cognisance current existing bureaucratic institutions such as MDAs as well as other areas where legislative oversight is required. Though Committees are differently named, their differences are merely nomenclatural as their operations in terms of jurisdictions and functions correspond with each other irrespective of the country

Chapter three
Chapter three discusses perspectives on legislative oversight. In terms of goals and objectives, legislative oversight seeks to identify and avoid inefficiency and waste in government; determine the extent of government's effectiveness in carrying out public policy as set by the legislature; determine whether responsible parties are administering the law fairly and properly throughout the jurisdiction, etc. In the United States Congress, oversight authority derives from its implied powers in the Constitution, public laws, and House and Senate rules. This is an integral part of the American system of checks and balances. This chapter discloses that the United States Supreme Court has legitimated Congress's investigative power, subject to constitutional safeguards for civil liberties. In addition, the U.S. Congress formalised its legislative oversight functions through the Legislative Re-organization Acct of 1946 and 1970, and the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. In the case of Nigeria, legislative oversight power is both implied and expressly stated. The primary constitutional provisions conferring legislative oversight powers on the National Assembly are sections 88 and 89 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. This chapter lists instruments of oversight as questioning and interactive sessions; oversight visits and inspections; investigative hearings and investigations; examination and approval of the Appropriation Bill; reporting requirements; and bill referrals. Equally significant are the factors determining the performance of legislative oversight functions which include political and electoral systems; parliamentary technical capacity; availability of information; transparency and integrity of legislative oversight process, etc

Chapter four
Chapter four is a discourse on resource base for National Assembly's legislative work. It discusses resource capacities of the National Assembly such as human resources, infrastructure, internet services and financial resources. The chapter discloses high turnover, dominance of male gender, and high educational profile of legislators of the National Assembly. In terms of high turnover, the chapter discloses that in the Sixth Assembly, out of 109 senators elected in 2007, 86 or 79 percent were elected for the first time, implying a very high turnover rate. The implication is that 79 percent of the senators who served in the Fifth Assembly were not returned to the Senate in 2007. In terms of financial resources, the chapter provides tables and charts to show aggregate budgets approved for the National Assembly from 2009-2014, which averaged 3.23 percent of the national budget. From the data provided, the recurrent budget accounted for nearly 90 percent or more of the funds appropriated to the National Assembly

Chapter five
Chapter five is a consideration of background to legislative committees and oversight functions in the National Assembly. This chapter traces the historical evolution of the legislature in Nigeria; the first being the establishment of a miniature legislative council as an advisory body. The legislature gradually gained relevance until it finally got legislative powers which were divided between the centre and the regional governments under the Lyttleton Constitution of 1954. Modern legislature in Nigeria emerged in 1979 with the return to civil rule after years of military intervention in politics. The structure of the National Assembly under the 1999 Constitution is modelled after the position in the 1979 Constitution. Backed by section 62(1) of the 1999 Constitution, Committees are established to satisfy the need for specialisation and division of labour in law making. In the 7th Assembly, there are 56 Committees in the House of Representatives and 90 in the Senate. The mode of operation of Committees includes regular meetings and hearings. The chapter analysed committee attendance at the National Assembly, UK Parliament and Indian Parliament and found that it is low, usually lower than 50%. Finally, the chapter discusses constraining factors in implementing oversight functions, which include executive resistance, institutional constraints, material resource constraints, and composition of staff of committees.

Chapter six
Chapter six is an analysis of the profile of Committee oversight activities in the national Assembly, particularly from 2001-2013. This analysis is aimed at providing insights into how active the committees are in the context of performance of legislative oversight functions. The analysis is predicated on six criteria thus: number of oversight visits conducted, public hearings held, number of interactive sessions, bills referred to the committees, number of tours made, and number of petitions received. In addition to the above, motions and resolutions of the National Assembly are utilised. This chapter discloses growth in the number of committees at both houses of the National Assembly, attributable to certain factors. Following the inadequacies discovered as a result of the various analyses, the chapter recommends capacity building for committees; consistency in the conduct of oversight visits by committees in the National Assembly; improvement in the conduct of public hearings; capacity for committee members

Chapter seven
Chapter seven discusses the legislative oversight outcomes or achievements of Committees during the period under consideration. Irrespective of the coverage area, oversight activities of committees are aimed at ensuring that activities of government are carried on in a manner consistent with legislative intent, for the purpose of efficiency, accountability, transparency and good governance. This chapter undertakes the task of highlighting the direct outcomes of committee oversight, followed by presentation and detailed discussions of oversight findings and outcomes of selected committees. The chapter highlights five illustrative cases arising mainly from activities of the Senate Committee on Aviation to underscore the significance of oversight findings and outcomes. The cases are privatisation of Skypower Aviation Handling Company Limited (SAHCOL); the N19.5 Billion Aviation Fraud; Restoration of Banking Licenses; Savannah Bank and Societe Generale Bank Limited; Compensation of Beneficiaries of Plane Crash; and Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) Fund

Chapter Eight
Chapter eight is an examination of the challenges to oversight at the National Assembly. The chapter observes that committees of the National Assembly are confronted with a plethora of challenges in the conduct of legislative oversight. These challenges bother on essential working facilities including administrative techniques/ human resources, internet facilities, computer, office accommodation, transport logistics, modern library materials, among others. These challenges militate against committees' capacity to perform their oversight functions. Lack of adequate infrastructure hampers the effectiveness of the legislative process. Other challenges which confront committees in the performance of legislative oversight functions are duplication of committees and multiple membership; absenteeism of committee members at meetings; non-participation in oversight visits; late submission and consideration of committees' reports; executive resistance of legislative scrutiny, etc. The chapter recommends adequate funding of committees; limiting of membership of committees to curb the challenge of absenteeism; capacity building workshops, study tours, seminars and general training and re-training of Committee staff; provision of standard oversight templates, among others

Chapter nine
Chapter nine is the concluding part of this book. The chapter summarises the first-eight chapters and concludes that every aspect of oversight is backed by law. The powers may be express or implied in the Constitution. Another source of powers to conduct legislative oversight is the Standing Orders/Rules of the Parliament. The performance of legislative oversight is done through a wide range of channels, organisations and structures. The conclusion discloses that oversight by the National Assembly has yielded a number of good results, especially when considered against the backdrop of various challenges associated with the performance of the function