Legislative Governance and Social Justice in Nigeria by Idris Miliki

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Since a new civilian government was inaugurated in Nigeria in May 1999, there have been various efforts by local and international Civil Society Organizations and Development Agencies to work with various ties of government with a view of nurturing Nigeria’s fragile democracy into a consolidated one. Inspite of the commitments of these institutions to the assistance of the executive and legislative branched of the government, very little has and it being done to systematically monitor their performance in a manner that would enable elected representatives and government official to receive the necessary feedback on their performance.

One significant lesson, which researchers and activists have learnt from the crisis that engulfed the country during repressive and successive military regimes, is its importance of dependable, readily available, and independently verifiable information. Such information was a desideratum, both in terms of publicizing the dire conditions of life in the country and in the organizing intervention measures to ally the situation. That the Nigerian state under the military was able to perpetrate untold atrocities without much challenge for so long was not unconnected with the stronghold that the military exercised over the gathering and dissemination of information about what goes on inside government, particularly as it concerns performance record in governance, development and human rights.

At the time, the relative success of activists and Advocacy Groups in Nigeria’s recent past is attributable, in large measure, to the aggressive regime of information gathering and dissemination that they pursued. To be sure, one reason for the persistence of the crisis between the Executive and legislative ranks of government is that information from either side tends to be highly politicized and sometimes verges on information. The tendency to misinformation is the high degree of cynicism that its bread about the future of the current democratization effort in the country.

Committed local Advocacy Groups and International NGOs have continued to make laudable efforts in trying to prize open through various initiatives, the seal of information in the current dispensation.

The nature of the fragile democracy that Nigeria is presently running and the fear of the insecurity has continue to hurt many Nigerians to the point in which they are willing to start raising fundamental questions about the dividends or goals of democracy. Quite ironically, the current civilian administration has been in the forefront of defining Nigerian what should be understood as democracy and what ought to constitute its dividends. As such there is a sense of pervasive hysteria in the country, which had ascended onto frenzy.

Following this sense of apparent fear, the state does not seem prepared to address the critical questions at the heart of democracy, transparency and accountability, and people are of the feeling that electrons are merely licenses that tyrants. Equally, it has become more evident and making electoral promises is quite different from fulfilling them.

While the legislative process has a mechanism for checking itself and executive, it also needs to be checked and assessed against certain benchmarks of what, it must deliver to the country.

Therefore, when civilian rule was ushered on 27 May 1999, there were high expectations from the people in relations to its capacity to turn situations around. Above all, people expected that politician would have learnt from the shortcomings of the principles of due process, transparency, accountability and social provisioning. What seems to lead the criteria for choosing who to vote at elections can offer the people?

From the foregoing, it is apparent that a threefold plan is important. The first of these is a definition of what constitute social justice, while the second feature relates to enactment of laws pertaining to this aspect of justice. As the third part of the plan, there is need for advocacy and an assessment concerning the pursuit of social Justice Programs. On another note, it is necessary to include all stakeholders and all relevant organs, bodies and individuals have to be sensitized on the essence of extending as much cooperation and understanding to the pursuit of this project.

The constitution serves as the most important and primary source of legislative law, practice and procedure in Nigeria, although this might not be the case in some other jurisdictions where constitutions are largely unwritten or are not as elaborate as the Nigeria constitution. Before the passing of a law, a legislative proposal in the form of a Bill must be duly introduce to the house. And no Bill, public or private whether introduced by the government or a private member can transform into law until it is duly received and approved by the legislature, the opportune to considered all the Bills, both in general principle and detail through a number of stages that take it through a house, in a unicameral legislature, or both houses in bicameral legislatures.

Everyone has short title, which is normally the title by which the eventual act will be cited and a long title that summarized the main purpose and content of such Bill. Preambles set out the reason(s) for introduction of a Bill, while an enacting formula summarizes the legislative authority dealing with the enactment of such and is usually the legislature. The main body of a Bill is laid down in parts or chapters with each part or chapter containing, a number of clauses numbered consecutively. Prior to its final enactment into law, the parts chapters of Bill are divided into clauses which is the technical word used in Bills; however when it becomes enacted into law, the description of a Bill’s constituent parts as ‘clause’ is replaced by its description as ‘section’. And such clauses are generally sub-divided into sub-sections, paragraphs and sub-paragraphs. Where there are schedules, these are also divided into paragraphs and sub- paragraphs in Bill schedules are dependent on particular clauses existing in such Bill.

A schedule would be relevant in the final analysis it its substantive clauses is not expunge during the various amendments made to a proposed law. “Bills vary in length in relation to the subject or contents they are centre on; and it is usual practice to have an explanation memorandum attached to it. While this is not a compulsory feature, wherever to a Bill, it summarizes the Provision of such Bills, as well as the additional expenditure that might be consequent upon it enactment. The name of whoever, or names of those who support it, and the date that it is ordered to be printed and its number are inscribed on the back of the Bill.

Although certain differences exist across legislatures in term of the due process that a Bill must go through in order to become an Act, there are quite a good number of similarities which include relatively uniform practices and procedures that remain attractive and effective.

Unlike the other area of the public law, legislative law practices and procedure does not emanate predominately from the provisions of courts therefore the result of fundamental texts and law report may be of very little assistance. This marked the distinction based on the basic principle of every democratic system, which unequivocally admits the inherent rights of each legislature to regulate its own affairs, stating this principle of law, section 60 of the 1999 constitution provides as amended as follows;

Subject to the provision-of this constitution, the senate or the House of Representation shall have power to regulate its own procedure, including the procedure for summoning and recess of the House.

Section 101 contains similar provision for the House of Assembly. Legislative all over the world exercise the freedom or to determine the pattern and form procedure to be followed in the conduct of legislative business, and these practices are not usually at variance since legislators generally adopt age long inherent practices, which have become particular remarkable in the last three centuries. Therefore, in order to understand the workings of the legislatures, as well as the formal rules governing them.

Undoubtedly, the legislature is a very important arm of government, but the devaluation and abuse that it went through during military regimes, equally account for its stunted growth and development. This has resolve in several criticisms of the institution by major groups, which include trade unions, students association, professional bodies, and women’s association in Nigeria.

It is important to mention that it is the manner of members elected into the legislatures that will determine the nature and quality of debate that would be generated in these Assemblies.

If the members of such houses are experienced, competent, as well educated, then the legislature will be the better for it, although, it is quite unfortunate that this criteria is not truly descriptive of: the present legislators in the Houses of Assembly in Nigeria. The National and State Assemblies have become burdened with problems associated with the quality of their membership, as currently witness in the Kogi State House of Assembly which has affected the performance and output of the 7th Assembly in Kogi State.

It’s to the glory of God, that we have peaceful governorship Election in Osun state. We commend the people of the state, INEC improvement, security Agencies,. However, lots of need to be done on voters and Civic education. The political parties must continue to do more as primary beneficiary, development partners should continue to support civil society organizations through timely giving of their partners founding for the necessary grants. It’s a successful election. Congratulations to all stakeholders.

The Successful conduct of Elections in recent time, was as a result of the 2022 Election Act. The introduction of Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) by INEC is commendable.

Idris Miliki Abdul
Executive Director,
Conscience for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution (CHRCR),
Lokoja, Kogi State.


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