The legislature is one of the three organs of government the others being the executive and the judiciary. The legislature is known by different names in different countries; parliament, congress, assembly, House of Representatives or Senate or councilors. Their functions are the same in most countries. In any political system the functions include lawmaking, administration, supervision and control of finance, electoral issues and contributions to political decisions.
However, among the vital role of the legislature is the lawmaking in the state. Such laws made by the legislature which are vital for the orderly conduct of government and administration, are binding on all organs of government, including the legislators themselves. Existing laws can also be amended or repealed (changed) completely by the legislature in the process or as part of a new law to address contemporary issues.
We remember how the constitutional crises that engulfed the then Western Region government in 1962 and the role played by the Western Regional House to “scuttle” a judicial review of the case as to whether the governor would be acting in contravention of Section 33(10) of the Constitution of Western Nigeria if he by notice removed the Premier from office without giving him an opportunity of testing his popularity on the floor of the House of Assembly because he (governor) formed the view that the Premier no longer commanded the support of a majority of members of the House.
The legislature consists of members usually elected from different constituencies. A member of parliament so elected to the legislature has indeed, enormous responsibilities. La making is perhaps his primary assignment in the parliament. It is his responsibility to participate in legislative debates at all stages of a bill once he has the opportunity, either at the full house or at the committee stage. He may also sponsor bills and take part in the vote for a bill.
As a representative of his constituency, a member of parliament has the task of articulating the needs and interests of his district before the whole House. He must so to say, seek the good of his people and draw the attention of the House to measures that will benefit the nation and his constituency in particular. On the other hand, he also must interpret government’s programmes and policies as well as issues of public interest to his constituents. He thus serves as a link between his constituency and the government.
A member of legislature may go beyond his constituency’s interest and raise issues of public interest before the full House. There is also a “Question Time” in the House during which members of the House summon either the ministers or commissioners or head of relevant agencies to the House. Such a period is an opportunity for a member of parliament not only to ask questions of general public interest, but on issues also related to his constituency.
Ibrahim Ahmad Kala, LLM.