- Background to the Study
The legislature is an important component of democratic governance. Indeed, the need for the legislature is reflected in the very meaning of democracy- rule of the people. In fact, the legislature is a necessary ingredient for governance in both traditional and modern democracies. In order for the people to rule, they require a mechanism to represent their wishes and the legislature serves this critical function. In fact, Mills (1999) remarked that the legislature acts as the eyes, ears and voices of the people. It represents a permanent and independent link between the people and government.
Although the legislature is known as a law-making body, it is important to note that it performs the oversight function on the executives and other branches of government in the state. Through elections, lobbying and petitions, citizens and groups express their will and affect the outcomes of the legislative process. Some of the traits of a well developed legislature like the American Congress are division of labour, a leadership structure, a seniority system and a committee system (Ornstein, 2008). These traits equip the legislature to properly oversee the executive activities, influence policies and immunize them against executive dominance.
In recognition of the centrality of the legislature to democratic governance, the Chapter 5, Part 1 of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria provided for the legislature. Specifically, section 47 of the same constitution provided that: there shall be a National Assembly for the Federation which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representative. Similarly, section 90 of the same constitution provided that: there shall be a House of Assembly for each of the States of the Federation. The Constitution empowers the legislators both at the federal and state levels to perform oversight functions over government agencies. As Nigerians seek an end to the scourge of corruption in public sector, the expectations are that the legislators would be more proactive, rather than reactionary in the discharge of their oversight functions. They are expected to do this by detecting and preventing waste, inefficiency and corruption before they happen. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. Since the emergence of the current democratic dispensation, series of public hearings and probes of agencies have been conducted without official reports on some of these investigations at both federal and state levels.
Yet, the assumption holds that the legislature in a democratic state is a principal arm of government through which governments are held accountable. It is usually assigned the oversight function of bureaucracy. Schlesinger and Burbs (1975:10) corroborated the above view thus:
The principle behind legislative oversight of the executive activity is to ensure that public policy is administered in accordance with the legislative intent….the legislative function does not cease with the passage of the bill. It is therefore, only by monitoring the implementation process that members of the legislature uncover any defects and act to correct misappropriation and maladministration. In this sense the concept of oversight exists as an essential corollary to the law making process.
Hence, corruption has long been institutionalized as the foundation of governance, at all levels of government in Nigeria. Institutions decayed to an unprecedented extent, as available resources and opportunities were filtered away by the powerful. As would be expected, this process was followed by the subversion of due process and manipulation of existing laws and regulations in all the tiers of governments, and these greatly undermined accountability and performance in governments, especially at the state level. Olu (2002), notes that the legitimacy and stability of the country became compromised as citizens began to devise extra legal and. informal ways to survive. The corruption quagmire in Nigeria was rooted in the failure and virtual collapse of governance, disregard for procedures for ensuring accountability, and the presence of bad leadership (Obasanjo, 2003).
Against the backdrop, this study shall examine the legislative institutions ,oversight functions and good governance in the Plateau state House of
1.2 Statement of Problem
The long reign of the military government in Nigeria and its subsequent intervention in the political affairs of the nation has rubbed off on the political class and the development of democratic institutions. The performance and appropriate responsibility of the elected leaders as enshrined in the constitution has always been hampered by lack of experience and greed on the part of the political actors.
The performance of oversight functions by the legislative arm of government in Nigeria has over the years fallen below expectation. This is as a result of poor commitment on the part of the leadership of this nation to the provisions of the nation’s constitution. Corruption, greed and the deteriorating infrastructural facilities have hampered the performance of government business.
Rather than provide qualitative service for the people, the elected representatives had always contrived the democratic space, muzzled opposition, overturn electoral choices and in the end engendered the rule of law and order within the democratic space.
The executive on its part has always cash on the corruption tendencies on the part of the legislative arm by attempting to bribe them anytime a crisis occurs or a discovery is made in the execution of programmes that negates constitutional provisions.
1.3 Research Questions
The study has the following research questions:.
1.3.1 What are the areas of oversight function embark upon by the plateau house of assembly?
1.3.2 What factors accounted for the pattern of relationship between the legislatives and executives in plateau state?
1.3.3 Have the oversight functions unravel the area of poor governance in the state?
1.3.4 To what extend have oversight activities translated to good governance in Plateau state?
1.3.5 What challenges affect effective oversight performance in the Plateau state house of assembly?
1.4 Significance of the Study
The belief by the people in a democratic system of government gave rise to the uproar that ensures the emergence of the forth republic after many years of military rule. One of the institutions that guarantees adequate participation of the people in a democratic government is the legislative arm, charged with the responsibility of making appropriate legislation for the nation and also acting as a watchdog on the executive. Hence the legislative arm plays a pivotal role in any democratic dispensation.
This study is significant in the sense that the performance of legislative oversight functions of the legislative institutions is paramount and cannot be over emphasized. The strengthening of the laws and legislations are very significant part of the administration of democratic government, which must not be neglected.
The study is also said to be significant in the sense that it will serve as a useful avenue for evaluating the legislature; their impacts, challenges and prospects. It will also be useful in promoting greater understanding of the importance of intergovernmental relations and interactions in Nigeria.
The study is also important in the sense that it will serve as a contribution to knowledge as well as a reference point for future research endeavor with similar disposition.
- Scope and Limitations of the Study
This study will focus extensively on legislative oversight and good governance. The study will cover the period of 1999-2019.Some of the constraints that militate against this study include the following:
- The period under review, witnessed several Investigative Oversights, which the study could not cover in totality. Therefore the study limited itself to selected cases, as not all Investigative Oversights by the State House of Assembly is covered;
- The Plateau State Assembly as an institution has been one of the most unsteady institutions of government in Nigeria. As a result, there is paucity of data and/or information and Literature on the workings of the state Assembly which indeed has not had the opportunity for growth and research. However, the Researcher through an insider was able to acquire the available data.