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In today’s class, we will be talking about the structure and organisation of government. Enjoy the class!
Structure and Organisation of Government
As the second arm of government, the legislature is responsible for the enactment of laws which not only give backing to the government policies but also guide interactions between the government and the governed. The legislature is made up of elected legislative like members of the house of representative, senate and house of assembly.
Functions of legislature
The primary function of the legislature is to make law for the good government of the country
- Approval of policies of the executive organ e.g. treaties and declaration of law
- Control of public funds and expenditure are under the legislature control as well as government spending and taxation
- Monitoring and evaluation of government activities i.e. it checks the activities of government agencies
- It has the power to amend the constitution
- The legislature educates members of the public through debate issues
- It has the power to impeach a head of state if he commits a very serious offence
Types of legislature
There are two types of the legislature:
- Bicameral legislature: This refers to a two-chamber legislature. There is the lower house and the upper house. Membership of the lower house is by popular election in some countries e.g Nigeria and USA, also members of the upper are done by-election. In some countries such as Britain, membership of the other house is not by-election.
- Unicameral legislature: This the existence of one legislative chamber in a country. This is the type of legislature of the state level in Nigeria. Examples of unicameral legislatures are Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Kenya e.t.c
This is the law adjudicating (judging) section of government. This section has appointed people who have the authority to interpret Acts of Parliament and to decide if laws and previous decisions apply to a particular case. The judiciary also provides a mechanism for the resolution of disputes.
Functions of the judiciary
- The Judiciary interprets the laws.
- The judiciary punish offenders who do contrary to the law
- They ensure peace and orderliness in society
- The provincial judiciary operates in much the same way as the national judiciary. The judiciary is the branch of government that deals with the administration of justice.
- The judiciary is responsible for ensuring that the law is upheld, interpreting the law, applying the law to specific cases and that those citizens who have broken the laws are punished. The courts, the judges and the magistrates comprise the judiciary.
A bill is not a law until it is signed into law by the executive in order words a bill is defined as a proposal of action discussed.
Types of bills
- Public bills: This has to do with the issue confronting the country and it is usually a bill proposed to the executive hands of the government.
- Private member bills: This is a bill introduced by a parliamentarian or lawmaker.
- Money bills: This bill informs us of how government involves itself in raising and spending of money (Budgets). It is usually introduced by the executive arm of government.
Procedures and how bills become laws
- When a senator or a representative introduces a bill, he or she sends it to the clerk of his house, who gives it a number and title. This is the first reading, and the bill is referred to the proper committee.
- The committee may decide the bill is unwise or unnecessary and table it, thus killing it at once. Or it may decide the bill is worthwhile and hold hearings to listen to facts and opinions presented by experts and other interested persons. After members of the committee have debated the bill and perhaps offered amendments, a vote is taken; and if the vote is favourable, the bill is sent back to the floor of the house.
- The clerk reads the bill sentence by sentence to the house, and this is known as the second reading. Members may then debate the bill and offer amendments. In the House of Representatives, the time for debate is limited by a cloture rule, but there is no such restriction in the Senate for cloture, where 60 votes are required. This makes possible a filibuster, in which one or more opponents hold the floor to defeat the bill.
- The third reading is by title only, and the bill is put to a vote, which may be by voice or roll call, depending on the circumstances and parliamentary rules. A member who must be absent at the time of a vote may contract (or “pair”) with a member of the opposition to abstain, balancing each other out.
- The bill then goes to the other house of Congress, where it may be defeated, or passed with or without amendments. If the bill is defeated, it dies. If it is passed with amendments, a joint congressional committee must be appointed by both houses to iron out the differences.
- After its final passage by both houses, the bill is sent to the president. If he approves, he signs it, and the bill becomes a law. However, if he disapproves, he vetoes the bill by refusing to sign it and sending it back to the house of origin with his reasons for the veto. The objections are read and debated, and a roll-call vote is taken. If the bill receives less than a two-thirds vote, it is defeated and goes no further. But if it receives a two-thirds vote or greater, it is sent to the other house for a vote. If that house also passes it by a two-thirds vote, the president’s veto is overridden, and the bill becomes a law.
- Should the president desire neither to sign nor to veto the bill, he may retain it for ten days, Sundays excepted, after which time it automatically becomes law without signature. However, if Congress has adjourned within those ten days, the bill is automatically killed, that process of indirect rejection being known as a pocket veto.
- What are the basic functions of the legislature in any state?
- Differentiate between the two types of the legislature with examples.
- Define bills
- Explain the process a bill pass through before becoming law.
- Describe the Nigerian Judiciary and explain five (5) of its functions.
In our next class, we will be talking about Basic Principles of Government. We hope you enjoyed the class.
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