Legislative institution and structure of the legislature

Legislative institution

Legislature all over the world bears remarkable sameness. Members of the Congress, the state or national assemblies, diet, Parliament, and so on, typically engage in speech making, reviewing legislations in committees as well as voting on bills and performing other constituent functions. Essentially, the legislature is designed to make law for the peace and good governance of the society. This explains why Britannica Concise Encyclopedia defines it as ‘Law making branch of government’. Columbia Encyclopedia sees it as ‘representing assembly empowered to enact law’. The law making function is most fundamental because legislative process remains the most visible way to effect change in a democratic polity. Consequently, apart from making fresh laws, the legislative institution is also empowered to confirm, enlarge, restrain, repeal and amend legislations covering virtually all aspects of human endeavor whether civil, criminal, military or otherwise. The fact that the executive no matter how benevolent and the judiciary, no matter how vigilant, sacred or esteemed, cannot make law, makes the legislature as far law making is concerned na extraordinary tribunal.



Before the Advent of the legislature, the law was dictated by the monarchs. The legislature evolved from medieval bodies periodically assembled by Kings, in order to agree on levies or taxation. Early European legislature include:

  1. The English Parliament and,
  2. The Icelandic Althing .

While rules of law have always been a concern for society, the is of the legislature for their establishment is a relatively modern phenomenon. I’m earlier times, human laws were considered part of the universal natural law, discoverable through the use of reason rather made by the declaration of the people.



With the decline of monarchical powers, however, the legislatures with law- making powers come into being. One of the oldest legislatures (with the possible exception of Iceland’s Althing and the Isle of man’s Tynwald is the English Parliament) which, although originally non-elective and advisory to the king, has evolved over the centuries to point where lower House is now elected through universal suffrage and possesses the sovereign power of the state. Some other modern national legislatures are the US Congress, the Cortes (pain), the knesset (Israel), the Dail Eiream (Ireland), the Bundestag (Germany), the folketing (Denmark), the Riksday (Sweden), the Sorting (Norway), and the Congress of People’s Deputies (Russia)

In summary, the legislature can simply be defined as a representative assembly of persons that make statutory laws for a municipality, state, or nation. It is an embodiment of the doctrine of popular sovereignty, which recognizes that the people are the source of all Political power. Citizens choose by popular vote, the legislators or representatives they want to serve them. The representatives are expected to be sensitive to the needs of their constituents and to represent their constituents’ interest in the legislature.

Structure of the legislature

The primary component of a legislature are one or more Chambers or house.

  • A legislature with only one house is called Unicameral.
  • A bicameral Legislature possesses two separate chambers, usually describe as an upper house and a lower house, which often differ in duties, powers and the methods used for the selection of members.
  • Tricameral legislature is very rare, but it is known to have existed in the waning years of white – minority rule in South Africa.

In most parliamentary systems, the lower house is the more powerful house, while the upper house is merely a chamber of advice or review. However, in presidential systems, the powers of the two house are often similar or equal. In federations, it is typical for the upper house to represent the component states. For this purpose, the upper house may either contains the delegate of state governments, as the case in Germany and was the case in the United States before 1913, or be elected according to a forum that grants equal representation to States with smaller populations, as it is the case in Austria and the modern United States.

As explained earlier, the federal legislature, such as the US Congress, is bicameral in structure. It consists two chambers, namely;

  • House of Representatives and
  • The Senate.

Each state has a legislature, made up of two houses, except Nebraska, which has only one. State legislative bodies have various official designations, including state legislative assembly. Local legislature is generally structured differently from the state and national model. It may be called city councils, or boards of alderman and alderwoman.

The structure of the legislative institution in Nigeria is also bicameral, meaning that it consists of two chambers, namely;

  • The House of Representatives and
  • The Senate

Each State has a legislature and all state have only one chamber or house- the House of Assembly. The local government also operates Unicameral model.

The traditional bicameral structure of state and national legislature developed out of the early US societal distinctions between the public in general and the propertied wealthy class. This structure provided for a lower house and an upper house. The lower house legislators were elected by the general voting public, and it was believed that their votes were likely to be radical. The upper house legislators were elected by voters who owned more property, and it was believed that they would be more mindful of the concerns of property owners.


Traditional bicameralism is still supported for various reasons. It is believed that because both house must separately pass a “bill” in order for the bill to become law, bicameral Legislature is less likely to pass hasty, ill-considered laws or to be subject to public passions. Proponent of unicameralism (a one chamber system)cites lower costs, simpler procedures, better executive legislative relationships and Legislative development that are easier for the public to follow as its advantages.

Federal and State legislatures range in size from the US Congress, consisting of 535 members to Delaware state legislature with fewer than 100 members. The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria state that the Senate shall consist of three se innators from each state, and one from Federal Capital Territory Abuja. With the current federal structure of 36 States and one federal capital territory, the total number of senators is 109. Chapter five of the same Constitution states that the House of Representatives shall consist of three hundred and sixty member(360).

Read more:Understanding Political enquiry and Research

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