The Concept of Delegated Legislation in Nigeria


Growing up, we were all familiar with the Three Arms of Government: The Executive, The Legislative and the Judiciary, and we have always known that the Legislative Arm of Government is the arm that is primarily responsible for law making in the country.

So one might often wonder what the term “Delegated Legislation” mean, as that is one aspect we were never really taught on. Not only would we simplify the aforementioned term in this article, but we would also discuss at length, how the practice affects Nigerians. 

So let’s get straight to it. 

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What is Delegated Legislation? 

Delegated Legislation is a practice that involves law making by the Executive Arm of Government or other key administrative offices, other than those that are made by the Legislators. These laws that are made by the Executive, are eventually included in the general legislative process and ultimately, are used for the regulation of a society. Over the years, several schools of thought have opposed this practice in Nigeria, as they consider it a breach on the Principle of Separation of Power. 

The reason why the Government opted for this system of legislation can however be justified, because on a daily basis the Legislative Arm is faced with countless economic, social and cultural human activities to oversee, and the Government needs to provide laws in order to effectively regulate these activities. If this is left for the Legislative Arm of Government alone, the areas are far too vast to be solely handled hence, the need for Delegated Legislation. 

Having understood the general definition and reason for Delegated Legislation, let’s now consider how it affects Nigerians. In as much as the reason why Nigeria adopted the practice of Delegated Legislation seems quite genuine, as the popular saying goes, “There is always two sides of a coin.” Thus, the practice has both advantages and disadvantages. 


Merits of Delegated Legislation

  1. Saves Time: The Legislative Arm of Government already has far too many activities to oversee, and having to solely look into these various activities in detail, would not only be tedious, but also very time-wasting. Thus, Delegated Legislation helps to save time, thereby ensuring effectiveness in operations. 
  2. Enables Flexibility: Judging by the numerous sectors of Government to regulate, having to consult one body before laws are passed or implemented, would make the system rigid and extremely slow. Delegated Legislation however, solves this problem seamlessly as other bodies now have the authority to make laws in areas that are peculiar to their operations. 
  3. Ensures Expert Legislation: There are some sectors of Government, where laws can’t be made without consulting experts in that field, such as the Health Sector. If there is no Delegated Legislation, the average legislator wouldn’t be able to make effective laws, and this could cause hitches in the general operations of those sectors.

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Now on to the disadvantages. 

Demerits of Delegated Legislation

  1. Allows for Undemocratic Procedures: The leaders of the administrative or statutory bodies, that are now charged with the responsibility of making laws for citizens, were not democratically elected by the general society, as most of them came into office by appointment. 
  2. Violates the Principle of Rule of Law: The Rule of Law helps to ensure that no one, irrespective of the position they occupy in the society, is above the law. However, when this constitutional authority is broken down into various sectors of the economy, there is the possibility of some citizens to cut corners when they break laws, without facing the full consequence of their actions or inactions. 
  3. Ineffective Control: When the constitutional authority to make laws are given to numerous bodies and individuals spread all across the country, effective control of the laws that are made and how they are implemented becomes a problem. 
  4. Could Lead to Dictatorship: The Delegated Legislation practice allows for constitutional powers to be vested in the hands of a few, in the general society. This could put the well-being of other regular citizens on the line, because they are faced with the risk of dictatorship by this “selected few”, and could be made to go against their free will, especially in emergency periods. 

It should also be noted that there are various types of Delegated Legislation. Let’s also briefly consider them, and the bodies that are in charge of their implementation. 

Types of Delegated Legislation

  1. Statutory Instruments: These are orders or laws passed by ministers, commissioners or senior civil servants. 
  2. Provisional Orders: These are temporary rules made by bodies or individuals, under ministerial authorization. 
  3. By-Laws: These are made by local government officials or statutory bodies, for the effective running of their operations. These laws are however limited, and can only be applied within their areas of interest. 
  4. Emergency Orders: These are orders made by the Government during emergency periods, that have a limited societal scope. 
  5. Court Decisions: Decisions reached by a judge in a court of law, also constitute Delegated Legislation. 


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