The word legislature is derived from two Latin words, namely, “lex- legis” which means law and “latus – lateris” which stands for side. It, therefore, literally means that the legislature is that side of government concerned with the law. The legislature is the branch of government that makes laws and formulates the will of the state.
The first legislative body is the BritishParliament. It was established in the 18th century. The other legislative bodies, which are in existence today, are either offshoots of the British parliament or have been modelled after it.
Legislature is the organ of government charged with the responsibility of making laws as well as policy formulation. Despite the importance of this governmental institution, it remains the arm of government that is most hit and undermined by political instability.
Take for instance, in countries where military rulers also disband the legislature. This experience often affects the evolution of legislature adversely.
Thus, this is the bane of development of African democracy because the legislature usually fails to perform effectively, particularly as it relates to the dispensing of its official duties or institutional functions. The art of law making remains lackadaisical.
According to Boynton and Kim (1975), legislature is very important in goal setting in any society. In as much as the legislature remains the governmental institution that enjoys the exclusive rights to formulate policies and make laws, it holds a strategic position in the goal setting process as well as decision-making of the government.
Owing to the fact that laws are made for men, it will be imperative to always examine the continued relevance of all the laws made to the attainment of the goals and objectives of the government and the larger society. Consequently, any laws that have become moribund or no more useful will need to be abrogated (abolished) or amended (refashioned).
The importance of legislature is also evident in its ability or power to change or amend legislation as well as to abolish laws considered not useful for the ‘corporate good’ of the society. The formal rules and informal conventions in the conduct of legislature business often look similar from country to country but with little differences.
The fact is that virtually all the existing legislatures in the world usually adopt one of the two basic models: the Westminster (British) model or Americanmodel.
Most countries have bicameral legislatures except a few ones such as Ghana, Botswana, New Zealand, Denmark, Sweden, Holland, Norway and Luxemburg that operate single legislative body – unicameral legislature.
Functions of Legislature Arms of Government
To make laws for the State.
To amend the constitution.
To control the executive especially on the issue of political recklessness.
To control public expenditure especially the approval of annual budget.
To provide forum for airing political grievances and matters of public importance.
To scrutinize and approve the appointments to important public offices like those of ministers, ambassadors, judges among others.
To appoint the prime minister and others members of the cabinet where applicable.
To supervise and control government agencies.
To provide an atmosphere or rather platform through which public officers acquire the skills of public governace.
It has the power to sack the executive where applicable.