Abuja - A former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Umar Na’abba, on Monday in Abuja faulted the elevation of the Senate above the House of Representatives.
Na'abba who said this during a debate on a sub-committee report by the National Conference's Standing Committee on Politics and Governance, said the development was a misrepresentation of fact.
He said the two Houses of the National Assembly were equal.
The sub-committee’s report, among other things, recommended a Unicameral Legislature for the country as opposed to the current Bicameral Legislature.
The former Speaker explained that the House of Representatives was even more representative of the people than the Senate.
He said it was wrong to refer to the Senate President as the Chairman of the National Assembly, insisting that the Senate was not higher than the House of Representatives.
"Also, the usage of 'upper house' and 'lower house' for the Senate and the House of Representatives respectively should not be seen to mean that the House of Representatives is lower in status.
"Rather, let it be known that the nomenclature was adopted by the U.S. when the two houses were at New York, and one was occupying the ground floor and the other occupying the upper floor,’’ Na’abba said.
He said the Senate was created to ensure equality among the states of the federation, adding that each state had five Senators during the Second Republic and now three Senators.
However, Ibrahim Ida and Ray Ekpu faulted Na’abba’s position and argued that the Senate was superior to the House of Representatives.
"The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria explicitly states who is the Chairman of the National Assembly.
"The provision of the Constitution also makes it clear that the qualifications for being a Senator and those of a House of Representatives member are not the same.
"The Constitution also provides a larger constituency for the Senate than that of the House of Representatives. So, the two are not the same and are not equal,” Ida said.
Ekpu, in his position, said the Senate also screened and confirmed ministers and other appointees of the President while the House of Representatives was not empowered to do that.
He further recommended the scrapping of the House of Representatives, in view of what he called "the members’ small-mindedness”.
Ekpu, however, said the Senate should be retained, and recommended four representative from each of the 36 states and one for the FCT to make a total of 145.
"This will reduce cost and the frequent frictions between the Senate and the House of Representatives,’’ he said.
Most of the delegates, in their contributions, supported a unicameral legislature for the country before the committee Chairman, Prof Jerry Gana, adjourned the sitting.
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