By Tititlope Fadare
OrderPaperToday – Senators on Thursday engaged each other in a disagreement over which chamber of the National Assembly has more powers and prestige with respect to relations with the Executive.
While senators who were members of the House of Representatives before crossing over to the Senate argued that both chambers had co-equal powers, others like former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, argued that the red chamber carried more powers and prestige.
The disagreement arose from comments made Deputy Minority Leader, Senator Bala Na’Allah (APC, Kebbi) on the comments by the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo to the effect that the powers of the National Assembly did not extend to altering the budget submitted by the Executive for passage.
Na’Allah who was a member of the House in previous assemblies, had stated that there is no dichotomy of powers between the House of Representatives and Senate stating that they are co-equals in the performance of legislative functions.
He spoke thus: “In the constitution making process, a lot of issues on domination and fear for domination were raised and the constitution anticipates that we would continue to have good presidents that we have till date but it anticipates a situation where one day, we would have a bad president, so the constitution took care of that to make sure that every nook and cranny of this country is being represented, either in the house of the representatives or in the senate.
“The decision to elect representatives is that every ethnic group be represented and the issue of land mass and population was debated upon and election into the House of Representatives was made by the legislature.
“The chambers are equal, there is nothing like upper and lower chamber as far as the constitution is concerned. The intention is to put in check whatever democratic decision that is arrived at to avoid that domination.”
However, Senator Godswill Akpabio would have none of that as he took on a divergent view bluntly stating that the Senate is conferred with additional powers such as confirmation of public officials.
Hear Akpabio: “From the constitutional point of view, indeed Nigeria has a bicameral legislature even if we have a bicameral legislature, I want to correct the impression given by the deputy leader so that we do not leave this place under a wrong impression that in Nigeria we have equal legislature where the House of Representatives and the senate are equal.
“All the powers of the National Assembly contained in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria gives the Senate powers for confirmation over the House in Section 153 and Section 5(4b), the power to deploy armed forces; these are powers that are beyond the power of the House of Representatives.
“The constitution knew that definitely there was an upper house made up of more mature people, more experienced people that would know how to deploy our armed forces in combat situations. Even from the duties assigned to the two chambers, you know that one is upper and one is lower while one has more responsibilities.
“I take cognizance of the fact that some of our colleagues in the senate came from the House of Representatives, so they do have the right to think that while they were there, they were equal. I don’t know why they decided to come here. I hope Senator Na’allah will re-contest to the House of Representatives. I just want to correct him slightly.”
The Leader of the Senate, Senator Ahmed Lawan (APC, Yobe) however joined the fray stating that he “served as a member of the House of Reps for 8 years and then I came to the Senate in 2007. No chamber in the National Assembly can make any legislature without the other.
Lawan further added that “if we cannot as a Senate pass a bill send it to the House of Representatives before sending to the Executive to assent, then it means we have equal powers on this. The Senate is only given additional responsibilities. So when I moved from the House to the Senate, I was looking for the opportunity not participate in legislation but in the confirmation that the House was not able by the constitution to do.”