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Divided National Assembly

THE National Assembly is taking the rivalry that started last year to newer and more dangerous grounds. Disputes over who would lead the joint committee of the National Assembly to review the Constitution resulted in both houses holding separate reviews.

According to the House of Representatives, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives should co-Chairman with the Deputy Senate President. When publications did not reflect the House’s position, it boycotted a constitutional review retreat in Minna.

The constitutional review has suffered delays as a result of rancours the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), whose members dominate the National Assembly, is unable to resolve.

Any observer of the manners of the National Assembly these past two years would think Nigeria’s democracy was still at the stages of defining appropriate protocols for the National Assembly.

The Constitution succinctly states in Section 53 (2): At any joint sitting of the Senate and House of Representatives, (a) the President of the Senate shall preside, and in  his absence the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall preside; and (b) in the absence of the persons mentioned in paragraph (a) of this subsection, the Deputy President of the Senate shall preside, and in his absence the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives shall preside. (3) in the absence of the persons mentioned in the foregoing provisions of this section, such members of the Senate or House of Representatives or of the joint sitting, as the case may be, as the Senate or the House of Representatives or the joint sitting may elect for that purpose shall preside.

These same provisions served the country in the eight years before the leadership of Chief David Bonaventure Alechenu Mark as Senate President and Chief Oladimeji Saabur Bankole as Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Personality clashes between them are too obvious. Their consistent denial of its existence exacerbates it. The National Assembly, for the first time is arguing over a venue for the joint session, causing President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to postpone presentation of the 2010 budget.

Last year the session held in the House of Representatives, where it has held in the past nine years. Senators say it should hold in their chambers this year. This is a continuation of last year’s fight over leadership of the joint constitutional review committee. The matter could not be resolved and each arm of the National Assembly has been reviewing the Constitution.

President Yar’Adua would  have to resolve this venue tiff to present the budget to the joint session of the National Assembly, as the law demands. The disagreement has moved from who leads joint sessions to venue of such sessions. Both houses are on the same course that stalled the review of the Constitution.

Our National Assembly members should be more concerned with getting their jobs done, legitimately, than the size of their bloated egos. Those fueling these disagreements should be ashamed of the puerility they have brought to serious national matters.


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