Scrapping the Offices of the Senate President, Deputy Senate President and Deputy Speaker of the House

Scrapping the Offices of the Senate President, Deputy Senate President and Deputy Speaker of the House

By Kurtis Adigba

Three years plus ago, following the contentious process leading to the elections of Bukola Saraki, and Ike Ekweremadu, as President and Deputy Senate President, respectively, and against the backdrop of our previous experience, i argued in a piece posted on Facebook, that the offices listed above , should be scrapped. My argument, was anchored on Economic premise,Administrative duplicity, and the disruptive influence and capacity of the offices.

Nigeria, is a poor country considering the size of the population, and the productive means. We are largely a consuming Nation; depending almost solely on earnings from oil exports. The presidential system of government in operation with two legislative houses; senate and the House of Representatives, at the center, and 36 legislative houses at in the states, are too expensive for our resources.

The United States, where this system is in operation, is the biggest Economy in the world. The Federal Government, and the States, have multiple sources of revenues and resources. The federating units, operates systems of administration and remuneration relative to their resources, subject to a National Minimum wage. But even in the the U. S, they have modified their systems to cut costs, and reduce duplicity of functions.

The United States has a Congress made up of the Senate, and the House of Representatives. The Senate, is the upper chamber as we have in Nigeria. Members of the Senate, under the Connecticut Agreement, are Representatives of the States. Members of the House, represents the people of their constituencies. Every state in the U. S, irrespective of size and population, have 2 senators. California, with a population of million times over and above Delaware, have 2 senators as Delaware. On the other hand, members of the House of Representatives are based on the size of the population.

Members of the senate have a tenure of 6 years, whilst members of the House, have a tenure of two years. As Representatives of the People, it was reasoned and rightly too, that the people be allowed frequent opportunities to decide if they are being represented well. Many have argued that 2 years, is too short and too frequent to hold elections, and that it has the potential to keep the members under constant pressure for funds for re-election, and therefore, make them vulnerable to special interests, and money bags.

The senate in the United States of America, does not have an active and powerful president, and deputy- senate president, as we have in Nigeria. The Vice-President of the country, doubles as the president of the senate. The VP, goes to the senate to break a tie in votes, and sits with the Speaker in a joint legislative session to be addressed by the president, or a foreign leader. He is both a member of the Executive and the Legislature. In his absence, there is the president pro-tempore , who is usually the most senior senator from the party with the majority in the senate.

There is no Deputy Senate President in the United States Senate.

The leader of the Senate in the U. S, is the Majority Leader. He brings motion to the floor of the Senate. He is the leader of his party’s caucus in the senate. He is elected by members of his party only. Once his party loses the majority, he or she, loses the position, and the party with the majority, takes up the position. It is usually filled by the Minority Leader except there is a successful leadership challenge. At the moment, the majority leader is Mitch MCconell of Kentucky. The Minority Leader is Chuck Schumer, of New York. If the Democrats are able to flip the senate in the mid-term elections in November, Schumer, will takeover as Majority Leader. The majority and minority leaders, are senators representing their states and parties.

In Nigeria, we have a Senate President, deputy- senate President, Majority and Minority leaders, all in active capacity at huge costs to the country. The president and deputy- Senate President, see their offices, as equal, if not more powerful than that of the president of the country elected by Majority of Nigerians. We also have huge financial allocations to these offices. The National Assembly, has a budget of N125Billion plus, in the current budget as salaries, allowances, and administrative costs. This is outside of Constituency Allowances. The senate president and the deputy president, are senators elected by their Senatorial Districts to represent them, and not the whole country as the president and the vice-president of the country. The senate president and his deputy, are first and second among equals. They are elected to lead and preside over the affairs of the senate primarily.

From 1999, up until now, the offices of the president of the senate, and the deputy president, has had more disruptive and obstructionist impacts than it has had in delivering good governance. In 1999; the senators wanted Chuba Okadigbo to lead them, but President Obasanjo, wanted Evans Enwerem. He had his way, but Enwerem, never had the confidence of his colleagues and was removed and replaced by Okadigbo. Obasanjo, who did not support Okadigbo, connived with some Senators, hiding under the offense of Anticipatory Approval to remove Okadigbo. Anyim Pius Anyim, who replaced Okadigbo, was always looking out for the slippery banana peel that the senate presidency has become. The senate was always on edge over leadership, and spent more time on leadership squabbles than law making.

In 2003; it was Senator Wabara that was elected as president. Soon afterwards, he fell out with Obasanjo over bribery allegations, and the efforts and attempts to remove him, became the business of the senate and the government, until he resigned and was was replaced by Ken Nnamani. Nnamani, was also under constant threats of removal; especially after he frustrated the 3rd term gambit of Obasanjo. The only time the senate had relative peace and stability, was between 2007-2011, when David Mark presided as the president. The situation in the House, was not different. From Salisu Buari to Ghali Na’Abba , Massari to Etteh, and Bankole to Tambuwal. You sure remember how money allegedly used to bribe members to remove Speaker Na’Abba, was displayed at the House!

From June 2015,up until now, it has been stories of disruptions, obstructions, and manipulations. The manner in which the ruling APC handled the process leading to the election of the president of the senate, and the subterfuge Bukola Saraki deployed and employed to be elected as the president of the senate, created an awkward arrangement where he emerged with a deputy from the Minority party. This was a recipe for crisis and instability. In 16 years of the PDP, no president of the senate had emerged with a deputy from a Minority party. And as expected, it has been crisis after crisis. The senate under Saraki, has spent more time on intrigues and brinksmanship than law making. The unlawful defections of the president from the APC to the PDP, still in the Minority, has stoked more tensions and crises. The senators said they are on recess; but they are all in Abuja not make laws or facilitate governance; but to plan and orchestrate intrigues. Lawmaking and governance, are now secondary to the protection of the seats of the president and deputy president of the senate.

It is therefore my suggestions that we need to amend section 50 of the Constitution, and remove the provisions relating to the offices of the president and deputy-president of the senate. The Vice-president, should double as the president of the senate. The majority leader, should lead the senate. The election of the majority leader, being a party affair, will not generate the tensions and crises the election of the senate president generates with the attendant disruptions to government activities. It will also cut costs to the economy, reduce or eliminate the constant bickering between the Executive and the legislature.

The office of the deputy-speaker of the HOR, should also be scrapped. It is needless, and will save cost. The majority leader, or any other member can preside over activities of the House in the absence of the Speaker.

Life, is lived forward, but understood backwards. This not about a person but the system!

God bless Nigeria.


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