Amidst the drama, intrigues, brinkmanship, and shenanigans that often characterize politics, regardless of where it is played, the principal officers of the 9th Assembly in Nigeria emerged on Tuesday, June 11, 2019. Ahmed Ibrahim Lawal emerged as the Senate President while Femi Gbajabiamila as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Together, these two lawmakers will be calling the shots at the upper and lower chambers jointly known as the National Assembly.
The legislature is the organ of government saddled with the responsibility to make, revise, amend and repeal laws for the advancement and well being of the nation. It is also involved in the twin complementary doctrine of checks and balances so as to make the separation of powers realizable. In Nigeria, the parliament bristles with history. Apart from being used for legislative duties, the floor of the parliament is often a place for the display of verbal pyrotechnics.
It was on the floor of the house that the late Adegoke Adelabu used the timeless ” Peculiar Mess” phrase that would later be corrupted into ‘penkelemesi’. It was also on the floor of the house that the late Kingsley Mbadiwe( a wit like Adelabu) invented the phrase, ” a man of timber and caliber”. And recently, Patrick Obahiagbon, a Wole Soyinka in a vestigial state in terms of words usage, furnished and entertained us with jaw-breaking, polysyllabic Latinized expressions.
The parliament is also a sanctuary or redoubt kind of. This is because by Nigerian laws, whatever a member does on the floor of the House is outside the ambit of the law. For this reason, the floor of the House is often rigged up for theatrical fireworks. Lawmakers have become boxers on the legislative floor before, countless free-for-all have been experienced on the floor in which the mace often get smashed on a fellow lawmaker’s head. Vituperation and verbal lashings are not often ruled out on the floor of the House.
As the 9th assembly begins the serious task of legislation, we anticipate another round of intriguing drama. So that the drama and the legislative proceedings will not be lost on you we present you NINE(9) legislative terminologies.
The mace is the symbol of authority of a legislature. Its presence confers legitimacy on the activities in the House. In other words, the legislature cannot embark on any legitimate business in the chamber without the mace. The mace is made of the coat of arms cast on the heavily gilded silver handle. The placing of the mace on the table before the clerk at the centre of the chamber signifies the readiness of the House to officially commence business.
The import of the mace is well known to legislators and that is why it is often the target whenever there is a need to forestall a legislative proceeding. In the first republic in the heat of the crisis between the leadership of the defunct Action Group( led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo) and the Premier of the Western Region( Samuel Ladoke Akintola), Mr. Ebubedike, a member representing Badagry East, snatched the mace and made away with it.
Again, in 1999 the simmering hostility between Chuba Okadigbo, popularly called ” the Oyi of Oyi”, the Senate President and President Olusegun Obasanjo got to a head when the president started to plot the impeachment of Okadigbo. Okadigbo who had got wind of his impeachment plot ran away with the mace, first to his Abuja residence and later to his village. He was said to have boasted to his supporters that he had kept the mace in the secure company of the pythons he was rearing. The mace would eventually be retrieved from him by the police. He was alive though when they retrieved the mace from him. Okadigbo had boasted that they could not retrieve the mace from him by saying: “I have to be dead before you get the mace.” The mace is that significant in the House.
This is the minimum number of the members of the legislature that must present to conduct the business of legislation. The quorum for the National Assembly is a presence of one-third of all the members of the House. Section 54(1) of the constitution talks about the quorum for the National Assembly.
A quorum for a joint sitting of the Senate and the House of the Representatives is one-third of all the members of both House as stated in section 54(2) of the constitution.
It was, among other reasons, because of the quorum that the immediate past Senate President, Bukola Saraki could not be impeached despite all the drama in the twilight of his tenure. His political adversaries could not form a quorum of one-third.
This is the printed schedule of a legislature for a particular day. It is the House program bearing motions, Bills and even committee meeting and other matters fixed for a particular date. The order paper serves as the House agenda for a particular day as scheduled by the business and rules committee.
A Bill is a draft or proposed law instrument used by the legislature in the making of laws. A Bill is a potential law or “law in the making” it requires the satisfaction of the constitutional and standing orders/Rules stipulations through the required majority of the members and the Chief Executive’s assent to transform it into law.
A motion is a request by a legislator(s) to the House or the Executive arm of government for the solution of a burning issue of the moment with his constituency, state, region or the entire country. A motion represents the collective expression of the populace through their representative in the legislature on a matter of utmost importance.
Hansard (also known as the Official Report) is the report of the proceedings of the Parliament. It is a full report, in the first person, of virtually every word said in the debates in both the upper and lower chambers, with only repetitions and redundancies omitted and obvious mistakes corrected.
The debates are extremely useful for tracing the passage of a Bill through Parliament, and for establishing Parliament’s feelings on political issues of the day.
Plenary Session/Sitting/ Recess
This refers to the day, period of time in which a legislature formally assembles for the purpose of lawmaking. A session must consist of not less than 181 days within a legislative year.
Sittings are meetings or hearing periods of the legislative assembly within a session or legislative year. There is no constitutional provision for daily sittings. Each House has to decide what’s best for it. However, It has been observed since 1999 on Tuesday and Thursdays.
Recess refers to the long break of the house at the end of a session. It is known as periodic adjournment and should not be confused with the usual adjournment after a plenary sitting. Recess is the period both or either chamber of the National Assembly takes a long adjournment for holidays or to perform oversight functions.
This medium enables interest groups( communities, organization) and even private citizens to convey and express their support or disapproval for particular legislation. This is a closed book to most Nigerians and it has been greatly under-utilized.
The common form of petition emerges as a complaint by members of the public, aggrieved group or a person seeking redress or help from the legislature. It is usually addressed to the petitioner(s) representative in the legislature who will formally present it to the House for consideration.
A resolution is a formal declaration of a legislature decided by vote, expressing the ‘prevailing’ opinion of the legislature on a matter it considers of great importance.
A resolution is required for the removal of the presiding officer of the state House of Assembly, House of Representatives and the Senate.
A resolution could be SIMPLE if it pertains to the decision of one legislature which demonstrates its stance on an issue it accords prominence; CONCURRENT when it involves the State and National Assembly. It emerges in the amendment of the constitution or national issues of paramount importance like the adjustment of state boundaries and creation of states or JOINT which emerges as a product of a declaration by the Senate and the House of Representatives on a particular issue of National interest.
Joint resolution is needed to extend the periods of holding an election position beyond four years during a period of war as adjudged by the president. Also, the declaration of a state of emergency by the president requires Joint resolution.
SaharaReporters, New York