The 1960 constitution of Nigeria created the House of Senate in Nigeria. The 1979 constitution and the 1999 constitution provided for the House of Senate. The House of Senate is not superior to the House of Representatives. Both of them have equal powers in law making.
The senatorial constituencies are bigger than that of House of Representatives. Senators has wider political base than a member of House of Representatives. The president of the senate presides over all joint session of the National Assembly but in his absence the speaker of the House of Representatives would preside.
It is the exclusive power of senate to confirm certain presidential appointment which includes the appointment of Chief Justice of Nigeria, Federal Ministers, Chairman and Members of the Federal Executive Council, the President of Court of Appeal, Ambassadors and High Commissioners.
The 1999 Constitution of Nigeria states that each of the state of the federation shall be represented in the senate by three senators, the federal capital Abuja is represented by one senator. The senate has 109 senators under the 1999 constitution.
The senate was 44 in 1960, 95 members in 1979. The House of Senate is presided over by the President of the Senate elected by members of the senate. A deputy senate president is elected from the senate. The deputy senate president presides over the house in the absence of the senate president.
For a person to qualify for a senatorial seat in National Assembly, the person must be a citizen of Nigeria of at least 35 years of age. He must possess school certificate or its equivalent and must be a member of a political party.
A person who has acquired citizenship of another country, lunatic or person of sound unsound mind, a person sentenced to death or imprisoned, a member of a secret society and a person who presented forged certificate to Independent National Electoral Commission cannot qualify for election into the senate.
A member of the senate shall vacate office if he ceases to be a member of the senate by removal either through decision of a competent election tribunal or upon the dissolution of the House of Senate or upon appointment as a minister.
The business of the House of Senate is conducted in English Language but could be conducted in Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba where adequate arrangements are made. The senate appoints various committee and each is headed by chairman.
The business of the house is conducted through the committees including the committee of the whole house. The house of senate is dissolved at the expiration of a 4year period commencing from the date of the first sitting of the House.
Extension of time of the House during a state of emergency or war shall not exceed 6 months period. The senate and the House of Representatives sit for a period of not less than 181 days in a year. The House of Senate is usually made up of distinguished personalities from all works of life.
In the United States the Senate President is usually the Vice President, but in Nigeria he is member of the House of Senate. Note that there are two well known justifications for the existence of a second chamber.
In the word of Obafemi Awolowo “the first which is common both to a unitary and federal – is that it gives the country’s law makers an opportunity for second thought, which on major issues are necessary and useful.
The second applies only to federal system; it helps to correct interstate disparity in membership which exist in the lower house where presentation is based on populations. In the Upper House representation is same for every state.
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