The National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a bicameral legislature established under section 4 of the Nigerian Constitution, The National Assembly consists of two houses, they include the Senate and the House of Representatives. Our focus will be on the appointment and removal of the president of the Nigerian Senate and the speaker of the house of representative, all members of the National Assembly are elected directly every four years, The President of the Senate is the presiding officer of the Senate while the Speaker is the presiding officer of the House of Representatives, the presiding officers of the National Assembly are chosen in an indirect election conducted within the Senate and House of Representatives respectively, the election of the presiding officers are entirely the affair of the members of the house amongst themselves. We will proceed to discuss briefly the removal of the president of the senate and speaker of the house of Representatives.
Removal of the president of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representative
They are three (3) ways in which the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representative can vacate their Offices, the constitution clearly provides in Section 50 (2)(a), (b), and (c) circumstances under which they can vacate their offices or forfeit their seats they include
- If the President of the Senate or the speaker ceases to be a member of the Senate or the House of Representatives as the case may be, otherwise than because of a dissolution of the Senate or the House of Representatives.
- When the House of which he was a member first sits after any dissolution of that House.
- If he is removed from office by a resolution of the Senate or the House of Representatives, by the votes of two-thirds of the majority of the members of the House of Representative.
- Vacation of office by the president of the senate or speaker on grounds of cessation of membership – by virtue of Section 68 of the Constitution, A member shall vacate his seat in the House of Representative if he becomes a member of another legislative house, or the occurrence of circumstances that would cause him to be disqualified for elections as a member of the Senate or the house of Representative if he was not already a member arises, if he ceases to be a citizen of Nigeria, if he becomes the President, Vice-President, Governor, Deputy Governor or a Minister, a Commissioner, or a Special Adviser, a member of a commission or other body established by this Constitution or by any other law, if without just cause he is absent from meetings of the House of representative for more than one-third of the total number of days during which the house meets in any one year, if he becomes an member of another political party other than the one that sponsored his election before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored, or if the Speaker of the House of Representatives receives a certificate under the hand of the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission stating that the provisions of section 69 of this Constitution have been complied with in respect of the recall of that member. the above provision can only be given effect if the President of the Senate, the Speaker, or a member can present satisfactory evidence to the House that any of the above circumstances has become applicable as it relates to a member.
By virtue of section 69 of the constitution, a member of the House Representatives may be recalled as a member, if there is presented to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) a petition signed by more than one-half of the persons registered to vote in that member’s constituency alleging their loss of confidence in that member and which signatures are duly verified by the INEC and the petition is thereafter, in a referendum conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission within ninety days of the date of receipt of the petition, approved by a simple majority of the votes of the persons registered to vote in that member’s constituency.
- Dissolution of the Senate and the House of the Representative – The dissolution of either the Senate or the House of Representative is the mandatory simultaneous going out of the office of all of its members, in anticipation that a new Senate or House of Representative will reconvene later with possibly different members, dissolution may be triggered automatically when the assembly reaches the end of a fixed term.
- Removal by a resolution of the Senate or the House of Representatives, by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of the members – this type of removal from office is usually regarded as an impeachment of the speaker even though no such word is expressly used in the Constitution.
In conclusion, the legislature plays a pivotal role as an arm of government, in addition to their law-making functions, they also serve as watchdogs on other arms of government through its broad oversight functions. As a result of these extensive responsibilities imposed on the legislature, powers are susceptible to being abused, hence the need for measures to curb abuses, in seeking to curb abuses the constitution has made the above provisions on recall and forfeiture of legislative seats, but surprisingly since the passing of the 1999 constitution, more than a decade ago, the provision on recall has not been successfully invoked.