Nigeria’s Senate and House of Representatives | 7 Differences and Similarities  

Sharon EboesomiJune 22, 20246 min
The Nigerian National Assembly is a bicameral legislature established under section 4 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) consisting of the Senate and House of Representatives.
Key differences between Nigeria's Senate and House of Representatives 

The Nigerian Parliament, right from its inception, has seen significant and historical advancements that can be traced back to the colonial and post-colonial times.

Run through history…

Nigeria’s colonial legacy is the background to the current system of presidentialism in Nigeria. Over time, the legislature in Nigeria has transformed into an institutional structure with a key role in promoting government accountability. Nigeria has had six successive legislatures for a period of 25 years since its return to democratic rule in 1999. Three different forms of legislative systems have been experimented since the history of the country: first is the British colonial rule under the Crown; second is parliamentary system at independence till (which combined the parliament and executive) when the military struck; and thirdly, presidential democracy (separate and distinct executive and legislative branches) since 1979 where legislative powers are vested on the National Assembly and the House of Assembly of the States, respectively.

A bicameral legislature at the centre…

Section 4(1) of the 1999 constitution basically states that, “The legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be vested in a National Assembly for the Federation, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.” As the highest policy-making body and having equal legislative powers in terms of law-making, the House and Senate form the legislative branch of the federal government. They interact with the executive and judicial branches to implement the checks and balances that keep all three branches functioning and prevent any single branch from abusing its power.

Similar but different…

However, there are a few differences between both apex legislative houses in Nigeria as seen from the below:

  • Nomenclature

The Senate is often referred to as the red chamber or the upper legislative chamber while the House of Representatives is known as the green chamber or the lower legislative  chamber.

  • Composition

The Senate comprises 109 Senators representing three (3) senatorial districts from each of the 36 States of the federation and one (1) from Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The number of constituencies per state varies in the House of Representatives since landmass and population strength is the criteria used to determine the number for each state. While the members of the House of Representatives could cover just 2 local government areas in most cases, the senators cover as much as 5 to 9 local government areas.

Nigeria's Senate and House of Representatives | Differences and Similarities  

  • Leadership Structure

The presiding officers in the Senate are the President of the Senate and Deputy President of the Senate while the Speaker and Deputy Speaker lead the House of Representatives at plenary and general leadership of the chamber.

READ ALSO: Parliament Primer: Simple guide to understanding the National Assembly 

  • Age requirement/qualification

A candidate must be at least 32 years of age to run an election for a seat in the Senate while the age qualification to run for election in the House of Representatives is 25.

  • Legislative powers

The Senate has the special authority to impeach the President and Vice President and recommend the removal from office of some senior executive officials, such as the Federal Auditor General, and members of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The President’s nominations for ministers, ambassadors, justices of the Supreme Court, members of statutory commissions and agencies, and other positions are required to be confirmed by the Senate.

  • Committee composition

Most activities of the National Assembly are done through the Committees.  The committees are populated by Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members of both chambers and are often chosen based on professional affiliation, experiences in life, and political expediency. The 10th Senate has a total of 74 committees – 8 Special Committees and 66 Standing Committees while the 10th House of Representatives has a total of 134 committees – 7 Special Committees, 127 Standing Committees 

  • Arrangement of Business for plenary proceedings

Both Houses have similar arrangements of the business of the day outlined on the order paper for each plenary sitting. Below is the format: 

  1. Formal entry of the Speaker or Senate President
  2. Prayers, approval of votes and proceedings
  3. Oath/affirmation of allegiance and oath/affirmation of membership of new Senator or Member-elect
  4. Message from President
  5. Other announcement by the Speaker or Senate President
  6. Petitions
  7. Matter of urgent national importance, personal explanation and orders of the day (Bills, committee reports and motions)

However, there’s a slight difference in the House of Representatives whereby, after the message from the President, a message from the President of the Senate follows as the fifth business of the day.

Sharon Eboesomi

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