House of Representatives
Onwuka Nzeshi in Abuja
The House of Representatives witnessed a rowdy session as lawmakers disagreed over a bill seeking to prohibit states from creating their own flags and anthems.
The bone of contention was the National Symbols Bill 2012 which came up for debate and second reading.
The bill seeks to repeal the Flags and Coat of Arms Act Cap F 30 LFN 2004 which was enacted at independence in 1960.
Tempers flared as lawmakers argued on the need or otherwise for component states of the federation to create their own identities.
It became a fierce contest between states that believe in the concept of true federalism and those comfortable with the unitary federalism introduced into the system during the advent of military rule.
The debate almost degenerated to a shouting match when the Deputy Leader of the House, Hon Leo Ogor, attempted to stop the Minority Leader of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, who was kicking against the bill.
Gbajabiamila had argued that states should be allowed to have their own identities and symbols.
According to him, the concept of federalism is predicated on diversity of component units.
Gbajabiamila argued that state flags are necessary in a federation because they tell who the people are, what they represent and what the state for
“Are we going to eradicate our different languages and culture because of unity? Even in the United States, states have their own flags and it does not in any way create disunity. We are a federation and not a unitary government.
“Even when the debate came to an end, the passage of the controversial bill stirred up some mild protests as the ruling of the presiding officer did not go down well with some lawmakers,” he said.
Sponsor of the bill, Hon. Sunday Karimi (PDP/Kogi), observed that while the national symbol of a nation were symbols of pride, history and heritage of its citizens and the hallmark of a sovereignty, the national symbols were gradually taking a back stage.
He alleged that the Nigerian national symbols including the national flag, coat of arms, national anthem and the national pledge were becoming less significant following the creation of parallel symbols by some states in the country.
“The legislation on national symbol in Nigeria today is the Flags and Coat of Arms Act Cap F 30 LFN 2004, the Act gives the Minister of Internal Affairs Power to licence the use of Nigerian flags and other flags. The Flag Act does not provide for state flags expressly but it permits it by making reference to it,” he said.
“The Flags Act does not mention the Coat of Arms at all neither does it make mention of the national anthem and pledge. The Flag Act does not contain a sample of the coat of arms, national symbol and anthem, thereby providing for room for variations of the original coat of arms, National Assembly, anthem and aymbol as the case may be. It might interest us to know that even our constitution does not contain a sample of the national symbols. All these are lacunas that the bill herein proposed seeks to fill,” he said.
Karimi recalled the struggles for the unification of Nigeria dating back to the civil war. He said that since then, issues like religious and ethnic conflicts have constantly reared their ugly heads in the polity.
“More recently, we are battling with the challenges of insurgencies and terrorism. Nigeria no doubt is at one of the most challenging times in her national history where various factors militating against the Nigerian State keeps raising its head. All efforts geared at fostering unity, nationalism and patriotism should therefore be encouraged while all factors repudiating the Nigerian State must be discouraged,” he said.