The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila has emphasised the need for deeper parliamentary cooperation between Nigeria and Egypt.
The Speaker said though both countries have been enjoying great relationships since the 1960s, the time has come for the Parliaments of both countries to explore other areas that would be of mutual benefits to them.
Gbajabiamila spoke while receiving the Speaker of the Egyptian House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Aly Abdel Sayed Ahmed in his office where he sought to know how Egypt was able to move between the practice of bicameral and unicameral legislatures without rancour.
Saying that there are lots to do together between the two parliaments, Gbajabiamila requested to know what informed the decision of Egypt to go back to the bicameral legislature after the Senate was abolished in 2014.
He said: “These are issues that are very important to us. I understand that before 2014, your parliament was bicameral, and in 2014, you became unicameral and now you’ve just amended your constitution to go back to bicameral and bring your Senate back.
In addition, the Speaker expressed his interest in the ratio of women in the Egyptian parliament of about 600 lawmakers with about 100 women and how that was achieved.
He said avenues to ensure more Nigerian companies operate in Egypt should be explored by the North African country, that has over 50 companies operating in Nigeria.
Additionally, with about 10,000 Nigerian students in Egypt on Student Exchange Programmes, Gbajabiamila said more Egyptian students should come to Nigeria to further their education because the current arrangement favours Egyptian economy more considering the huge foreign exchange from Nigerian students.
The Speaker also informed his guest that Nigeria would want to learn how Egypt is tackling some common challenges like terrorism.
Gbajabiamila expressed the readiness of the House to visit Egypt as soon as practicable where further areas of cooperation would be explored.
In his response, the Speaker of the Egyptian parliament Sayed Ahmed said the issue of the parliament was constitutional, saying, “Regarding unicameral and bicameral parliament, in our 1971 constitution, we have only unicameral change.
“The constitution was amended in 1980 to adopt bicameral parliament, but a lot of criticism trailed the bicameral legislature because Egypt is a central and not a federal state and passing legislation in bicameral parliament consumes a lot of time.
“The existence of the other chamber, from an economic point of view, costs a lot. This was the reason why Egyptians cancelled the Senate from the constitution in 2014. The Speaker was part of the Committee that wrote the constitution.
“But we note that the global ratio for representing people that should be one seat in parliament should represent 100,000 or 120,000 people. If we perform that ratio, we may reach 800 members of parliament in our parliament, but that is not practical.
“The main reason we adopted the Senate again was to increase parliamentary participation by the people. That’s is why we have another chamber. The proposal now is 300 seats in the Senate, 100 of them appointed by the President of the Republic and 200 directly elected by the people.
“On women representation in the Egyptian parliament, we already have some provisions in the constitution that make some discrimination to women.
“We have some plain provisions in the constitution without percentage, but in the last constitutional amendment, we make a clear provision that stipulates that not less than 25 per cent of the seats in the House of Representatives should be granted to women”.
He also said because Egypt is a country of diversity, the constitution contains provisions that grant representation to Egyptians based on religion, disabilities, Egyptians in the diaspora, some professions as well as youths, workers and villagers.
The Egyptian Speaker expressed hope of strengthened cooperation between the two parliaments while extending an invitation to his Nigerian counterpart for a working visit to the Egyptian House of Representatives.