Members of the House of Representatives held a near rowdy session on Thursday as they debated a bill to enact the National Symbols Act.
It took the intervention of the presiding Deputy Speaker, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha, to ensure that the situation was brought under control.
Some lawmakers from the South-West states saw the bill as a move to interfere with their self identities and the rights of federating states to promote their culture and way of life.
Others, however, argued that the recent trend, where certain states are designing their on flags, anthem and coats of arms was a threat to national unity.
The sponsor of the bill, Mr. Karimi Sunday, told the House that at least 12 states in the country now had their own flags and other emblems.
He said, “The latest one is Bayelsa State. Almost all the states in the South-West have their own flags.
“In the North, Kwara has, and so on.”
He alleged that it had got to a point where some states no longer displayed the national flag but their state flags.
Sunday explained that while a state could have a flag, it was wrong for it to have an anthem and a pledge.
Where a state has a flag, he said, the state should display it beside the national flag.
He said, “No state should have a state anthem and a state pledge.
“The essence of this bill is to foster national unity” by properly defining Nigeria’s national symbols and stating the procedure for acquiring them.”
He argued that the existing law “has several lacunas” and did not give samples of the national symbols, thereby allowing people to design the symbols the way it pleased them.
The Minority Leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, however, said care should be taken not to interfere with the rights of some states to have self identity.
He observed that some flags had the coat of arms engraved in the middle, “which is wrong. It is a defaced flag.”
At this point, the Deputy Majority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor, interrupted and accused Gbajabiamila of losing track of the debate.
He raised a point of order, saying the minority leader was taking a position suggesting that there should be no laid down procedures for doing things in the country.
Speakers were divided, the majority of them opposing the bill.
The voice vote for were taken three times before Ihedioha ruled in favour of passing the bill for second reading.