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Scramble for ‘juicy’ committees intensifies in National Assembly as Akpabio, Abbas compile list

Two days after the emergence of principal officers in both Senate and House of Representatives, lawmakers in both chambers have intensified lobbying for chairmanship of committees.

 

The Senate Leader, Michael Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti) had on Tuesday told reporters that the Red Chamber would constitute special and standing committees before the end of July, reports Daily Trust.

 

Bamidele had said with the emergence of the majority and minority caucus, which makes up the principal officers, they would hit the ground running.

 

“The first task ahead of us is to constitute special committees of the 10th Senate. Our rules make provision for six special committees.

 

“This is so that every Senator can get busy based on their own professional background and can properly fit into the sector where they can add value,” he said.

 

The Senate has about 70 standing committees but the most sought-after include: Appropriation, Finance, Judiciary, Public Accounts, Petroleum Resources (Upstream), Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Works and Niger Delta Development Commission.

 

Others are Power, Health, Tertiary Education and TETFUND, Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, Gas, Defence (Army), Communications, Aviation and Independent National Electoral Commission.

 

They are termed ‘juicy’ because of the largesse and other opportunities available to the chairmen.

 

Hot lobbying in Senate

 

Since the emergence of the principal officers, senators eyeing heads of various standing committees have intensified their lobby, deploying different strategies to outdo one another.

 

In their quest to get key committees, sources told our correspondent that senators were avoiding being confrontational to the leadership of the Senate and resorting to following the presiding officers wherever they go so as not to be forgotten.

 

It was not immediately clear if some names had been penciled down, senators who worked for Akpabio during the campaign for Senate presidency race have stepped up their push for heads of juicy committees.

 

The presiding officers usually reward lawmakers that worked for their emergence with such juicy committees.

 

For instance, Senator Adeola Olamilekan Solomon (APC, Ogun West), who was among the top campaigners for Akpabio, was said to be jostling for the chair of the appropriation committee.

 

Adeola, who chaired the finance committee in the 9th Senate, is always seen around Akpabio in and out of the National Assembly.

 

Despite the tension the jostling for principal offices generated, the process that threw up the majority and minority leaders was rancour-free.

 

It was gathered that the selection of principal officers, especially the minority leaders was devoid of acrimony because aggrieved lawmakers decided not to protest in anticipation of being rewarded with chairmanship of juicy committees.

 

Senator Abdul Ningi (PDP, Bauchi) was among the arrowheads of Senator Abdulaziz Yari’s campaigners for Senate presidency. He was also part of the opposition senators jostling for Senate minority leader.

 

After losing out, a vibrant Ningi went quiet contrary to expectations.

 

In an interview with reporters after the emergence of principal officers, Ningi said there was no need for protest since the majority of opposition senators endorsed Simon Devou Nwadkwon (PDP, Plateau) as minority leader.

 

He said, “I don’t think it will be good enough for any one of us to raise an eyebrow. Let’s see how far he can go, but it is going to be a tough task for all of us. I also had an interest in the leadership of the minority but since I didn’t get it, we will support the minority leader.”

 

Despite working against Akpabio during the campaign, the Senate President on Tuesday named him as a chairman of an ad hoc committee.

 

Though the presiding officers have the discretionary powers to name any lawmaker as chairman of any committee, sources said the selection would be based on lawmakers’ areas of specialisation and competence.

 

This, a lawmaker who preferred not to be named said, was to ensure effective oversight of government agencies amid public criticism that MDAs are poorly scrutinized by the parliament.

 

House mulls increase of standing committees

 

Similarly, intense lobbying and jostling for juicy committees are ongoing in the Green Chamber among members even as the House is said to be planning to increase the number of standing committees.

 

Following the emergence of the presiding and principal officers of the 10th House, the focus now is on chairmanship and deputy chairmanship of the various committees of the House.

 

The ‘Selection Committee’ headed by the Speaker, Tajudeen Abbas and his Deputy, Benjamin Kalu as Deputy Chairman have a big task to accomplish in a short time, which is the allocation of committee chairmanship and membership.

 

The committee has a member each from all the states’ caucuses.

 

While its work is kept under wraps, the acting Chairman, Adhoc Committee on Media and Publicity, Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim assured that the committees’ compositions and leadership will be done soon.

 

According to her, the committee had been doing its work since its formation and would do a thorough, deserving job for the House and the country.

 

The House of Representatives during the immediate past 9th Assembly had 105 standing committees.

 

But following the high intensity of jostling and scrambling for committee slots, it was learnt that the leadership of the House is already considering the possibility of increasing the number of committees to accommodate more members.

 

The Speaker of the House, Tajudeen Abbas is facing a herculean task in the sharing of the committee slots among members, in view of the overwhelming votes and support he got from both members of the ruling APC and those of the opposition political parties who are in greater majority.

 

It was learnt that members of the House who are from both the ruling and opposition parties are insisting they must be carried along in the selection of chairmen for the various committees of the House, insisting they all worked for the victory of the speaker.

 

Old timers, fresh members in cold war

 

It was gathered that there is a cold war between the new lawmakers who are mainly of the opposition parties and the old timers mostly from the ruling All Progressives Congress over the sharing of juicy committee slots.

 

A returning member who spoke to our reporter on condition of anonymity said that the new members came in with high expectations as regards committees’ leadership and membership.

 

He said, in one of his discussions with some of the new members, it was clear that they have already framed their minds and are eyeing particular committees’ chairmanship or deputies for some of them.

 

Most of the returning members have been heads or members of key committees or held principal officers’ leadership positions and would go for the same or different committees.

 

One of the returning lawmakers who spoke to our reporter on telephone, Sani Bala (APC, Kano) said, the lobby is fiercely intense, adding that the speaker and his deputy are really facing a tough task.

 

“Lobbying is a natural thing in the National Assembly. Even in the United States and other democracies you will see that there is always lobby.

 

“However, you know they have the records of all the members and their experiences and the selection committee has the prerogative to allocate chairmanship or membership of committees based on that.

 

“But, that does not mean that a returning member who had been a member or chairman of a certain committee would still remain in that committee, it is not a guarantee”, he said.

 

On the number of committees, the lawmaker said, the 9th House had 105 committees, which he said may probably be increased as a result of present needs and agitations.

 

In the build-up to the inauguration of the 10th House, a group, Joint Task-10th Assembly compromising members of the ruling APC and those of the opposition parties worked for the victory of Tajudeen Abbas, and as such, they are all looking up for compensation in terms of committee chairmanship.

 

As it is usually the tradition, members of the ruling party in the House and returning/ranking lawmakers are usually given preference in terms of committee chairmanships but the present scenario is such that the new lawmakers are also angling for juicy committees of the House.

 

It was learnt that there is ongoing high-wired politicking among lawmakers to clinch some of the committees considered to be juicy.

 

Among such juicy committees are Appropriations, Finance, Defence, Army, Navy and Air Force, Police Affairs, National Security and Intelligence, Customs and Excise; Ports and Harbours, NIMASA, Banking and Currency, Health, Education, Agriculture, Petroleum Resources Upstream/Downstream, Ecological Funds, Public Accounts, just to mention a few.

 

It was believed that speakership candidates that stepped down for the Speaker, Tajuddeen Abbas may get juicy committees’ leadership.

 

One of the major contenders of the speakership position, Muktar Betara Aliyu (APC, Borno), who stepped down for the emergence of Tajudeen Abbas, is most likely to retain the chairmanship of the ‘juicy’ House Committee on Appropriations which he held in the 9th House.

 

Similarly, Yusuf Gagdi (APC, Plateau), who was one of the speakership aspirants who stepped down for Abbas is most likely to retain the House Committee on Navy which he held during the 9th House or in the alternative be considered for another ‘juicier’ committee.

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