Members of the House of Representatives are poised for a showdown with the leadership of the Green Chamber over who gets what in the composition of the House Standing Committees.
This is even as the speaker of the House, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, was said to be in a fix on how to please various interests cutting across party lines in the Lower House regarding the membership and chairmanship of the yet-to-be-named committees.
Standing Committees of either the Senate or House of Representatives in the National Assembly have oversight functions to monitor government or private agencies, programmes, and activities within their jurisdictions, and in some cases in areas that cut across committee jurisdictions.
The intrigues surrounding the composition of the Standing Committees started with the secret inauguration of a Selection Committee saddled with that responsibility under the chairmanship of Speaker Dogara on Tuesday, August 11, 2015.
Journalists earlier invited to the event by the speaker’s media team, were asked to leave on a second thought immediately after Dogara’s arrival for the inauguration function.
Subsequently, on Thursday, August 13, the day the lawmakers were proceeding on an annual vacation, the chairman of the House ad-hoc committee on media and public affairs, Hon. Mohammed Sani Zoro (APC, Jigawa) told journalists that the Selection Committee will be meeting during the recess in order to perform its function of placing members in relevant committees.
“This will be achieved also in the weeks to come while in processing. In other words, the Selection Committee of the House as well as other committees that have tasks and assignment to accomplish will be very much around,” Zoro had said.
Findings however showed that the committee met only once since its inauguration even as reports of Dogara relocating to overseas with some loyalists to avoid intense lobbying from members filtered out.
It was also gathered that the reported foreign trip may be a special arrangement other than that of the Selection Committee as some statutory members of the committee were not part of the trip, a development pointing to a sharp division in the body of principal officers of the House.
Enquiries at the weekend showed that the deputy speaker, Hon. Yusuf Suleiman Lasun; House majority leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and few other nominees representing state caucuses in the Selection Committee were in Nigeria holidaying since they were not included in the arrangement for the trip.
Attempt to get clarification from the House spokesman, Zoro, proved abortive as calls placed to his phone were not going through. It was however gathered that he travelled to his constituency to sympathise with victims of flood disaster as well as to mobilise support for them from relevant government agencies.
Similarly, the special adviser to Dogara on media and public affairs, Turaki Hassan, could not be reached as at press time while calls placed to the senior special assistant to the Speaker on media and publicity, Iliya Habila, yesterday, were not answered.
But a highly-placed source privy to the developments confided in LEADERSHIP that it might be difficult to have the Standing Committees ready by September 29 when the House will reconvene given the on-going intrigues trailing what number of committees is necessary on one hand and the choice of committee to serve by members on the other hand.
“The Standing Committees can only be constituted by the Selection Committee as demanded by the House Standing Rules but since the committee so empowered has not been meeting, how do you expect the aim to be achieved?” the source said.
Already there are fears by the majority All Progressives Congress (APC) members that Dogara might be dancing to the tune of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmakers regarding the chairmanship and membership of some choice or juicy committees as payback for the latter’s support to his speakership aspiration.
Each member was expected to be given a form to fill by the Selection Committee on which he or she will indicate the committees to serve in order of preference as the committees to be constituted have been graded into three categories.
However, a ranking member of the House on the platform of the APC who pleaded for anonymity, told reporters that they will reject any attempt by their PDP counterparts to hijack the House under whatever guise.
“I don’t know whether Dogara wanted to please anybody and spite another but what I can tell you is that we have tolerated PDP members’ divisive antics enough, because we won’t take it anymore, committees or no committees,” he said.
But a member of the Selection Committee, Hon. Ayo Omidiran (APC, Osun), in a chat with newsmen denied any underhand dealing regarding their assignment, saying the composition of the Standing Committees will be done with soonest.
“There is nothing hanky panky about it. It is a very straight forward thing. By the time we resume, we will meet again and the committees will be sorted out,” Omidiran said.
Recall that Dogara had earlier promised in his Legislative Agenda presented to members to cut down the number of Standing Committees from 89 in the 7th Assembly to a desirable size in order to avoid overlapping functions by some of the committees, which he said was a waste of time and resources.
However, time will tell whether the Speaker will keep to his words or not given the current economic realities on ground as a Standing Committee of the House requires quarterly allocations to perform its oversight functions depending on the level of activities of the committee.