TUNDE AJAJA and TOPE OMOGBOLAGUN
Barring any last-minute change in plan, the names of members of some select committees of the Senate will be announced this week, Sunday PUNCH reports.
This is the outcome of the meeting the President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, had with President Bola Tinubu on Thursday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, to discuss the setting up of the Senate committees.
It was gathered that Akpabio decided to have the meeting with the President because of the fierce battle among senators for the headship of some committees and to also have Tinubu’s input into the composition of the committees.
The Villa meeting was the reason Akpabio’s deputy, Senator Jibrin Barau, presided over the Senate plenary on Thursday, a source added.
At the meeting, it was gathered that Akpabio briefed the President on the plan by the Senate to set up what sources described as tactical panels to set the ball rolling for the constitution of the committees.
Based on discussions at the Villa, it was gathered that leadership and members of a few committees would be announced this week by the Senate President. Some of the committees that may be named are that of selection, Senate Services and about four others.
Informed sources said the composition of the few committees, especially that of selection, was to give members the privilege of being carried along in the selection process.
A source at the Senate told Sunday PUNCH, “The President of the senate was at the Villa on Thursday to meet with President Tinubu. The idea was to name members of some of the committees that day.
“In actual fact, Akpabio sent a message to some senators to inform the presiding officer, his deputy, Senator Jibrin Barau, to delay the plenary until he returned from the Villa.
“But due to some issues like the jamming of the network within the chambers or members putting their phones in silence, those that the message was sent to were unable to access it before the end of the plenary.
“Some saw the message about 10 minutes after the Senate had adjourned. With that, the announcement of the composition of some of the committees could not be made.”
The source added, “Now, the matter is this. Some former presidential aspirants and former governors, who worked with President Tinubu during the campaign, are also rooting for major committees that are more feasible. Nigerians refer to such committees as juicy ones.
“Such committees include appropriations, finance, army, works, customs and foreign affairs, among others.
“Supporters of Senator Abdulaziz Yari are also coming back to bargain for the headship of some committees. But there is a possibility that they won’t get what they want. This is because there is precedence.
“When Bukola Saraki emerged as the President of the Senate, those who were foot soldiers of Senator Ahmad Lawan, who was also in the race for the Senate presidency, were left without heading any committee. The likes of Senator Solomon Adeola and others were denied any significant role during the period because of their loyalty to Lawan.”
It was also gathered that the Governor of Imo State, who is also the Chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum, Hope Uzodimma, played what was described as a significant role in the emergence of Senator Opeyemi Bamidele as the Senate Leader.
Apart from Bamidele, other senators said to have indicated interest in the position were the immediate past governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, and Senator Ali Ndume.
Both Umahi and Ndume played significant roles in the emergence of Akpabio as the Senate President.
While Umahi served as the Chairman of his campaign committee, Ndume was its director-general.
But unlike Umahi, Ndume had earlier indicated interest to contest the Senate presidency but stepped down for the former governor of Akwa Ibom State, who eventually defeated Yari.
A source said Uzodimma told Ndume and his backers that throughout the eight-year reign of President Muhammadu Buhari, he was allowed to have his choice and a northerner as the Senate Majority Leader and that it would be wrong to deny Tinubu of the same opportunity of having his choice to occupy the same position.
“It was very painful to Ndume and some of his backers, especially with the role the Borno State senator played in the development that threw up Akpabio, but he had no option but to agree and take the position of Senate Whip,” the source added.
In the House of Representatives, the Speaker, Tajudeen Abbas, had on Thursday, June 15, 2023, constituted seven special committees for the effective take-off of the assembly. Related News
They are the Internal Security Committee led by Mohammed Danjuma; Selection Committee chaired by the Speaker himself; and Media Committee headed by Buka Ibrahim.
Others are Legislative Agenda Committee, which is chaired by Prof Julius Ihonbvare; Rules and Business Committee led by Igariwey Iduma; Welfare Committee headed by Wale Raji; and Ethics and Privileges Committee led by Tunji Olawuyi.
Lawmakers intensify lobbies
Meanwhile, intense lobbying is going on among lawmakers over committees’ chairmanship and membership, particularly the juicy ones.
Some of the lawmakers that are suspected to have been penciled down for some committees are Senator Adeola Solomon, (APC, Ogun West) for Appropriations; Senator Francis Fadahunsi, ( PDP, Osun East) for Customs and Exercise; and Abdul Ningi (PDP, Bauchi Central), who was named the Chairman of an ad hoc committee on the Niger Delta Development Commission.
The 9th Senate had about 70 standing committees, but the juicy ones included Appropriations, which was chaired by Senator Jibrin Barau; Finance, Adeola; Public Accounts, Matthew Uroghide; Petroleum Resources (Upstream), Albert Bassey Akpan; Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Mohammed Nakudu; Works and Niger Delta Development Commission, Peter Nwaoboshi, who was later replaced by the Vice-Chairman, Amos Bulus; Defence (Army), Ndume; and Banking Insurance and Other Financial Institutions, Uba Sani.
Other are, Power, Gabriel Suswam; Tertiary Education and TETFUND, Ahmed Baba Kaita; Gas, James Manager; Communications, Oluremi Tinubu; Aviation, Smart Adeyemi, who was later replaced by Biodun Olujimi; and Independent National Electoral Commission, Kabiru Gaya.
The committees and their chairmen in the 9th Senate also included Agriculture and Productivity, Abdullahi Adamu, who was replaced by Yahaya Abdullahi when he left to become the Chairman of the APC; Air Force, Bala Ibn Na’allah; Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Suleiman Kwari; Capital Market, Ibikunle Amosun; and Cooperation and Integration in Africa and NEPAD, Chimaroke Nnamani.
The list also included Culture and Tourism, Rochas Okorocha; Customs, Excise and Tariff, Francis Alimikhena; Defence, Aliyu Wamakko; Diapsora and NGOs, Ajibola Basiru; Drugs and Narcotics, Hezekiah Dimka; Ecology and Climate Change, Mohammed Hassan; Education (Basic and Secondary), Ibrahim Geidam; Employment, Labour and Productivity, Benjamin Uwajumogu; and Environment, Ike Ekweremadu.
The committees and their chairmen also included Establishment and Public Service, Ibrahim Shekarau; Ethics and Privileges, Ayo Akinyelure; FCT, Abubukar Kyari, who was later replaced by Smart Adeyemi; Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Danjuma Tella La’ah; FERMA, Gershom Bassey; Foreign Affairs, Mohammed Bulkachuwa; Health, Ibrahim Oloriegbe; Housing, Sam Egwu; ICT and Cybercrimes, Yakubu Oseni; INEC, Kabiru Gaya; Information and National Orientation, Abdullahi Sankara; and Interior, Kashim Shettima, who is now the Vice President.
Others were Inter-Parliamentary Affairs, Godiya Akwashiki; Industry, the late Sikiru Osinowo, who was replaced by Tokunbo Abiru; Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Opeyemi Bamidele; Land Transport, Abdulfatai Buhari; Legislative Compliance, Adelere Oriolowo; Local Content, Teslim Folarin; Local and Foreign Debt, Clifford Ordia; Marine Transport, Danjuma Goje; Media and Public Affairs,. Adedayo Adeyeye, who was later replaced by Ajibola Basiru; National Identity and National Population, Saidu Alkali; National Planning and Economic Affairs, Olubunmi Adetunmbi; National Security and Intelligence, Ibrahim Gobir; Navy, George Sekibo; and Police Affairs, Halliru Jika.
The remaining are Public Procurement, Shuaibu Lau; Primary Healthcare and Communicable Diseases, Chukwuka Utazi; Privatisation, Theodore Orji; Rules and Business, Sadiq Umar; Science and Technology, Uche Ekwunife; Senate Services, Musa Sani; Social Welfare and Poverty Alleviation, Lawal Yahaya Gumau; Solid Minerals, Tanko Al-Makura; Special Duties, Yusuf Yusuf; Sports, Obinna Ogba; States and Local Governments, Olamilekan Mustapha; Sustainable Development Goals, Aisha Ahmed Dahiru; Tertiary Institutions and TETFund, Baba Kaita; Trade and Investment, Rose Oko, who after her death was replaced by Seidu Alkali; Water Resources, Mandiya Bello; Women Affairs, Betty Apiafi; and Works, Adamu Aliero.
The Senate Leader, Opeyemi Bamidele, noted that following the formation of the Selection Committee, the next on the agenda of the Senate was the formation of other committees.
The Selection Committee is in charge of choosing committee chairmen and members and comprises the presiding and principal officers across party lines.
Bamidele noted that the next step was to hit the ground running by forming other committees, reception of the ministerial list from the President and Executive communication.
He said, “For us, the next task is to ensure that we hit the ground running so that from tomorrow, we are able to take steps that will show that we have a clear understanding of what is to be done; the first task ahead of us is to constitute special committees of the 10th Senate. Our rules make provision for six special committees.
“Before long, during the month of July, we will have all the special and standing committees properly constituted 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.
“We are ready to receive correspondence from the Executive.”
Sunday PUNCH gathered that some members of the House of Representatives were meeting with the Senate principal officers to help lobby the Speaker for the chairmanship of juicy committees.
One of our correspondents observed that many lawmakers were frequenting the office of the Deputy Senate President, Jibrin Barau.
A source close to the Deputy Senate President told one of our correspondents that the House of Representatives members were coming to see Barau to help him plead with Abbas to include them in prominent committees.
“The Deputy Senate President has been very busy; a lot of lawmakers both in the Senate and particularly the House of Representatives have been coming to him to help them plead with the Speaker to give them committee membership and chairmanship.”
The benefits of being in a committee manifest during oversight visits to ministries, departments and agencies of government and also during budget defence by such MDAs.