MAJORITY Leader of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, has said that the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, never consulted him before he appointed 96 chairmen and deputies of standing committees of the House.
Though Gbajabiamila said it was the prerogative of the speaker to appoint any member of the House to head its committees, the majority leader nonetheless argued that under the rules of the House, Dogara was required to consult all principal officers while appointing committee chairmen.
He specifically quoted Order 7 Rule 10, paragraph (a) of the House rules, which states that the speaker “shall in consultation with principal officers, appoint the chairmen and deputy chairmen from among the members on the committee.”
He also noted that as both House Leader and Majority Leader, the rules provided that he should “liaise with committee chairmen and other functionaries of the House” for the smooth running of the legislature.
The letter, which was made available to our correspondent in Abuja on Tuesday, confirmed an exclusive report by The PUNCH last week that there was a cold war between Dogara and Gbajabiamila over appointments into the committees.
However, the leadership of the House reacted by saying that “Gbajabiamila was totally consulted” before Dogara picked the chairmen.
Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, who gave the side of the leadership, explained that there was a difference between consultation and the power of appointment.
Namdas said, “The leader was totally consulted in keeping with our rules.
“But, we must not mix consultation with the power of appointment. The same rules vest the power to appoint chairmen and deputies wholly in the hands of the speaker.
“The speaker does not need to tell him after consultation whom to appoint as a chairman or deputy chairman.
“In that case, the speaker did not in any way undermine his office, because he consulted him totally.
“The speaker holds every member of the House in high esteem, how much less the leader of the House.”
A copy of a letter from the speaker’s office to all principal officers, dated October 21, 2015, indicated that they (including Gbajabiamila) were all invited to a meeting with Dogara on October 22 for consultation on committee appointments.
The Gbajabiamila allegation came as Dogara held an inaugural meeting with the chairmen and their deputies at the National Assembly on Tuesday.
The majority of the chairmen and their deputies attended the meeting, where Dogara and the committee leaders were said to have discussed the modalities for the official inauguration of the committees next week.
However, Mr. Garba Dhatti-Muhammad and Mr. Sunday Adepoju, who had resigned as Chairman, Committee on Solid Minerals Development, and Deputy Chairman, Committee on Special Duties respectively, did not attend the meeting.
But, findings by our correspondent indicated that the meeting was reportedly called to douse tension and halt further threats by some chairmen to turn in their resignation.
A source told our correspondent that Dogara at the meeting advised the chairmen to see their appointment as a call to national service.
‘‘He seized the opportunity to say that people would always raise issues on committee composition, no matter who was appointed.
“The chairmen, in appreciation of his speech, later gave the speaker a standing ovation,” the source added.
There has been uneasiness in the House since October 22 when Dogara named the committees with one out of 96 chairmen rejecting his appointment and one deputy chairman declining.
The two are members of the majority All Progressives Congress, same as Dogara and Gbajabiamila.
Another deputy chairman, Mr. Hassan Saleh, of the Peoples Democratic Party, also allegedly wrote to say he did not want to be a deputy chairman.
Much of the complaints have come from APC lawmakers, who are alleging that the party had not been fairly treated by Dogara in the sharing of committee seats.
Out of the 96 committee seats, 48 chairmanship positions went to the APC, while PDP got 45 slots.
Included in the PDP’s share are prime committees like Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream); Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream); Committee on Gas Resources; Committee on Aviation; Committee on Power; Committee on Works; Committee on NDDC; Committee on Niger Delta; and Committee on Air Force.
Among the APC’s committees are Committee on Appropriations; Committee on Finance; Committee on Customs/Excise; Committee Defence; Committee on Communications; and Committee on Agricultural Services.
But, some APC members felt that Dogara should have given the committees on petroleum resources, gas resources, power, works and aviation, among others, to the majority party as well.
They observed that the difference between 48 and 45 was three, meaning that the ruling party and the opposition almost tied on the number of committees they got from the speaker.
Ironically, some PDP members who got committee appointments have also been grumbling that the speaker should have given them bigger committees than they were assigned on account of the “massive” support they gave him to become the speaker.
As of Tuesday, no additional resignation has been recorded.