The Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, yesterday constituted 96 Standing Committees to oversight various ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government.
Dogara, who announced the composition of the committees and their chairmen at plenary, did not allow any comment as he called for adjournment after the announcement.
The number of Standing Committees was increased from 89 in the immediate past 7th Assembly to 96. New committees were created while some existing committees were split.
Recall that Dogara had previously pledged to trim down the number of the committees to avoid duplication of functions.
In the distribution of chairmanship slots, while the All Progressives Congress (APC) members in the House got 48 slots, lawmakers of the opposition parties will chair 47 committees – 45 for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and one each for the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA).
LEADERSHIP had hinted in its October 21, 2015 edition that pre-election agreements entered by Dogara with some zonal caucuses and other political power blocs before the closely contested June 9 speakership election would determine the composition of the Standing Committees.
Dogara’s allies are in charge of key committees: Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin (APC, Kano) will chair the House Committee on Appropriation; Hon. Bashir Baballe Ila (APC, Kano) will chair the House Services Committee; Hon. Babangida Ibrahim (APC, Katsina) will head Finance Committee; Hon. Zakari Mohammed (APC, Kwara) will chair Basic Education and Services Committee while Hon. Jagaba Adams Jagaba (APC, Kaduna) is to head the Committee on Interior, etc.
Conversely, ardent supporters of the House majority leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos), during the speakership contest such as Ali Madaki (APC, Kano) and Ahmed Rufai Chanchangi (APC, Kaduna) were left out in the headship of the House committees despite being ranking members of the House.
Some lawmakers retained the chairmanship of the committees they headed in the 7th Assembly. They include: Hon. Mohammed Tahir Monguno (APC, Borno) – Agricultural Production and Services; Hon. Aminu Suleiman (APC, Kano) – Tertiary Education; Hon. Nkiruka Onyejeocha (PDP, Abia) Aviation; Nnenna Ukeje (PDP, Abia) – Foreign Affairs; Jones Onyereri (Imo, PDP) – Banking and Currency; Shehu Shagari (Sokoto, APC) – Judiciary; Nicholas Mutu (Delta, PDP) -NDDC.
Some new members were named committee chairmen. They include Hon. Oladele Kayode (APC, Ogun) – Financial Crimes; Hon. Samuel Okon Ikon (PDP, Akwa Ibom) – Inter-parliamentary Relations; Hon. Timothy Golu (Plateau, PDP) – Legislative Budget and Research; and Hon. Abdulrazak Sa’ad Namdas (APC, Adamawa), amongst others.
Seven new committees were named: Agricultural Colleges and Institutions; Basic Education and Services; Delegated Legislation; FCT Judiciary; Health Institutions; IDPs, Refugees and Initiatives on North East; Insurance and Actuarial Matters, and Tertiary Education and Services.
Finally, Senate Screens Amaechi
After weeks of stalling, the Senate yesterday screened the former governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who was nominated for a ministerial appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Four other nominees were also screened by the senators yesterday.
Amaechi’s screening was delayed after senators representing his state, led by Senator George Sekibo, wrote a petition against the ex-governor, accusing him of financial crimes. The petition was submitted to the Senate Ethics Committee for investigation.
The report of the Senator Samuel Anyanwu-led committee was laid before the House yesterday but the content of the report was not considered before the screening of Amaechi began.
This decision irked senators of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), led by the minority leader, Godswill Akpabio, who subsequently announced their decision not to participate in the screening of Amaechi. Their decision came after the nominee had concluded his opening remarks.
Rising on Order 43, point of personal explanation, the minority leader said: “The PDP senators and the caucus seated here will not have any questions for the nominee because we have just received the report on allegations of corruption and such and do not know the content because it has not been considered.”
He then went further to ask if that was the general decision of the caucus, to which they responded in the affirmative.
Following his announcement, the Senate leader, Sen Mohammed Ali Ndume, citing Order 53, noted that though the usual practice was to distribute copies of reports of committees to senators to peruse and make contributions to, yesterday’s event was an exception since the report only had to do with a screening process and, as such, it is not compulsory to go through that process.
He then added, “I am glad you are not asking the nominee questions; so, as a former speaker and former governor, we can as well ask the nominee to take a bow and go.”
His statement was greeted with shouts from the opposition. Attempts by Senator Akpabio to rephrase his earlier statement was shouted down by members of his caucus who kept screaming ‘no, no’.
Senator Ndume then rose to further explain that his role as Senate leader made it his duty to “market” Amaechi to the senators, and added, “If you people that have been asked to ask questions don’t want to,” but he was cut off by angry voices protesting his reference to them as “you people.”
At this point, the Senate president, Dr Bukola Saraki, intervened and urged the senators to respect the practice of asking former members of the legislature to take a bow. He asked them to give Amaechi “what we have always given to those in the legislative arm of government.”
I was never indicted by a panel – Amaechi
Meanwhile, Amaechi denied that a government panel indicted him for corruption, saying the white paper released by the Rivers State government should be ignored.
He said, “I came here with a copy of the so-called panel report. There is nowhere that the panel indicted me; not the government white paper. I am ready to tender this report before the Senate. I was ready for the questions on it and I brought the panel report so the Senate can juxtapose it with the white paper.”
While responding to questions from senators, the former Rivers State governor and former speaker, Rivers State House of Assembly, said his fight for more allocation of resources to the Niger Delta was hinged on the belief that “the resources are in the Niger Delta and they should have their fair share of the resources.”
Speaking on the issue of massive unemployment, he said, “Nigeria cannot continue to be what we are if we continue to rely on oil. For me, I agree with the president that there is the need to invest in agriculture. When we went to Germany, there were no natural resources that we met. If we invest in agriculture and technology, you will hire as many workers as possible. In the course of the campaigns, I discovered that in Borno, we saw water melon that grew naturally. If you plant just 100,000 hectares of water melon in Borno, you can be sure to engage more than 30,000 workers. You can do a similar thing around Kano and other parts (of Nigeria). (We have to) look at what crops can be instituted in which area and you encourage farmers with funding because the problem is the fund from the banks and the interest rate. So, government must invest in that regard.
“We must diversify the economy. Mining is another area that God has blessed us. And we also need to invest in education because some of these people are unemployable. We need to invest hugely on education. We did that in Rivers State. For four, five, six years, our budget was highest in education in Rivers State. So, if this happens, we will employ quite a number of workers.
“Secondly, we must improve on the social rights of the people. If you improve on the social rights of the people, there will be peace. If you have peace, there will be investors. You must have power (electricity). If you don’t have power, there will be no industrialisation. We don’t need rocket science in solving (the problem of) power supply. We should just look at what the problems are, remove corruption and invest in power. The reason why most people don’t invest in Nigeria is that the cost of production by far outweighs the benefits you will make from your business.”
Amaechi added that he had been in the forefront of the clamour against fuel subsidy, saying that during his leadership of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, he led a case against it because it was abused.
“The Governors’ Forum acted as a check to executive recklessness. We checked the excesses, including the expenditure of the oil subsidy. There is a case in court up until now stopping the federal government from drawing money from the Federation Account to fund oil subsidy because we believe that if we stop federal government from spending states’ and local governments’ money, the federal government will not be able to bear the cost and we, therefore, wanted to remove oil subsidy because of the level of corruption.
“The case is yet to be heard. The radical posture of the Governors’ Forum led to the former president asking me that I have turned the forum into a union, but all we were doing was to defend the rights of the people of Nigeria.”
Buhari Seeks Senate’s Confirmation Of INEC Boss, Others
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday sent a letter to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki requesting for the confirmation of appointment of Prof. Mahmud Yakubu as the new chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for a first term of five years.
He also requested for the confirmation of INEC national commissioners, including the acting chairman of the commission, Mrs. Amina Bala Zakari from Jigawa State representing North West; Mr. Solomon Adedeji Soyebi from Ogun State (South West) and Dr. Anthonia Okoosi-Simbine (North East).
Other national commissioners are Dr. Mohammed Mustafa-Lecky from Edo State representing South South; Alhaji Baba Shettima Arfo from Borno State for North East geo-political zone.
Reps Condemn Brutality On Nigerians By Security Agents
The House of Representatives yesterday urged the federal government to direct heads of security agencies to call their personnel to order in order to forestall further abuse of firearms and brutality against the people.
This emanated from a motion sponsored by Hon. Solomon Adaelu (PDP, Abia) and was unanimously adopted by the lawmakers.
Adaelu noted that the primary function of various security agencies in the country was to protect the life and property of Nigerians as well as the maintenance of law and order.
Dogara Backs Autonomy For State Assemblies, LGs
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has urged State Houses of Assembly in the country to support moves to grant financial autonomy to them and local governments.
Speaking when he received members of the Bauchi State House of Assembly in his office yesterday, Dogara said the country’s democracy was facing a serious threat at the grassroots as a result of lack of independence for the local government councils.
“There is no meaning to independence if you are not financially independent. Slaves don’t build societies; only free men do,” he argued.
“The only authority for oversight in the state is the state Assembly, but when we transmitted the proposal for amendment to the state assemblies they rejected it,” Dogara lamented.
The Speaker further expressed regret that although trillions of Naira are allocated to states and local governments a four-year tenure “but when you visit the state you won’t see projects commensurate with the money they received.”
“I am not indicting you but speaking to your conscience. Our feeling is that there has not been appropriate and effective oversight by the state legislatures,” he stated.