Some members of the House of Representatives are unhappy over what they consider to be the “lopsided” distribution of standing committees of the House by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara.
The complaints cut across both the majority All Progressives Congress and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party.
This is in spite of the fact that APC members already feel that Dogara even favoured the opposition party in an APC-dominated legislature.
Dogara had, on Thursday, named the chairmen of 96 standing committees of the House, coming after more than three months of delay and speculation.
The APC, with over 213 members, got 47 of the committees, while the PDP took 46, many in the league of “Grade A committees.”
Investigations on Friday by Saturday PUNCH showed that lawmakers raised objections to the zonal and state-by-state distribution of the committees, which leaned more towards the North-West and “surprisingly” the South-East.
The North-West got about 18 committee chairmanship positions, followed closely by the South-East with 16 positions.
The North-West has 29 deputy committee chairmanship positions, while the South-East has 10.
North-Central got 15 committee chairmen and 13 deputies.
The South-South was allotted 14 committee seats and another 18 deputies.
The South-West came fifth with 13 committee chairmanship positions but higher than the South-East by having 13 deputies.
The South-West’s number of deputies is lower than that of the South-South with 18 deputies.
However, the least number of committees went to Dogara’s North-East, which got eight committee chairmen and another eight deputies.
An aggrieved member complained that the South-West, with about 48 APC lawmakers and several PDP members in some of the states, felt the number was not representative enough.
The source said, “Only three of the committees given to the South-West can be considered to be serious committees – Committee on Customs/Excise; Committee on Telecommunications and Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream).
“Besides, the Committee on Petroleum Resources was given to an opposition member from Ondo State. What do you think?”
On the other hands, there were complaints that the PDP carted away major committees like Petroleum Resources (Upstream); power; aviation, works, NDDC; health institutions; banking/currency; army; air force and federal capital territory, among others.
Although, the APC too got some Grade ‘A’ committees like appropriations; finance; agricultural production services; electoral matters, customs and excise; and interior, the speaker was accused of handing such committees to “his loyalists.”
When contacted, the House Leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, and APC legislator from the South-West, declined to comment more than saying that “the list speaks for itself.”
Interestingly, a PDP member from Ekiti State, Mr. Aina Thaddeous, told Saturday PUNCH that not only that the list did not favour the South-West, but also that Ekiti State was “short-changed.”
He said, “They have done what appears to be their best, but Ekiti was short-changed.
“They have to right the wrong for the sake of equity, justice and fairness.
“They tried to placate some states in the South-West, but Ekiti is not happy.”
Ekiti State got the chairmanship of the Committee on Youth Development held by Mr. Segun Adekola.
However, sources at the Speaker’s Office defended Dogara, claiming that he had to create additional committees in a bid to appoint as many members as possible into positions.
They also observed that the same South-West already had the Deputy Speaker and the House Leader.
“Besides, the committees are not going to be enough. As a matter of fact, we had to split some big committees into two or three to placate a lot of interests.
“The distribution was fairly done and no member or zone would really say that it had a blackout,” one of the sources told Saturday PUNCH.
Meanwhile, the political solution being sought by some leaders of the APC to save the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, from his current trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal and the on-going screening of the ministerial nominees prevented the leadership of the Senate from announcing its standing committees this week.
One of our correspondents learnt that the upper chamber would have also announced the composition of the committees on Thursday just like it’s counterpart in the House of Representatives.
A ranking senator told our correspondent on Friday that the a court case instituted by the Senate Unity Forum restraining the leadership of the Senate from constituting committees was still pending at a Federal High Court in Abuja.
Findings by our correspondents revealed that the selection committee headed by Saraki had created additional eight committees in addition to the 57 it inherited from the Seventh Senate.
It was also gathered that just like the House of Representatives, the chairmanship of the 65 proposed committees would be shared almost equally among members of both the APC and the PDP.
A principal officer of the red chamber, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said on Friday that the political solution being arranged by some APC leaders was the major factor that had put the announcement of the committees on hold.
He said, “Part of the conditions being presented before the senate president by the Presidency and the APC leaders was that the senate president should ask the principal officers he appointed to resign and compensate them with chairmanship of juicy committees.”
The source said that the some of the affected principal officers had accepted while some had turned down the offer.
He added that Saraki was actually waiting for the principal officers to resign their positions so that they could be compensated.
The source said, “It will be unfair if the principal officers relinquish their positions after the composition of the committees, hence the announcement is being delayed.”
He specifically said the pressure became so serious after a recent meeting between the affected principal officers and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on Monday this week.
But the senate spokesperson, Senator Dino Melaye, said the fact that the rule stipulated that the chairmanship and membership of committees must accommodate the six geopolitical zones did not mean that the opposition PDP would have equal opportunity like the majority party.
Melaye had called for calm among his colleagues in the red chamber over the issue because there was no cause for alarm.