By Emman Ovuakporie and Johnbosco Agbakwuru
The distribution of committee positions has consistently proved the source of trouble in the National Assembly. Shrewd presiding officers have in the past walked delicately in order not to provoke tension among members of the legislature.
The reason for caution is largely because juicy committee positions cannot go round all 360 members of the House. The House leadership has over time increased the number of committee positions mainly for the purpose of satisfying as many as possible and reducing discontent.
When he announced the new committees penultimate Thursday, 48 chairmanships went to the All Progressives Congress, APC, 46 to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and one each to the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA and the Social Democratic Party, SDP.
Some members of the House, mostly belonging to the APC were miffed that the opposition PDP got as many as 46 and were even further miffed by their claim that the juicy committees went to PDP members, and where not, to associates of the speaker belonging to the APC. Rep. Garba Mohammad Datti, APC, Sabon Gari, Kaduna rejected his appointment as chairman of the Committee on Solid Minerals upon his claim that he was not consulted before he was appointed. Members gave their own perspectives on the issue in separate interviews with Vanguard.
DOGARA did not favour PDP –Rep. Aminu Sani Jaji, APC, Kaura-Namoda/Birnin-Magaji, Zamfara
It is not that he is favouring PDP, but he is trying to favour his projects. As a politician, whosoever is behind you, at least you have to try and complement his efforts towards your project.
We were carried along—Rep. Jarigbe A. Jarigbe, PDP, Ogoja/Yala, Cross River
I have it on good authority that the leadership of the House met. That includes the ruling party and the opposition.
They took a consensus decision before the Speaker announced. I do not think that he took a unilateral decision. The Speaker was very fair. I know that federal character issue was considered. If there were procedural flaws, he would not have involved the leadership. There might be some opposing views because of personal interest.
I think that the leadership considered a few things, putting square pegs in square holes and putting round pegs in round holes. You don’t expect that because of patronage, delivery which is what he sought for should be compromised.
You don’t compromise delivery at the end of it for considered patronage or primordial sentiments. There is no issue if you want to be as straight forward as Mr. President is in quote for you to start talking about juicy committees and non juicy committees.
And that is why I told you that the President has an agenda but members of his party have a different agenda. I am not saying the President alone, the President and a few people have an agenda that is different from what the larger group wants and that is why you hear of juicy and non juicy committees.
Men can never be satisfied —Rep. Onyemaechi Mrakpor, PDP, Aniocha North/Aniocha South/Oshimili, Delta
It is not the issue of Mr. Speaker hijacking or favouring anybody. Committees are decisions of the leadership of the House not the decision of Mr. Speaker alone.
There is a pattern in the House, and the pattern is what Committees should come to which state. Take for instance, the Diaspora, the Diaspora was retained by Lagos in the 7th Assembly, Niger Delta Committee by Delta State, so many of the Committees remained in the States and if the Committees are with the states it doesn’t matter now whether it is PDP or APC.
Again I think that if we have issues, issues should be with your state caucus, if I am not happy about something I should discuss with my state caucus. But what is due to my zone was given to my zone, the South-South and what is due to my state, Delta, my state got.
So, it should be why am I not getting a particular thing from my state caucus not directly from Mr. Speaker? More also we shouldn’t forget that as human beings, we are never satisfied, even with God, we blame God why am I not tall? Why am I short? Why am I not rich? It is very natural at any point when you have to share whatever you think you have among people there is always misgiving.
The APC has bigger chunk of the Committee headship, they have 48. But when Mr. Speaker was campaigning, he did tell us that he would be fair to all, whether PDP or APC that he was going to be the Speaker of the House of Representatives and I think he has kept his promises.
Due Process was followed
Rep. Onyenwife Gabriel, APGA, Ayamelum/Oyi, Anambra
As far as I am concerned, when you have powers vested on you and you exercise that, there is no problem. By the standing orders of the House, there is a selection committee. It has the power to select who they deem fit, following the principles of the federal character. It is the discretion of the Speaker, in consultation with the leadership of the House.
Has he consulted the leadership of the House? Yes, he has done that already. Out of the Speaker’s magnanimity, he expanded the committees up to 97. At the commencement of the Eight National Assembly, we had a legislative agenda which was adopted by everybody. We agreed that the issue of federal character will be considered and that the committees will be shared among political parties.
We all cannot be chairmen of committees. We should not bother on who and who should head committees.
It was fairly done
Rep. Abdulrazak Sa’ad Namdas, APC, Mayo Belwa/Ganye/Jada/Toungo, Adamawa
I have read the papers. It is not true that the Speaker has handed over the committees to the opposition. In sharing these committees, due process was followed. We ensured that every member of the House got two grade A committees. Whether you are chairman or deputy, you are still relevant.
We did this to ensure that the leadership of the House runs an all inclusive administration. The issue of federal character was considered.
This idea that certain people were not carried along is not true. Everything was done with the spirit of fairness.
Why I turned down committee chairman — Rep. Garba Mohammad Datti, APC, Sabon Gari, Kaduna
Turned down Committee Chairmanship (Solid Minerals and Deputy Minority Whip, 7th assembly)
I feel as a former principal officer I should have been consulted before my name was announced. I just heard of it on the floor. And I have my own principles. I have decided on my own to withdraw as the chairman of that committee.
I should have been consulted. If the president wants to appoint his ministers, I think before the announcement he has to consult them.
I don’t have any qualms with the leadership as presently constituted, because the election was democratically done here. The election was done. I am not against anybody but I am against the decision of coming to announce my name without consulting me. That was my reason.