BETWEEN 1979 and 1983, there were 449 members of the House of Representatives. The speaker of the House then was Chief Edwin Ume Ezeoke from Nnewi while his deputy Alhaji Idris Ibrahim was from Minna. The Leader of the House then was Alhaji Yinusa Kaltungo from Tangale-Waja South, a complete gentleman.
The following members were recognised as the chief whip of their parties: Prince J.S. Sangha-NPN, Mr. Tom U.B. Egbuwoku-UPN, Mr. D.D. Dafuan- NPP, Dr. Junaid S. Muhammed-PRP and Dr. Gordon J. Idang- GNPP.
Apart from the committee of selection, the House had 26 standing committees. The committees are House committee, business, public petitions, agriculture, forestry, fisheries and animal science, public service matters, communications, defence,judiciary,education,health, labour ,finance, external affairs,public works,aviation and transport, Petroleum and energy conservation, Mines and power, Commerce, Science and Technology, appropriation, internal affairs, banking and currency, housing, community development and environment, Veteran affairs and social welfare, water resources, Federal Capital Development and public account committee.
Pardon me to remember with nostalgia at the risk of offending many, some members of that House. I remember Chief Olaiya Fagbamiye, Ibrahim Nagodiya, Kevin Nwosu, Chief Blessing Kayode, Victor Masi,who later became Finance Minister, Dr. E.J. Sowho, Mr. Rasheed ShittaBay,Funso Akinyosoye, Ibrahim Zailani, Godwin Nwodi,Mrs. Abiola Babatope, Tubo O. Bob Manuel, B.A. Shaba, Samuel Udo Bassey,John Ekpeyong,John Fadeyi, Ambrose Gapsuk, B.J. Abegunde, Aliyu Adamu, Lam Adesina,F.C. Adigwe, Debo Akande, F.A. Akinbiseyin, Bulamon Ali,Razak Apalara,Tom Egbuwoku, J.C. Emeka, G.A. Falae, Saliu Famuyide, P.A. Gbinije, Mohammed Hassan, Garba Isiaku, Lateef kare Kataiyeyanjue,Ladipo Labiyi, Sule Lamido, Maina Ma’aji, Ingo Mac-Eteli, A.N. Nweke, Dr. Chikwe Obihara, Ralph Obioha, Isidore Obasi, Peter Olayemi Obaoye, A.O. Omisore, Olatinwo Otegbeye, Nuhu Paloma, Akintunde Rotimi, Labaran Tanko, Abubakar Tuggar, S.U. Wanganga, Godwin B. Wodi, Folorunso Yinusa, Ahmed Tijani Yusuf, Danjuma Zubairu,Olusola Afolabi, Z.O.K. Adetula, Stephen Alete,M.A. Agbamuche, Barnabas Falu, Husseini Gajango,Ambrose Gapsuk, F.O. Iyayi among others.
Within the same period there were 95 Senators. The President of the Senate by then was Dr. Joseph Wayas from Ogoja while the Deputy Senate President was Senator John Wash Pam from Jos. The leader of the Senate was Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki from Ilorin/Assa, my friend. The other leaders of the various parties were Senator Jonathan Akinremi Olawale Odebiyi-UPN, Senator Jaja Anucha Wachukwu-NPP,Senator Idrisa Kadi- GNPP and Senator Ibrahim Barau-PRP. There were 17 standing committees in the Senate. These were Transport and aviation, Communications, Education, Science and Technology,Defence,Public Works, appropriation and Finance, Health and Social Services, Judiciary and Public Service, Banking and Currency, Petroleum and Energy, Foreign, Labour and Internal Affairs, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Water and Mineral Resources, Trade and Industries, Federal Capital, Housing, Urban Development and Local Government.
Pardon me for remembering with nostalgia too, some senators of that era. I remember Senators Cornelius Olatunji Adebayo,Uba Ahmed, Mahmud Waziri, F.O.M. Atake, Ibrahim Dimis, David Omueye Dafinone, AbayomiAdeyosola Durosimi, Abraham Aderibigbe Adesanya, Ameh Ebute, Emeka Patrick Echeruo, Jaja Anucha Wachukwu, NosikeIkpo, Daniel Adetola Ladega, Isa Obaro, Onyeabor Obi,David Olatunbosun Oke, Stephen Adebanji Akintoye, Muhammed Girigiri Lawan, Cyrus Nunieh, Kunle Oyero, Michael Emmannuel Onunkun, Sabo Bakin Zuwo, ObiWali, John Osiomele Umolu, Joseph Sauwan Tarka, Samuel Olu Sogbehin, Jubrin Salihu, Buka Sanda, Sikiru Ayodeji Shitta Bay, Mubashir Akanbi Abiru, Ayoola Adeleke, Adeyiga Omopenu Ajayi, Ahmadu Ali, Nathaniel N. Anah, Obafemi Ayantuga, Ibrahim Barau, Bello, Bakorri, Oyibosiya Eberewariye, Francis John Ellah, Donald Dick Etiebet, Ayo Fasanmi, Adamu Gaya, GayusGilama, George Baba Hoomkwap among others.
At that time there were no Vice Chairmen for the Committees. In parliamentary terms, committees deal with assigned Ministries. The Chairman of any Committee in the National Assembly has almost the same responsibility with that of a Minister and almost the same paraphernalia of office—official vehicles, offices and personnel,etc.
At that time we had 19 states, now we have 36 states with 109 Senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara has constituted 96 committees. He also named deputy Chair persons for such committees. According to media report, the APC got 54 chairpersons while the PDP cornered 38. A breakdown of the committees shows that 3 or 4 committees will deal with one Ministry. In short, 192 members of the House of Representative out of the 360 members are either Chairpersons or Deputy Chairpersons of the 96 committees.
Likewise the Senate has sixty-four standing committees with One hundred and eight Senators. President Muhammadu Buhari has reduced the Ministries to only twenty-five.
If we are to go with the calculation of the National Assembly, ninety-six committees will deal with twenty-five Ministries in the House of Representatives while Sixty-four committees will deal with twenty-five Ministries and some of their Parastatals. It is ridiculous.
Imagine a Minister who has three portfolios. By calculation he will attend to almost eighteen committees. What time has such a Minister got in supervising his Ministries.
The current rhythm in government is the reduction of the cost of governance. And I guess that is why President MuhammaduBuhari has reduced the number of Ministries. But in the National Assembly instead of a reduction in the cost of governance, they are increasing it.
What will ninety-six committees achieve in the House of Representatives and what will sixty-four committees achieve in the Senate? In some instances, it will lead to duplication of efforts by the various committees. Definitely it looks as if the National Assembly and the rest of the country are not on the same page.