By Henry Umoru
ABUJA—FORMER Senate president, Senator David Mark, has said the 74 committees created by the present leadership of the red chamber was unwieldy.
According to him, this is three times more than the US Senate’s of just 24.
Addressing principal officers of the 10th National Assembly at a two-day retreat in Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State, weekend, Mark listed some of the problems facing the nation to include deteriorating economic situation, high crime rate, unemployment, farmers/herders clashes, banditry, terrorism, food shortage, insufficient and decaying infrastructure, out-of-school children and poor health facilities, among others.
Mark, who noted that although the problems were primarily not the creation of the legislators, who Nigerians elected them to proffer solutions, said to address the myriad of problems, the Senator Godswill Akoabio-led principal officers of the National Assembly must be innovative, think and act outside the box, pointing out that “it cannot be business as usual.”
He said: “Most of the legislative works are done in the committees. Therefore, it is important that the committees are made to function properly and effectively. In the Senate Standing Orders 2022 (as amended), Order 94(2) it is stated that a senator shall not serve in more than seven committees, which means a senator can be in six committees. This clearly in my opinion is not a wise thing to do.
“A legislator, if he is in six committees, will not be able to participate effectively or efficiently in the committee assignments.
“Besides this, the total of 71 committees (eight plus 63) in the Senate and 81 committees (seven plus 74) in the House of Representatives, in my opinion, is unwieldy. You must understand that not every senator or House member can be a chairman of a committee.
“A ranking member of a committee is as effective and as influential as a chairman of the committee. Creating so many committees for patronage and political expediency is counter-productive.
‘’In constituting the committee, it will be advisable to ensure expertise, party spread, geographical balancing and ranking. I must emphasize the issue of ranking; it is very important in the legislature.’
“Let me start by congratulating you on your success at the February 2023 elections. Let me congratulate you further on your election as a Principal Officer of the National Assembly. These two are no mean achievements.
“ However, let me add that I don’t envy you either. You have come into the equation at a very difficult and trying period in the history of this country.
“First, problems associated with the necessary but untimely removal of the fuel subsidy without immediate palliatives and other economic programmes in place. This has brought untold hardship on the people. The merits and the demerits of the removal notwithstanding, it has painted politicians as insensitive, increased crime rate and exacerbated poverty.
“Second, the high level of insecurity in the years preceding your elections, adversely affected the economy, prevented farmers from going to the farm. This has resulted in food scarcity.”