House c’ttees: Between balancing and reward for loyalty
On Thursday, October 22, Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara announced the chairmen and deputies of 95 out of 96 standing committees in what appeared like reward for loyalty to those that supported him to become speaker.
The announcement of the committees came more than four months after the House was inaugurated. The composition of the committees as announced by Dogara showed that his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) got the chairmanship of 48, the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) got 45, while both the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) got one each.
From the composition, it appeared that it was a 50/50 affair between the ruling APC (48) and the opposition parties led by the PDP (47). The one committee whose chairman was not announced, Niger Delta affairs committee, is usually the exclusive preserve of the PDP, so in the end, it might be that opposition parties will also have 48.
Before the current 8th House, the opposition parties never had it so good. In fact, during the tenure of Aminu Waziri Tambuwal as speaker, the opposition parties combined got about 20 committees’ chairmanship, despite the massive support they gave to Tambuwal.
Tambuwal, unlike Dogara, defeated his challenger then, also of the PDP, Mulikat AkandeAdeola on June 6, 2011 with 252 to 90 votes, in a House that had about 240 PDP members back then, while opposition parties had about 120 altogether. The margin between Tambuwal and AkandeAdeola was 162.
Thus, analysts say that while Tambuwal did what he did because majority of his then PDP colleagues supported him and considering the margin between him and his opponent, the same cannot be said of Dogara.
When Dogara became speaker on June 9, he did so thanks to the overwhelming support he got from PDP members, defeating the preferred candidate of his party, the APC and now House leader, Femi Gbajabiamila.
Dogara polled 182 votes to Gbajabiamila’s 174. The margin between them was 8 votes, and it is believed that apart from the support Dogara got from few of his 214 APC colleagues, all the 140 PDP members in the House voted for him as directed by the opposition party’s national leadership few hours to the contest.
Consequently, analysts believe that should Dogara not reward his PDP supporters with committee chairmanship, the aggrieved ones among them could go into alliance with Gbajabiamila’s supporters to give him trouble or possibly oust him. To this set of analysts, giving PDP lawmakers 45 committees to head was a politically expedient move from Dogara. Not only did PDP members get committees, but they succeeded in attracting more than 20 committees termed as juicy.
Dogara also rewarded most of his APC loyalists, who risked serious sanction from the party by supporting him, with grade ‘A’ committees.
Expectedly, however, about 90 percent of those that stuck their neck out in support of Gbajabiamila did not get committee chairmanship or deputy positions.
Among the juicy committees given to PDP are agricultural colleges and institutions, Linus Okorie; airforce, Samson Okwu; army, Rima Shawulu; aviation, Nkiruka Onyejeocha; banking and currency, Jones Onyereri; capital markets and institutions, Tajuddeen Yusuf; FERMA, Jerry Alagaoso; gas resources, Agbedi Frederick; health institutions, Betty Apiafi; NDDC, Nicholas Mutu, petroleum resources (downstream), Akinlaja Joseph; petroleum (upstream) Victor Nwokolo.
As for the APC, Dogara’s supporters that got grade ‘A’ committees include Ibrahim Babangida Mahuta, finance; Abdulmumin Jibrin, appropriation; Zakari Mohammed, basic education and services; James Abiodun Faleke, customs and excise; Aminu Suleiman, tertiary education and services; Mukhtar Betara, defence; Herman Hembe, FCT; Ahmed Idris Wase, federal character; Aminu Shehu Shagari, federal judiciary; Jagaba Adams Jagaba, interior; Razak Atunwa, Justice and Amin Sani Isa, land transport.
Other grade ‘A’ committees allocated to APC are maritime safety, education and administration, Mohammed Umar Bago; navy, Abdulsamad Dasuki; pensions, Hassan Adamu Shekarau; police affairs, Haliru Dauda Jika; privatization and commercialization, Ahmed Yarima; Nasiru Baballe Ila, House services; Mustapha Bala Dawaki, housing; and Aliyu Bahago AhmadPategi, water resources.
Based on the chairmanship list, those that got committee chairmanship among Gbajabiamila’s supporters prior to the June 9 contest are Monguno; Adeyinka Ajayi (aides, loans and debts); Akinloye Babajide Hazeez (anti-corruption); Peter Akpatason (civil societies and development partners); James Faleke (customs and excise); Mohammed Sani Zorro (IDPs, refugees and North-East initiatives); Olufemi Fakeye (insurance and actuarial matters); Garba Datti Mohammed (solid minerals development); Nasiru Sani Zangon Daura (special duties); Yakub Balogun (treaties, protocols and agreements) among a few others.
Similarly, those appointed deputy chairmen some committees among Gbajabiamila supporters include Abdullahi Idris Garba (agricultural colleges and institutions), Ahmed Rufai Chanchangi as of (customs and excise), Aminu Ashiru Mani (commerce), Babajimi Benson (delegated legislation), Muntari Dandutse (FCT judiciary), Ibrahim Abubakar Dutse (foreign affairs), Diya Oyewole Babafemi (interparliamentary relations), Munir Baba Danagundi (labour, employment and productivity), Nasiru Ali Ahmed (Niger Delta affairs), Asabe Vilita Bashir (women in parliament) among others.
Most staunch supporters of Gbajabiamila such as Aliyu Sani Madaki, Ahmed Babba Kaita, Dr Sani Muhammad Abdu, Ayo Omidiran, Khamisu Mailantarki, Abdullahi Balarabe Salame, Abubakar Lado Suleja, Dickson Dominic, Philip Shuaibu, Muhammad Gudaji Kazaure, Danburam Abubakar Nuhu, Famurewa Israel Ajibola among many others were not given either chairman or deputy of any committee.
Despite the above, however, it was observed that Dogara maintained some regional balance in the allocation of the committees irrespective of political parties.
For example, while committees such as finance, appropriation, education, agricultural services and production, capital market and institutions, army, navy, defence, judiciary, House services, interior, rules and business etcetera went to the three regions in the North, others such as petroleum (upstream and downstream,), public accounts, works, NDDC, power, public petitions, local content, health institutions, foreign affairs, gas resources, FERMA, financial crimes, aviation, climate change, among others went to the South-east, South-south and South-west.
But reacting to the issue, the newly appointed chairman of the House committee on media and publicity Abdulrazak Saad Namdas said there was fairness and balance to everybody and all sections of the country in the chairmanship of the committees.
From the committees’ list, it was further observed that about eight members retained their committee chairmanship from the previous 7th House. They are Monguno (agriculture); Aminu Suleiman (education) Jones Onyereri (banking and currency); Nkiruka Onyejoecha (aviation); Aminu Shehu Shagari (judiciary); Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje (foreign affairs); Aliyu Ahman Pategi (water resources) and Nicholas Mutu (NDDC).
It noteworthy to note that the public accounts committee, which is the only House committee recognized in the constitution, is usually headed by an opposition lawmaker in both the Senate and the House.
But all said and done, observers say there may be some form of subtle protest from lawmakers that thought they deserve committee chairmanship or deputy but were not considered.