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Politics, Intrigues Rock NASS Over Committees

Shortly after the just concluded confirmation of the ministerial nominees at the Senate plenary session, inter and intra-party moves had taken over in respect of the fall out of the confirmation as well as the coming event dealing with the appointment of some principal officers of the remaining standing committee at both chambers of the national assembly.

For one, the former ruling People’s Democratic Party in a communiqué issued in Abuja over the weekend, raised concerns over what it described as undemocratic attitudes on the part of the President Muhammadu Buhari and All Progressives Congress APC-led administration.

The party noted that while former governors on the platform of the All Progressives Congress are being rewarded with ministerial appointments, their PDP counterparts are being hounded and harassed in the selective war against corruption.

On another level, there are indications that the Senate president Bukola Saraki is trying to broker a truce with senators of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) following the controversial confirmation of former Rivers state governor, Rotimi Amaechi, as a minister.

The UNION gathered that the reconciliation was ongoing and that the Senate president had reached out to the PDP legislators to sustain their friendship. Knowing the implications of the PDP lawmakers backing out from providing the much-desired support, he is said to have quickly reached out to the opposition senators and assured them that party loyalty was responsible for his actions.

According to a source, the PDP lawmakers expected that Saraki would “make up for the lapses” in the distribution of the chairmanship of senate standing committees which he is set to announce next week.

According to the source, Saraki had made spirited attempts ahead of the Thursday plenary to get the Senate minority leader, Godswill Akpabio and other PDP senators to his side on the Amaechi issues, but the opposition senators refused to give in ahead of that day’s sitting.

The arguments and counter-arguments on the floor of the upper legislative chamber resulted in the senators from the opposition party staging a walkout from the Senate chamber and, at a press conference after the walkout, the senators sounded as if their friendship with Saraki was over.

Reacting to the outcry of the PDP senators that confirmation of Amaechi will taint the ongoing anti corruption crusade of Buhari administration, the Senate’s Majority Leader, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume argues that the party’s action does not deface Buhari’s anti-corruption stance.

His said: “Amaechi has not been indicted by any court of law. Anyone who is accused of corruption is innocent until he’s proven guilty beyond any reasonable double by a court. A petition can’t be considered as conviction. Most of the governors who have done eight years are being petitioned in one way or the other. They’re dragged to EFCC by the enemies, successors, rivals, etc. Some of the sitting senators are facing various kinds of allegations of corruption. I, at a point, was accused of being a sponsor of Boko Haram. The case has been in court. But I went through election, I won, and today I’m the Senate leader. The Senate President was accused severally of all sorts of things. Many of us are like that. Being accused of corruption does not mean the person is guilty of the allegations”.

While the Senate is managing the heat generated by the confirmation, particularly of Amaechi, the House of Representatives is going through its rough patch. Some (APC) members of the House of Representatives have reportedly asked the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, to retrieve the oil and gas sector committee from the (PDP). The members, who are aggrieved over the decision of Dogara to give the PDP committees regarded as ”juicy”, expressed disgust at the speaker’s action. According to them, it is unbelievable that such key committees will be given to the opposition in a government where the APC is the ruling party and the party with the majority in the legislature.

Dogara named the chairmen and deputy chairmen of 96 standing committees of the House on Thursday, October 22.

Forty-eight members of the APC were picked as chairmen, while 46 members of the PDP were picked. For the position of deputy chairman 54 APC members were picked, while the PDP had 38.

The speaker had given several key committees to the PDP including the three oil and gas sector committees.

Among the committees chaired by the PDP are the committees on Petroleum Resources (upstream), Petroleum Resources (downstream), Gas Resources, Power, Aviation, Works; the Air Force, the Environment and the Niger Delta Development Commission.

Already, two APC lawmakers have rejected their appointment in the week as a form of protest against Dogara’s decision.

They are the former deputy House Minority Whip, Garba Dhatti- Muhammad, and a member from Oyo state, Sunday Adepoju.

Dhatti-Muhammad was named the chairman of the House Committee on solid minerals development, while Adepoju was chosen as the deputy chairman of the committee on special duties.

Reacting to the rejection by the two members, the Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public affairs, Abdulrazak Namdas, told a national newspaper based in Lagos that he his amazed by his colleagues’ decision.

He pointed out that some colleagues lost sight of the fact that the APC had already taken care of the government’s finances by holding on to the committees on appropriations, finance and customs, among others.

“The APC already chairs appropriations and finance. We have customs; we have others. Appropriation is the primary function of the parliament,” he said.

In a related development, a member of the House of Representatives, Ahmed Kaita, has said that the “change” agenda of President Buhari could be sabotaged by the alleged lopsidedness of the composition of house committees.

In a similar vein, the majority leader of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila had said that Dogara did not consult him prior to the announcement of the chairmen of the standing committees. The coming week is thus poised for some fire works as the opposition PDP is strategizing to meet the challenge posed by the ruling APC.

Meanwhile there are indications that President Buhari is to assign portfolio and administer the oath of office on his ministers “most likely on Wednesday”, The Union learnt. A source at the Presidency, who craved anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the issue, disclosed this to our correspondent over the weekend.

The first major official assignment before Mr. President in November is the inauguration of his cabinet. Arrangements have already been made for this and this will most likely happen on Wednesday”, the source said.

In the same vein, an aide to one of the ministers-designate also said that his principal had received a message from the Presidency that the inauguration may take place on Wednesday.

But the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said only the president would communicate when he would inaugurate his cabinet.

Adesina, who said he could not confirm exactly when the ministers-designate would be sworn in, added they would have to notify heir family members.

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