Senate Committees: Reward for loyalty, surprises and round pegs

Weeks after its inauguration, the ninth Senate finally reconstituted its standing and special committees last week.

The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, made the announcement at the close of plenary on Thursday, after which the lawmakers embarked on their annual recess.
Prior to the constitution of the standing committees, the lawmakers worked with ad-hoc committees constituted to attend to urgent issues.
Some of these committees are ad-hoc committees on legislative matters, media and public affairs, committees to investigate the Edo State House Assembly crisis and oil explosion among others.
Members of the Senate had also taken some resolutions mandating some committees to carry out actions when constituted.
Unlike the speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, who increased the number of committees from 96 to 109, Mr Lawan maintained the 69 constituted by ex-Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
APC/North West dominate
From the composition of the standing committees, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) clinched most of the appointments.
This is however, not surprising as the APC currently stands as the majority party in the Upper Chamber.
Of the 63 committee chairmen, 49 are members of the APC while 20 are members of the Peoples Democratic Party.
The only member of the Young Progressives Party, Ifeanyi Ubah, was only made the Vice Chairman of the Senate committee on Petroleum (Upstream).
The composition of the committees, according to geo-political zones, has North West with the highest appointments of 16, South West with 13 and North East with 11.
The South South and North Central is next with 10 slots and South East is the lowest with nine slots.
‘Juicy’ committees
It is common knowledge that lawmakers jostle and try to lobby for A-list committees also known as ‘juicy committees’, so regarded purely because of the potential material gains lawmakers believe they can derive from the committees.
Some of those committees are appropriation, petroleum (upstream and downstream), education, finance, interior, FCT, defence, gas, health, among others.
Many lawmakers who show support and loyalty to the success of the party or the leaders, expect reward by being given a ‘juicy’ committee to head – as can be said in the case of some of the newly appointed chairpersons.
Barau Jibrin, for example, was assigned to chair one of the Senate’s biggest committees – Appropriations.
Mr Jibrin has neither hidden his loyalty to President Muhammadu Buhari or the Senate president.
As a matter of fact, he was the Secretary of the Ahmad Lawan Campaign Organisation, prior to the election of the principal officers of the eight Senate and its inauguration.
Adeola Olamilekan(Lagos) and former Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima, can also be tagged loyalists to the president as well as the ruling party. They were appointed to head the Finance and Interior committees respectively.
The only contender for the position of the Senate President, Ali Ndume, was appointed to head a juicy committee.
Mr Ndume was made the chairman of defence committee with Abba Moro as his deputy. He was, in the eighth Senate, the chairman of the Senate committee on Electoral Matters and later changed to Committee on Establishment.
Tradition sustained
From the time of former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim, all members of the Upper Chamber are appointed either as chairman or vice chairman of different committees including the principal officers.
Other Senate Presidents like Ken Nnamani, David Mark and Bukola Saraki who followed, maintained the same tradition.
Mr Lawan, also, successfully integrated all members of the Upper Chamber into different committees either as chairmen or vice chairmen.
This includes all the principal officers who were all made vice chairmen of different committees.
They are; Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi – Rules and Business; Deputy Senate Leader, Ajayi Borroffice – Science and Technology; Chief Whip, Orji Kalu – Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institution and Deputy Chief Whip, Sabi Abdullahi was appointed Vice Chairman of committees on Legislative Compliance and Local Content.
Others are Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe – Power; Deputy Minority Leader, Emmanuel Bwacha – Works; Minority Whip, Philip Aduda – Petroleum downstream and Deputy Minority Whip, Sahabi Ya’u – INEC.
Round peg in round holes
Although most of the appointments appear as compensation for loyalty to the leaders of the Senate as well as the APC, some appointments can however, be described as round pegs in round holes.
These are appointees who are believed to be capable of heading the committees they were appointed to either based on qualification or past experience.
Some of them include:
Adedayo Adeyeye (Media and Public Affairs)
Although a first-time senator, the Ekiti lawmaker has proven capable of heading the Senate’s media committee.
He was made acting spokesperson of the Senate when the Ad-Hoc Committee on Media and Public Affairs was constituted following the inauguration of the ninth Senate.
During this period, Mr Adeyeye made it a point of duty to brief and interact with journalists at least twice every week. This, he did, to give updates on the activities of the Senate for the day or week.
He had promised to continue this act and it is hoped that he will perform up to expectation.
Bala Ibn Na’Allah (Airforce)
His appointment to head the Airforce committee is not surprising, going by the fact that he is a pilot.
Mr Na’Allah who was the former vice chairman of the Aviation committee, has always described Nigeria’s Airforce and aviation sector as worrisome.
In 2015, he sponsored a motion on the unstable nature of the aviation in Nigeria and in an interviewwith ThisDay newspaper, complained that after his motion, a committee was set up and the committee produced 21 implementations but nothing has been done about it.
Michael Bamidele (Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters)
Asides being a lawmaker, the Ekiti senator is also a lawyer and a human rights activist.
He has not only criticised laws that he believes do not favour the masses, he has also called for the implementation of laws that affect the populace positively. One of such laws is the law to prohibit the abandonment of uncompleted projects inherited by a new administration.
Rochas Okorocha (Culture and Tourism)
As controversial as he may seem, the committee assigned to him can be deemed a perfect fit.
The Imo West senator has never hidden his passion for the culture as well as his ‘desire’ to see Nigerians happy.
Among the many ‘happy’ steps he took while he was governor of the state, was to establish a ministry of happiness.

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