Since the All Progressives Congress, APC became the majority party in the 8th House of Representatives, it has been engaged in one fight or the other. First, it was the protracted leadership tussle. Now, it is the ‘juicy committees’ which APC reps accuse the Speaker of giving to the oppositionPDP. In this piece, DOZIE EMMANUEL looks at the various arguments and need for the Speaker to stamp his authority.
Nigerians were not only disappointed last week, but also taken off balance when two All Progressives Congress, APC lawmakers openly resigned their committee appointment on the floor of the House. In fact, their actions had elicited further condemnation and criticism by their colleagues, who have continued to question the rationale behind their resignation.
The development was indeed strange because there was never a time in the history of the parliament that a lawmaker resigned his committee appointment. Of course, it came as a surprise to most of the lawmakers at the chamber when Hon. Garba Datti Muhammad representing Sabon Gari Federal Constituency of Kaduna State on the platform of the APC resigned his appointment as Chairman of the House Committee on Solid Minerals Development last Tuesday on the grounds that he was not consulted before the appointment was made.
He subsequently walked out of the chambers after the announcement, amidst applause from several members. The former Deputy Minority Whip in the 7th Assembly said that the decision was personal and was not taken based on any external influence. Although, while reiterating his loyalty to the APC, he said he was optimistic and confident in the leadership abilities of Speaker Yakubu Dogara.
According to Datti, “I feel as a former principal officer I should have been consulted before my name was announced. I just heard of it on the floor. I have my own principles; I have decided on my own to withdraw as the chairman of that committee.”
However, Hon. Samaila Suleiman representing Kaduna North on the platform of the APC had since been appointed as Datti’s replacement.
Curiously, two days after Datti took the lower chamber by storm, Hon. Sunday Adepoju representing Ibarapa East/Ido of Oyo State on the platform of APC followed suit. Coming under Order Six of the House Standing Rules, Hon. Adepoju announced that he had resigned his appointment as the House Deputy Committee chairman on Special Duties. On October 22, Adepoju was one of the 96 committee chairmen and deputy chairmen named by the Speaker to oversee the various standing committees.
“Yes, I have tendered my resignation because I did not believe that the APC was fairly treated by the speaker. A situation where the opposition took the committees so vital to the change agenda of the APC government is not acceptable to the people of my constituency.
“The committees on power, aviation, works, petroleum and others are with the PDP. The speaker is intelligent enough to know the best way to handle this issue”, he argued.
But he was ruled out of order by the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yussuf Lasun who referred Adepoju to the House Rule 20, which states that “in as much as a matter is not urgent, it should be written to the Speaker to announce the rejection of a member assigned to any committee.”
Similarly, it has also been alleged that Hon. Hassan Saleh (PDP, Benue) has joined the bandwagon by tendering his resignation letter as the deputy chairman of Committee of Local Content.
From what happened on the floor of the House last week, it appears that crisis is gradually crippling into the Green Chamber as more aggrieved APC lawmakers are calling on the speaker to revisit the appointment or face more resignation of committee appointments.
Since the speaker announced the composition of the 96 standing committees, some APC lawmakers have kicked against it. In fact, the composition of the committees did not go down well with some of these APC lawmakers, who have argued that they should be given more committees to head since they are in majority. Perhaps, this has forced these APC members to resort to bickering, criticism, resignation and even staging a walk out just to press home their demands.
Currently, the APC lawmakers are chairmen of 48 committees, PDP are in charge of 46, while Social Democratic Party, SDP and All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA are heading one committee each.
Moreover, these aggrieved lawmakers have called on Dogara to take a second look at the list with a view to doing some adjustments, but
as the Speaker and the leadership of the House have remained adamant to effect further changes in the composition of the committees, more APC members are fighting dirty even threatening to resign from their appointments.
Hon. Aliyu Madaki (APC Kano), one of the APC lawmakers who walked out in annoyance during one of the plenaries, said he walked out of the plenary in anger when he stood up to speak on order of privileges, but was cut short by the deputy speaker.
According to him, “I wanted to draw the attention of the House to do that which is proper; that which is enshrined in the constitution, that which is enshrined in the House Order.
“These are the two books we use in running of our affairs, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and I quoted Section 36 (1) of the Constitution where it talks about giving everybody a fair hearing.
“A colleague of mine, Honourable Sunday Adepoju, stood up under privilege and if you read our law, whoever comes under privilege, he must be heard. The moment he started talking, the presiding officer stopped him and asked him to sit down that what he wanted to talk about had been over taken by events.”
However, some PDP lawmakers have described the resignation of the lawmakers as unfortunate. Hon. Linus Okorie (PDP, Ebonyi) argued that they ought to have placed the country first before their personal and selfish interest. He, however, said that their resignation would not in any way affect the smooth running of the parliament.
Speaking also on the same vein, the House spokesman, Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas, said he was surprised that some lawmakers seem not to appreciate the reason they were elected to the National Assembly.
He insisted that the Committees on Appropriations and Finance, seen as being in charge of allocating funds, went to the APC.
“The point should be made that committees by convention, are held by certain zones. We can’t change that now.
“The speaker merely kept the tradition. Members should know that our reason for being here is not to fight over committees”, Namdas stated.
It is quite alarming and sad as well that lawmakers who have promised so much to members of their constituency would stoop so low as to fight over ‘who gets what committee’ in the House. It is obvious that the impression they have exhibited was that a good number of them are just there for their pecuniary and selfish interest.
Ironically, this is not the change millions of Nigerians expected when they came out en mass and voted for APC in the last general elections. It is now incumbent on the party and its members in the National Assembly to be the change agent Nigerians are yearning for.
Therefore, in so much as members deserve the right to resign their appointments, the speaker must instill discipline and sense of responsibility among members and make it clear to all that it is no longer business as usual.