There was a mild drama at the National Assembly lobby yesterday as two All Progressives Congress, APC lawmakers exchanged blows. Hon. Herman Hembe (APC Benue) and Hon. Magaji Aliyu (APC, Jigawa) allegedly exchanged slaps at the lobby apparently over issues related to the contentious committee appointments.
On Monday, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and a host of other All Progressives Congress, APC lawmakers shunned the formal inauguration of the 96 standing committees by the Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara.
Apparently dissatisfied with the sharing of the 96 standing committee positions, the APC lawmakers boycotted the inauguration for a press briefing at the APC head office in Abuja where they said Dogara was working against the APC and Buhari’s government.
While Hembe is in Dogara’s camp, Aliyu is a strong supporter of Gbajabiamila.
Though it was not clear what triggered the furore, Nigerian Pilot gathered that the two lawmakers were in the lobby discussing in two separate groups when Hembe allegedly said “I can die over this particular matter.”
Aliyu immediately turned to say “why should someone want to die over an issue.”
Hembe, who was rewarded by the speaker with the FCT Committee, allegedly told Aliyu that he was not talking to him.
According to an eye witness, Aliyu responded harshly, thus prompting Hembe to slap him. It could not be verified if Aliyu returned the slap.
The Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yussuf Lasun, who happened to arrive at the scene at that time, had to call an APC caucus meeting in Hearing Room 1 (White House) to resolve the matter amicably.
Also at the senate, nerves were at breaking ends during and after the plenary as two principal members of the Senate Unity Forum, SUF, a group opposed to the election of the senate president, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki said the composition of the standing committees was illegal and called for their immediate cancellation.
The anti-Saraki senators, Kabiru Marafa (APC Zamfara North) and Suleiman Hunkunyi (APC Kaduna North), particularly demanded the cancelation of the additional eight committees created last week by Senate President, on the grounds of illegality.
Senator Marafa, the spokesperson of SUF, said the committees were not subject to the approval of all senators in plenary, explaining that Section 62(1) of the constitution gave the National Assembly the power to constitute committees.
Marafa, who was appointed Chairman, Committee on National Identity and National Population, further said that Section 62(4) however stated that all committees must be subject to approval by all senators.
He explained that another development, which made the committees null and void, was the increase of the committees from 57 to 65.
According to him, some sections of Order 97 of the Senate Standing Rule specify that only 57 committees shall be constituted.
The lawmaker also noted that the leadership of the committees was lopsided as it did not reflect even representation of the six geopolitical zones.
He further pointed out that the Selection Committee, the committee saddled with the responsibility of constituting the standing committees was itself not properly constituted.
He said the selection committee was made up mainly of new senators, flouting the standing order, which specified that it should be constituted based on ranking.
“What we are witnessing today in the National Assembly and the Senate in particular is legislative tyranny, where impunity wants to be the order of the day.
“Laws are meant to be respected and if we can treat our Order with impunity then we have no business being here.
“There is no committee. They are not legally constituted and they cannot function. Any further action is unacceptable to Nigerians and I have discharged that responsibility,’’ he said.
Similarly, Senator Hunkunyi said there were procedures for constituting standing committees, stressing that there was no resolution on the committees at plenary.
Hunkuyi, the vice chairman of SUF, who was appointed Vice Chairman, Federal Character Commission and Inter-Governmental Affairs, “this is one of the three issues that we are contending”.
“We are blowing the whistle, educating those that do not know and then throwing light on those areas that we feel require Nigerians to know,’’ he said.
While Saraki ruled that the observations of Marafa would be noted by the selection committee, he ruled Hunkunyi out of order since he had already addressed the issues as raised by the spokesperson of the SUF.
Dissatisfied with Saraki’s refusal to entertain their complaints about the committees, both Marafa and Hunkuyi later addressed the press to push their arguments further into the public domain.
However, in a swift reaction, the Spokesperson of the Senate, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, said the committees were approved during the adoption of votes and proceedings.
Senator Sabi said no lawmaker had the power to declare any proceeding in the House null and void because they were not judges.
He said “the votes and proceedings of Wednesday, November 4 were approved today and the approval contain the issues he is raising”.
“And it is very clear that the composition of committee leadership was part of the votes and proceedings. So, I don’t know what approval he is looking for.
“As far as the senate is concerned, we have approved the chairmen and vice chairmen of the 65 committees. I want to believe that the issues raised by Senator Marafa are not new at all.
“It is just a repeat of what we have seen in the past. The issues he has raised cannot be far from the leadership issue which you are all very familiar with’’, he explained.
He called on all aggrieved senators to sheath their sword and work for the progress of the country.

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