…Senators, Reps shun Akpabio, Abbas, lobby presidential aide
…Lagos Senators, Reps now power brokers
…Senate, House keep mute
There is intrigue and underhand dealing in the Senate and House of Representatives over the composition of the standing committees in both chambers of the National Assembly. LEADERSHIP Friday gathered that senators and House members are unsure of their fate as the process of allocating them into various steering committees of the two chambers has been hijacked by the Presidency, with desperate ones among them reportedly parting with huge bribes to be allocated juicy committees.
A powerful aide to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is reported to have hijacked the process from the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas. Consequently, senators and members of the House have shunned Akpabio and Abbas in desperation to realise their ambition of presiding over ‘juicy’ committees.
They have now resorted to lobbying the presidential aide, who holds the ace in the scheme of things, in the National Assembly. The presidential aide is reported to have sidelined the Senate president and speaker of the House in the selection of federal lawmakers as committee chairmen.
LEADERSHIP Friday learnt that uncertainty has enveloped the fate of the federal lawmakers less than a week to the unveiling of the chairmen and deputy chairmen of the various committees of the National Assembly. The leadership of the committees are expected to be made public on July 27, ahead of the recess by both chambers.
LEADERSHIP Friday gathered that the presidential aide was putting finishing touches to the lists of the committee chairmen and their deputies in both chambers, as at Friday. The aide, who at a time was a presiding officer of one of the chambers of the National Assembly, is expected to hand over the “approved and final lists” of the committee chairmen to Akpabio and Abbas, ahead of June 27th.
One of our sources in the National Assembly, who confided in this newspaper, said Akpabio and Abbas’ role would be merely to announce the names of lawmakers already pencilled in by the Presidency as chairmen and deputies of the various committees at plenary on July 27.
Another source in the National Assembly told this newspaper that most senators and House members, who “no longer consider Akpabio and Abbas relevant and important in the scheme of things” preferred to reach out to the presidential aide and his cronies to seal their fate.
The influential aide is said to be facing unyielding pressures from desperate lawmakers and their promoters. This development, LEADERSHIP Friday’s reliable sources hinted, has compelled the aide to replace some of his security and personal staff, who hitherto served as purveyors of communication, which made him vulnerable and accessible to lobbyists. To this end, senators and House members from Lagos State, President Tinubu’s base, have emerged as new power brokers in the National Assembly in the emerging spectacle.
LEADERSHIP Friday further gathered that Lagos lawmakers are not only confident of securing the leadership of choice and lucrative committees, they also serve as conduits and contact points to access the powerful presidential aide by their colleagues. Meanwhile, it was also learnt from one of our sources that juicy committees are being sold to willing members of the National Assembly.
The source revealed to LEADERSHIP Friday that some members coughed out as much as N1 billion to secure the chairmanship of a juicy committee, and that the names of some members, who have paid the whooping sum, have been pencilled against their preferred committees.
Further enquiries revealed that some government agencies are funding the allocation of high-ranking committees to preferred members of the National Assembly in order to engender mutual understanding ahead of the inauguration of such committees and performance of their oversight functions. Some highly connected senators and House members are behind the racket.
Giving a graphic scenario of the mood in the National Assembly, in a chat with our correspondent yesterday. a member of the House of Representatives, who does not want his name in print, said, “There is confusion in the National Assembly over the allocation of the various committees to members, especially the allocation of the chairmen of the various standing committees. Everyone wants to be a chairman of a committee and every member, be it in the Senate or House of Representatives, is desperate to be made a chairman, especially that of a grade A committee.
“The senators and House members are bypassing the presiding officers of the House to lobby a powerful aide in the Presidency (name withheld), who has hijacked the functions of allocating the members into the committees from Senate President, Senator Godswill Akpabio and Speaker of the House of RepresentatIves, Rt. Hon. Tajudeen Abbas. It would amount to a waste of time lobbying to get chairmanship of a committee through Senator Akpabio and Rt. Hon. Abbas, because they are obviously not in charge.
“The presiding officers have also surrendered their responsibilities to the presidential aide, who is touting his relationship with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to intimidate and coerce them. The presidential aide is the one allocating the chairmanship and membership of the committees in collaboration with his cronies in the National Assembly, especially the House of Representatives.
“Some of these senators and House members, particularly from Lagos State have constituted themselves as new cabal in the present administration, fixing the leadership and membership of the committees in their favour and in favour of their associates and collaborators. The Lagos cabal, headed by the controversial presidential aide, who is also a former lawmaker, and his cronies in the National Assembly, have taken over from the notorious cabal under the Buhari administration.
According to him, the presiding officers are helpless in the prevailing circumstances, with all the senators and House members lobbying to see the presidential aide. “The boys of the presidential aide and members of the cabal are the one picking juicy committees while one of them is also coordinating payment of money for the purchase of committee chairmanship by willing and wealthy members,” he said.
The lawmaker further stated some government agencies, ministries and departments are also buying committee chairmanship seat for preferred lawmakers, especially ranking members, who hitherto performed oversight functions in such agencies and MDAs in the previous assemblies. “They pay on their behalf, just because they are comfortable with them, having been running deals together in the past.
“This informed the desperation to have more committees and more chairmanship slots. In the House of Representatives, for instance, 23 additional committees have been created, with the balkanisation and splitting of the previous committees. Under the new dispensation in the House, the education and finance committees, for example, have been balkanised into four and three new committees, respectively,” he stated.
Senator Akpabio could not be reached for his reaction to the report. He did not respond to calls and text messages. Speaker Abbas, who is currently attending the 18th Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth (CSPOC), Africa Region, in Yaounde, Cameroon, could not also be reached for comments. Also, the chairman, House Ad-hoc Committee on Media and Publicity, Hon. Khadija Bukar Abba did not respond to messages sent to her regarding the development.