Forty-eight hours to the public presentation of the composition of the various standing committees of the National Assembly, there is discontent at the way the exercise has been handled in the two chambers of the federal legislature.
LEADERSHIP gathered that lawmakers in both chambers trembled with anger, especially at the weekend. A majority of the lawmakers are nursing the hurt of being unfairly treated by the handlers of the exercise in the Presidency.
The names of the federal lawmakers allocated to the various committees in the Senate and House of Representatives are expected to be made public during plenary on Thursday, ahead of the six-week recess by the two chambers. LEADERSHIP had on Friday run an exclusive report that the composition of the standing committees of the Senate and House of Representatives had been hijacked by the Presidency.
This action has fostered anger and disappointment in the National Assembly. LEADERSHIP gathered that tension was palpable, particularly in the House of Representatives during plenary on Thursday.
This newspaper gathered that the anger in the House was further accentuated when information about the exercise leaked to the aggrieved members. One of the lawmakers in the House of Representatives told LEADERSHIP that the exercise was tilted in favour of the emerging Lagos cabal and their cronies in other states and Committees allocated to the South-West. The source identified the Grade A committees unilaterally allocated to the state by the presidential aide as Finance, Defence, Industry and House Services.
According to our source, Hon. Babajimi Benson, who represents Ikorodu Federal Constituency of Lagos State, has been slated to head the House Committee on Defence, while his Epe Federal Constituency counterpart, Hon. Tasir Wale Raji, is to chair the Committee on House Services, which our embittered source described as “purely transactional unpretentiously.”
Similarly, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, representative of Akoko North East/Akoko North West Federal Constituency of Ondo State, who is regarded as the most powerful House member outside Lagos State, has been scheduled to chair the House Committee on Works, which was rejected by Borno lawmaker, Hon. Muktar Betara. Tunji-Ojo, reported to be eyeing the Ondo State governorship seat, was the chairman of the scandalous House Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in the 9th Assembly.
Also, barring any last minute alteration of the list, a son of the late Alaafin of Oyo, Hon. Akeem Adeyemi, who represents Oyo Federal Constituency of Oyo State, has been selected as chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, a slot previously regarded as an exclusive preservation of the lawmakers from the Northern axis of the country.
LEADERSHIP learnt that House members from the North were livid over the choice of Adeyemi to head the prestigious committee. In the same vein, the highly lucrative Committee on Appropriation has been allocated to Hon. Abubakar Kabir Bichi, who is representing Bichi Federal Constituency of Kano State. Bichi headed the House Committee on Works in the 9th Assembly.
Hon. Boma Goodhead, representing Akuku-Toru/Asari-Toru Federal Constituency of Rivers State, is tipped for House Committee chairman on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). She is a younger sibling to a Niger Delta militant leader, Mujarhedeen Asari-Dokubo. It is considered a reward for Asari-Dokubo’s firm support for President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Meanwhile, LEADERSHIP learnt that Betara rejected the chairmanship of the House Committee on Works, proposed to him by the handlers of the exercise. Betara, a front-runner for the speakership of the House in the 10th Assembly before he was persuaded to step down, was chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation in the 9th Assembly.
LEADERSHIP gathered that Betara is unhappy that the Presidency reneged on the promise made to him before his withdrawal from the contest for the position of the House speaker. LEADERSHIP gathered that Betara was promised, among other things, that he would return as chairman of the appropriation committee of the 10th House of Representatives as well as the reservation of an undisclosed percentage of the committee chairmanship slots for his teeming supporters in the House.
Members loyal to Betara are reported to be spoiling for a showdown with the leadership of the House over their fate. To this end, investigation by LEADERSHIP further revealed that Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Tajudeen Abbas, who left the country to attend the 18th Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers of Commonwealth (CSPOC), African Region in Yaounde, Cameroon, decided to stay back at Cameroon’s capital city for few days after the event, apparently to ward-off pressures from House members, back home.
Abbas’s reluctance to return to the country apparently stemmed from the resultant frustration occasioned by the hijack of his statutory responsibility of handling the allotment of the chairmanship of the committees in the House by forces in the Presidency, who helped him to power and his apparent helplessness in the unfolding drama. However, while Abbas is in Cameroon, his main support network, Task Group, which midwifed his election, is protesting alleged marginalisation in the scheme of things in the House.
The group, which met at a popular hotel behind the Police Headquarters, Asokoro, Abuja, on Wednesday night, expressed disappointment that the interest of its members was not being properly “projected, protected and harnessed to secure befitting roles in the leadership structure of the House, especially the allocation of the leadership of the various committees of the House.”
Consequently, the group, with a membership strength of about 200 House members, resolved and dispatched the chief whip and minority leader of the House, Hon. Bello Kumo and Hon. Kingsley Chinda, respectively, to interface with Abbas and Chief of Staff to the President, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, over their fate.
Kumo and Chinda are chairman and deputy chairman of the group, respectively. One of our sources in the House of Representatives, who craved anonymity, said, “We have the feelers from the Presidency that four of the seven Grade A committees allocated to the South West have been given to Lagos State, with Hon. Babajimi Benson to pick the chairmanship of Defence Committee; Hon. Wale Raji to serve as chairman of House Services, among others. Also, Hon. Abubakar Kabir Bichi from Kano State is to be announced as chairman of the prestigious House Committee on Appropriation.
“Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo is billed to become the chairman of the House Committee on Works while the son of deceased Oyo monarch, Hon. Akeem Adeyemi, is slated to pick the chairmanship of the House Committee on Agriculture, though his anticipated nomination is being attacked by members from the North, who believe that major agricultural practices take place in the North.”
“The member, representing Biu/Bayo/Shani Federal Constituency of Borno State, Hon. Muktar Betara, who was approached to pick the chairmanship of the House Committee on Works rejected the offer because the gesture was at variance with the promise the Presidency made to him before he stepped down for Rt. Hon, Abbas for the election of the speakership position of the House. He was promised the chairmanship of the appropriation committee and inclusion of his teeming supporters as chairmen of other various committees in the House.
The source added, “You can see that Betara and his teeming supporters are also angry and aggrieved. They are spoiling for war with the House leadership. The same way, you can see that members of the Task Group, the support base of Speaker Tajudeen Abbas ahead of his election on June 13, are also unhappy. While Mr. Speaker decided to stay back in Yaounde after the CSPOC conference, to avoid pressures over the composition of the House committee, for which he could not provide any explanation or information, members of his support group are protesting perceived marginalisation back home here in Abuja.
He declared that in the National Assembly, especially the House of Representatives, the Lagos cabal and their associates and cronies from other states are firmly in-charge. “Many members cannot condone their unbridled arrogance as they ignore and snub their colleagues at will. They willfully ignored normal pleasantries and phone calls. These attitudes had reinforced anger and resentment in the House. Hours ahead of the announcement of the committee during plenary on Thursday are going to be tension-soaked,” added the source, who re-affirmed his pleas that his name should not be mentioned in print.
Betara could not be reached for his reaction to the report. The lawmaker did not respond to calls and text messages. Abbas could also not be accessed for his reaction to the story. On her part, the chairman, House Ad-hoc Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Khadija Bukar Abba, ignored messages sent to her mobile phone on the matter. It was however gathered that the immediate past chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Aliyu Muktar Betara, may be given back his Committee as part of the agreement reached with him to step down from the Speakership contest.