Dogara inaugurates 96 House of Reps panels
SPEAKER of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has officially inaugurated the 96 special and standing committees of the chamber with a call on the members to work as a team in the execution of their mandate.
Dogara yesterday however warned that the House will monitor the performance of the leadership of the various committees and will conduct a mid – term review, adding “if any member in a leadership position fails to justify the confidence reposed in him or her, other persons will be given the responsibility.”
Meanwhile, the Cold War between the Speaker Dogara and the Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila over the composition of the committee chairmen and their deputies yesterday deepened with the latter and some of his loyalists, boycotted the special session which held on the floor of the National Assembly.
Curiously, Gbajabiamila, Garba Datti, Ali Madaki, Sunday Adepoju, James Faleke, and Ayo Omidiran, among other staunch members of the loyalist group were allegedly absent on the floor during the session, a development which left several seats in the 360-strong lower Chamber empty.
They were said to be among the about 23 Gbajabiamila loyalists allegedly attending another meeting at the All Progressives Congress (APC) secretariat in Abuja.
Members loyal to the House Leader yesterday offered an insight as to why they declined to attend the inauguration ceremony of the House of Representatives 96 special and standing committees.
Spokesperson of the group, Alhaji Musa Sarki-Adar who addressed reporters at the All Progressive Congress ( APC) national secretariat in Abuja said as far as they were concerned, the way and manner Dogara constituted the committees speak volumes of his resolve to sabotage both the APC and the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration.
The group alleged that going by the composition and distribution of the committees chairmanship positions, there are all indications that Speaker Dogara is already working in cahoots with the opposition.
At the inauguration attended by the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, former presiding as well as principal officers of the House, representatives of the Service Chiefs, party chieftains, heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), Dogara however noted that the new special committees so inaugurated will not result in increased cost.
Apparently reacting to criticisms that the committes were too many and likely to weigh heavily on the National Assembly in terms of cost, the Speaker said the creation of special committees was in response to the need for effective and efficient legislative oversight activities.
He also explained that the committee clerks and other staff of the committees will be sourced from the existing pool of staff that is paid salaries and allowances already by the National Assembly.
Further, Dogara said the committee members are already paid salaries also by the National Assembly, adding that “no person gets an increased remuneration by virtue of appointment as a committee member or Chairman.”
The National Assembly budget has not been increased as a result. The situation in the legislature is slightly different from the situation in the Executive branch where creating a new agency of ministry may lead to increased costs of running the offices,” he said.
This criticism, the Speaker said, even though, apparently well intentioned, misses the point.
According to him, “experience gained from the operation of Committees since 1999, shows that some Committees’ functions and mandates are very wide indeed and cannot be effectively supervised and oversighted by a single Committee. For instance, the House split the Committee on Education into two, namely: Basic Education and Services and Tertiary Education and Services. The old Committee on Education had a mandate to oversight the budget and policy issues of the following institutions.
“104 Unity Schools, 22 Federal Colleges of Education, 36 Federal Universities, and 24 Federal Polytechnics,”… With responsibility also for the Ministry itself and about 25 other Government Agencies and all aspects of education in Nigeria.”
“There is no way a single committee can adequately oversight all these agencies with House members also attending to other issues in Plenary Sessions, like lawmaking and other representational responsibilities,” he argued.
The Speaker further explained that some new Committees were also set up to meet the exigencies of the moment and in response to the demand of some of the country’s development partners for better oversight of funds that are being raised for a particular sector.
This background, according to Dogara, informed the creation of the new Committee on Internally Displaced Persons, Refugees, and Initiatives on the North East.
He said the House also created a new committee on Delegated Legislation to fulfill the Legislative Agenda where the House committed itself to evolving mechanisms to track delegated legislation.
The Speaker also dismissed the existence of so-called juicy committees, and assured that every member of a committee would enjoy ample and equal opportunity.
He said the House was committed to the anti-corruption fight of the President Mohammadu Buhari-led administration, and assured that the parliament was poised to collaborate through legislative actions.
According to him, the Constitution has specifically reposed in the National Assembly, not the Executive, the duty and responsibility to “expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it”. (S.88 (2)b.).
The Committees remain the most important mechanism for carrying out this solemn constitutional mandate. The leadership of the House will, consequently, be very sensitive to any report of wrongdoing or corrupt practices by any member or leadership of a Committee,” he added.
Former Speakers of the House of Representatives, Patricia Etteh, Agunwa Anikwe as well as former Deputy Speakers including Chibudom Nwuche, Emeka Ihedioha, Babangida Nguruje, and the immediate past Leader of the House, Mulikat Akande-Adeola were among other dignitaries who attended the session.