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  • NASS Committees: Akpabio, Abbas Under Fire For Conceding 50% Chairs To Opposition
  •  In desperate move to ensure stability in the 10th Assembly, the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives have conceded 50 per cent of the chairmanship slots of various committees in the two chambers to lawmakers elected on the opposition platforms.

    Consequently, major opposition platforms, especially Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Labour Party (LP), New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP) and Young Peoples Party (YPP) are to pick 50 per cent of the chairmanship positions of the various committees, leaving the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) with the remaining 50 per cent.

    LEADERSHIP gathered that Senate President Godswill Akpabio and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, had allegedly sealed a deal with the opposition lawmakers on getting half of the committee chairmanship slots ahead of their elections on June 13.

    Findings further revealed that the deal had been reaffirmed at subsequent meetings between the leadership of the two chambers and the leadership of the minority caucus after the June 13 inauguration of Akpabio and Abbas.

    It was gathered that the sharing formula would touch on the various categories of committees, designated as Grades A, B and C.

    Last Wednesday, minority leader of the House of Representatives, Hon Kingsley Chinda, told members of the minority caucus at a meeting within the National Assembly Complex that Abbas renewed his commitment to honour the deal.

    He said the Speaker conceded to the agreement in his recent meeting with the helmsman of the House.

    LEADERSHIP gathered that the move was meant to serve as a measure of reward for the support from the opposition lawmakers and also to provide stability valves for the new leadership.

    It was learnt that the 50-50 arrangement was also meant to douse palpable tension in the National Assembly, especially in the Senate where Akpabio battled strong and fierce opposition to emerge.

    But despite the lofty goals projected by the promoters of the idea, LEADERSHIP learnt that it is creating discomfort and disquiet in the APC, especially in the majority caucus of the Senate and House of Representatives.

    Findings by this paper revealed that Senators and members of the House elected on the platform of the APC were not comfortable with the sharing formulae which placed their fate at par with their counterparts elected on opposition platforms.

    Protesting the development in a chat with our correspondent at the weekend, an APC Senator who did not want his name in print fumed: “The leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives have conceded 50 per cent of the chairmanship seats in both chambers to our colleagues elected on the platforms of the various opposition platforms.

    “The leaders of both chambers, Senator Godswill Akpabio and Speaker Tajudeen Abbas, had this arrangement with the opposition lawmakers before their elections.

    “We thought it was just a gimmick to lure the opposition lawmakers to vote for them before the election but surprisingly Senator Akpabio and Rt. Hon. Abbas has at different meetings with the opposition caucus after their elections, renewed their commitment to honour the agreement.”

    The implication, according to the aggrieved lawmaker, is that opposition lawmakers will have 50 per cent of the chairmanship slots allocated to them, while those of the governing party will have the remaining 50 per cent to jostle for.

    He continued: “This arrangement cuts across all categories of committees. It means APC will share grades A, B and C committees with them at equal proportion. It is an unfair arrangement to those of us from the ruling party.

    “How can APC lawmakers share these slots at par with their colleagues in the opposition parties? It’s never done and this is unprocedural. They are not even reserving a substantial number of the grade A (juicy committees) committee for those of us from in the ruling party.

    “Even if we agree with them that such moves can help to ensure peace and stability in the Senate and House, the sharing shouldn’t have been at equal proportions. What do we enjoy as a ruling party? If the reverse was the case and the APC lost in the February 25 presidential election, are they saying either PDP or LP, which are strong contenders in the race, would have shared the chairmanship slots in the National Assembly with the elected APC members equally?

    “The answer is no. Our leaders are just bothered about their interests – how to preserve their exalted seats. They are not bothered about the interest and survival of APC. What happens when you load the opposition parties with juicy and grade A committees? It means we are strengthening the opposition parties to clip the wings of and cripple the APC at various constituencies.

    “They are ultimately plotting the weakness of APC. Quite honestly, members of the majority caucus in both chambers are grumbling and disenchanted about this arrangement. The leaders are surely and assuredly setting a stage for crisis in the National Assembly because we are going to resist any attempt to weaken APC as a ruling party”.

    Also, an insider at the meeting hosted by Chinda told LEADERSHIP that the representative of Obio/Akpor federal constituency in the House gave a detailed account of his recent meeting with Abbas at the forum.

    Aside from the information provided on the sharing formulae of the 50 per cent of the chairmanship of the committees in favour of the caucus, our sources quoted Chinda as disclosing that all members of the House, with the exception of those to be appointed into the appropriation committee, would be appointed as chairman and vice chairman of the various committees in the House.

    Chinda, according to one of our sources, also hinted that all “parliamentary friendly bodies” in the House would be upgraded to committee status to pave the way for the creation of additional chairmanship slots.

    The source who pleaded that his name should not be mentioned in print said, “The minority caucus met at Room 304 in the National Assembly complex shortly after the plenary on Wednesday, during which our minority leader, Rt. Hon. Kingsley Chinda, briefed us about the recent developments in the House, especially his recent meetings with the Honourable Speaker, Rt. Hon. Tajudeen Abbas, as it affects our wellbeing and the fate of the members of the minority caucus in the scheme of things.

    “First, Hon. Chinda implored us to put our house in order. He said the minority caucus should work in harmony with the government for things that are good and in the public interest. He stated that the leadership of the House had no choice than to carry every member along since there was no contest in the election of June 13th. Consequently, since everyone voted for him, Mr Speaker has offered to carry everyone along.”

    Another of our sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “Hon Chinda further disclosed to us at the meeting that Mr Speaker told him that the chairmanship slots of the various committees would be shared in equal ratio between those of us elected on the platform of the opposition parties and the ruling APC.

    “That it will be 50 per cent for the majority of APC and 50 per cent for the minority. That was his promise to us before we supported his election and we are glad that he has renewed that commitment and expressed his readiness to keep that promise.

    “The minority leader also said that every 360 members, excluding those to be appointed into the appropriation committee, will either emerge as chairman or vice chairman in the emerging dispensation in the House. Clearly, he said anyone who finds himself in the appropriation committee will not serve as chairman or vice chairman in any other committee.

    “He said the elimination of members of the appropriation committee, which is a major grade A committee, is meant to create opportunities for more members to emerge as either chairman or vice chairman of the various committees.

    “To further brighten the chances of more members to clinch either chairman or vice chairman of a committee, all parliamentary friendly bodies, including inter-parliamentary, are to be upgraded to committee levels, primarily to satisfy everybody”.

    Meanwhile, Chinda neither picked calls to his cell phone nor responded to messages sent to his phone in order to secure his reaction to the report.

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