Gbajabiamila denies seeking to be Tinubu’s Chief of Staff • Akpabio, Abass have limited influence over standing committees • Ugochinyere claims it’s an attempt to undermine the Speaker
By Dapo Akinrefon & Levinus Nwabughiogu
The race for chairmanship and membership of key standing committees in the Senate and the House of Representatives is heating up.
Lawmakers aspiring to lead these committees are reportedly bypassing Senate President Senator Godswill Akpabio and Speaker Mr. Tajudeen Abass, focusing instead on obtaining the endorsement of President Bola Tinubu and his Chief of Staff, Mr. Femi Gbajabimiala, according to Naijaspects sources.
Some of the highly sought-after committees include Appropriations, Finance, Public Accounts, Defence (Army, Navy, and Air Force), Police Affairs, National Security and Intelligence, Customs and Excise, and Ports and Harbours, among others.
It was revealed that some lawmakers who supported the emergence of Akpabio and Abass as Senate President and Speaker, respectively, are disgruntled as they are not being considered for these committees.
Multiple sources also disclosed that lawmakers are already lobbying influential figures in the Presidency to secure their inclusion in the committees when the announcement is made at the end of the month.
Furthermore, some lawmakers expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of input from the All Progressives Congress (APC) leadership in the matter.
Senate President, Speaker have limited influence over standing committees
An anonymous lawmaker revealed that some colleagues are bypassing both the Senate President and Speaker, seeking to lobby the Presidency for these coveted committees.
The lawmaker said, “We are observing the entire drama here. The party is unaware of what is going on, yet they expect us to remain silent. It was this kind of situation that caused our National Chairman to speak out, and they almost called for his resignation.
“This is party democracy, and the party deserves recognition and respect. But the unfortunate situation we find ourselves in is that the President is gradually allowing his loyalists from Lagos to take over everything. It’s truly disheartening.
“For instance, how can the President establish a committee and have the Secretary to the Government of the Federation work under the Chief of Staff? Where is this done? Even our progressive governors are now at the mercy of the Chief of Staff.”
Another concerned lawmaker expressed reservations, stating, “Some of us will raise these issues because if left unchecked, they will affect our chances in future elections.
“Consider the scenario where both the Senate President and the Speaker have no say in the selection of their standing committees. All the committees have been decided upon, and they were done from the Villa and handed down to the presiding officers to announce on July 27th.
“You will be shocked to learn that, apart from Senator Solomon Adeola, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, who is known to be close to Tinubu, another of Tinubu’s loyalists, Faleke, will chair the Appropriation Committee in the House. For those not in close proximity to the Chief of Staff, they secure their positions through hefty payments. We are aware of one individual who allegedly paid one billion Naira to retain their position.”
It’s an attempt to undermine the Speaker, says Rep Ugochinyere
In response to the committee chairmanship issue, Mr. Ikenga Ugochinyere, Deputy Chairman of the House Adhoc Committee on Media and Public Affairs, stated that the final decision on committee chairmanship lies solely with the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, and body of principal officers.
Ugochinyere denied the alleged lobbying of the Presidency by some lawmakers, suggesting it was an attempt to undermine the Speaker.
He said, “These comments are attempts to undermine the Speaker. I have never witnessed any member going to the Villa to lobby. Who are they lobbying in the lobby? Is it the Speaker? The body of principal officers will decide after due consultation. Of course, anybody can reach out to anybody, but the authority and power rest with the House of Representatives or the Speaker. You can talk to the national chairman of APC. You can talk to the President.
“To claim that members have relocated to the Villa to secure committee chairmanship is an attempt to undermine the independence of the parliament, which is false. The Speaker, Tajudeen Abbas, and his deputy, Benjamin Kalu, are firmly in control of the House, working together with the body of principal officers. We, the members, agree with them that this decision rests solely with them and the Selection Committee.
“The selection committee had its first meeting three days ago. They are holding their second meeting this week. The delay is not due to lobbying but because new committees have been created, and reforms have been made to our rule book, etc. Each committee is reflected in the standing rules. So, when you make amendments or carry out reforms, you must update the rule book to avoid conflicts or clashes between different committees.
“What is holding us up is that a committee is working on amending the House rules to reflect the new committees and reforms implemented by the Speaker and the House leadership. Once they’re done, they will print the rule book this week and distribute it.
“As for those who are currently lobbying, do they even know which committees exist and which ones don’t? So what are they lobbying for?
“It’s normal for people to reach out ahead of the composition of standing committees, but to say that power has been taken from the House of Representatives and given to someone elsewhere, I disagree. VIPs or influential individuals may be consulted, and some may even travel to Kaduna to consult with the Emir of Zazzua, but the power to make the final decision rests squarely with the selection committee and, more importantly, with the leadership led by the Speaker and his deputy. I don’t believe anything has changed. So, such claims aim to ridicule and undermine the capacity of the leadership to do their job. There is no external interference.”