The cold war and mutual suspicion between the camps of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, and the House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, may soon spiral into yet another clash, this time, over the composition and appointment of chairpersons of House committees.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported the dissatisfaction among lawmakers of the ruling All Progressives Congress, who complained that the composition of the committees favoured the opposition Peoples Democratic Party.
They also said the development which saw PDP members appointed to some key committees, including works, petroleum resources, aviation, army etc., could sabotage the “change mantra” of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr. Gbajabiamila accused Mr. Dogara of undermining him and other principal officers, who he said were not consulted by Mr. Dogara ahead of the appointments.
In a letter dated October 20, addressed to Mr. Dogara, Mr. Gbajabiamila cautioned the Speaker against undermining his office as well as those of any Principal Officer in constituting the committees.
In the letter, he reminded the Speaker of the several meetings they had during which the House Leader said he sought understanding of what was going on with the composition of chairmen and vice chairmen of the committees.
“I did this because of the incessant rumour that same had been composed,” he wrote. “On each occasion you assured me that nothing had been done. From all indications, however, it appears that an announcement of Chairmen and Deputy Chairmen is imminent and such may be done this week.”
He continued, “Honourable Speaker, I acknowledge your right and prerogative to determine the leadership of the House Committees and I intend to work with you after such determination has been made. I intend and have stated privately and publicly to work with you for the progress of the House.
“However, I am constrained at this point to ask that due consideration is given to the provision of our House Rules, Order 7 Rule 10 paragraph (a) which states that the Speaker shall in consultation with principal officers, appoint chairmen and deputy chairmen from among the members of the committees.
“On the role of the Majority/House Leader: Order 7 Rule 27 (2) c says that the Leader of the House shall ‘liaise with committee chairmen and other functionaries of the House’.”
By the foregoing, Mr. Gbajabiamila told Mr. Dogara that undermining the office of any principal officer would not strengthen Nigerian democracy and legislature.
He said he had taken liberty to write the letter, hoping that Mr. Dogara would comply with relevant House Rules before announcement of the composition of the committees.
Three days after the letter was forwarded, October 23, Mr. Dogara unveiled the headships of 96 special and standing committees, apparently confirming Mr. Gbajabiamila’s concerns.
A lawmaker, Babban kaita (APC-katsina State) and an aide to the House Leader, told PREMIUM TIMES that the composition was made without consultation with the principal officers.
Mr. Kaita said the aggrieved APC members could have taken action to stall announcement.
But they acted otherwise in consideration of members of the public who had complained the legislative had spent much time fighting before, he said.
Another member, Sunday Adepoju (APC-Oyo State), who resigned last week as the Deputy Chairman of House Committee on Special Duties, said he took the step to protest “the strengthening of PDP at the expense of my party, APC.”
Mr. Dogara’s spokesperson, Turaki Hassan, said the principal officers were duly consulted, and accused Mr. Gbajabiamila of lying.