Senate committees ignore Saraki, fail to submit reports two months after one-week ultimatum

The Joint closed-door plenary of the House of Representatives and Senate
The Joint closed-door plenary of the House of Representatives and Senate

Despite the one-week ultimatum given to 14 ad-hoc committees by Senate President Bukola Saraki to submit their reports, most of them have failed to do so.

Mr Saraki had in November 2018, queried 14 ad-hoc committees, most of which were set up in 2017, and asked that their reports be submitted for consideration.

The Senate president gave a one-week ultimatum to the panels for them to complete their reports.

An ad-hoc committee is a committee formed for a specific task or objective and dissolved after the completion of the task or achievement of the objective.

In the upper chamber, these ad-hoc committees are set up by the Senate President or any other presiding officer.

Most of these ad-hoc committees are constituted after resolutions have been made on a matter of urgent national importance. At other times, the constitution of these ad-hoc committees is sequel to point of orders made by the lawmakers.

Some of the committees are assigned to probe issues of corruption and misconduct involving federal government ministries, departments and agencies, as well as public officials; and many of them have been on the assignment for over a year without submitting any report.

The panels are not just constituted, the chairperson and members of the committees are given a time frame to complete their task and present a report to the Senate.

Persistent Deadline Failure

Despite the amount of time issued to these ad-hoc committees, most of them fail to meet their deadlines. Some of them commence investigation but eventually abandon them.

The Panels

The 14 panels listed by Mr Saraki are:

-State of humanitarian efforts in the North-east: This committee was constituted on January 24, 2017, to investigate the ravaging crisis in the North-Eastern part of the country. It is chaired by David Umaru.

-National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) headed by Ahmad Lawan. The committee was constituted on March 21, 2017, to investigate the “unholy” activities of the embattled Executive Secretary of NHIS, Usman Yusuf.

– The attempted assassination of Dino Melaye: This committee, headed by Jibrin Barau was constituted on April 26, 2017, and was set up to investigate the alleged plan of the Nigerian Police and the Kogi State Government to assassinate Mr Melaye.

-Delegation to Kogi State governor on the attempted assassination of Dino Melaye headed by Ike Ekweremadu and constituted on April 26, 2017.

-An investigation into the various allegations levelled against the Nigerian police: This committee is headed by Francis Alimikhena and was constituted on October 4, 2017, to investigate allegations of corruption against the former Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris.

– An investigation into the various allegations against the NNPC: Headed by Aliyu Wammako and constituted on October 4, 2017. This committee was charged with the responsibility of carrying out a holistic investigation into charges of corruption levelled against Maikanti Baru, the Group Managing Director of the state oil firm, NNPC.

The committee, which was set up following a Senate resolution and public outcry, was given four weeks to submit its report. The deadline expired in November 2017.

– An investigation on the reappearance, irregularities, reinstatement and promotion of Abdulrashid A. Maina comprising of the chairpersons and vice chairpersons of the committees on establishment and public service, judiciary, human rights and legal matters, interior, and anti-corruption and financial crimes. The chairman of the committee is Emmanuel Paulker and it was constituted on October 24, 2017.

This committee was set up to investigate the controversial return and promotion of Abdulrasheed Maina, a former chairman of the Pension Reform Task Force Team. Although the joint committee commenced a public investigation, it is yet to submit its report.

– Arrest episode of Tuesday, November 21, 2017, between the officers of EFCC, NIA, and DSS: This committee, headed by Francis Alimikhena was constituted on November 27, 2017, and asked to probe into the clash between operatives of the State Security Service and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

The committee had commenced an investigative hearing in December 2017 but is yet to submit its report.

– Economic waste and Nigerian customs service headed by Dino Melaye and constituted on December 20, 2017. The committee was set up to investigate allegations that the Nigeria Customs warehouses in Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Maiduguri, Western Marine Lagos, Eastern Marine Port Harcourt, and Zone C Federal operations Owerri and Port Harcourt are currently filled with seized perishable items rotting away “at great cost to the economy.”

– Investigation of the circumstances that led to the destruction and violence against the empowerment programme of Ahmed Ogembe, headed by James Manager and constituted on March 8, 2018.

The lawmakers had accused the Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, of hiring thugs to invade the venue (where Mr Ogembe had organised an empowerment programme) with dangerous weapons at about 8 12 a.m., unleashing mayhem on constituents that turned out for the programme. It is for this reason that the ad-hoc committee was set up.

It is, however, yet to submit its report.

– Joint committees of Senate and House of Representatives to investigate the incident of the Senate chamber on Wednesday, April 18, 2018, headed by Bala N’Allah and constituted on April 26, 2018.

This committee was set up after hoodlums invaded the Senate chamber and carted away the mace. The committee had indicted Ovie Omo-Agege, who was believed to have led the thieves into the chamber.

The joint committee had in their report, recommended that the lawmaker should be suspended for 180 days and prosecuted alongside the thugs and charged with treasonable felony. This recommendation was adopted in the House of Representatives.

However, when this same report was submitted in the Senate chamber, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, referred the report to the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges and Public Petitions to fine-tune it and report back to the Senate.

Efforts made to know the current state of the report were unsuccessful as Mr Anyawu did not respond to calls put to him.

– Investigation of Amnesty International report on the alleged human rights abuses in the North-east. The committee was headed by David Umaru and constituted on June 6, 2018, to probe the report of Amnesty International which accused the military of human rights abuses and rape of women in Internally Displaced Persons Camps in the North East Zone.

– The technical committee on the declined assents to bills by the President of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (David Umaru) and constituted on October 10, 2018.

-Investigation on the issue of accommodation, logistics, feeding, etc. offshore and onshore exploitation of pilgrims by National Hajj Commission of Nigeria headed by Adamu Aliero.

This is the only committee whose report has been laid and the consideration is still ongoing. Others have neither presented their reports nor given an explanation as to why they failed to meet the deadline.

All the chairmen, as well as some members of the listed panels, were unavailable to comment as they did not respond to calls put to them.

Not the first time

Surprisingly, this is not the first time leaders of the ad-hoc committees would ignore Mr Saraki’s directive.

The Senate president had in January 2018 threatened to dissolve any ad-hoc committee that failed to conclude its assignments by the end of January.

He had given over ten ad-hoc committees an ultimatum of two weeks to present their reports by the end of January 2018. But by February, none of the committees adhered to the deadline.

Efforts to get comments on the reason for this persistent failure to meet deadlines by the committees, from Mr Saraki’s spokesperson, Yusuph Olaniyonu and the senate’s spokesperson, Sabi Abdullahi, were unsuccessful as they did not respond to calls and text messages put to them on the issue.

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