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TENSION OVER NON-COMPOSITION OF SENATE COMMITTEES

By NBF News
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Ahead of resumption of plenary on September 13, there is tension in the Senate over the inability of the Selection Committee to announce the composition of standing committees before adjournment on July 28.

Senate President David Mark chairs the Selection Committee which comprises 10 members made up of the Body of Principal Officers of the Senate. In line with parliamentary tradition, Senators had expected the Senate President to announce the composition of the committees before the chamber embarked on its annual recess.

Daily Sun reliably gathered that a showdown looms in the Senate with varied interests staking claims and refusing to back down on them on 'juicy committees.'

These varied interests have reportedly stalled the announcement of chairmen and deputies of new committees.

For instance, some members of the Selection Committee, who ordinarily should have an insight into the membership of committees, are grumbling about being 'kept in the dark' about the selection.

A member of the Selection Committee, who declined to be named, said 'the Senate President and his deputy are the only ones compiling names of chairmen and their deputies.'

The north is now demanding payback from the Senate President over the region's bloc support in the build-up to the June 6 election. Specifically, the north is interested in taking top committees including the most sought after Appropration, Finance and Public Accounts Committees.

The calculation in the Selection Committee, before the Senate went on recess, is that a ranking Senator from the North west would take the Appropriation Committee while the South west would be his deputy.

The South-west Senator being tipped as the vice chairman of the committee is a former member of the House of Representatives, who crossed over from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to actualize his ambition to come to the Senate.

Daily Sun learnt that the candidacy of the North-west Senator is being pushed by a former chairman of the committee, who was a loyalist of the Senate President in the last session. He is still close to Mark, it was gathered.

In the sixth Senate, the South-west chaired the Appropriation while the North-west was the deputy.

The decision to cede the chairmanship of the Appropriation Committee to the North-west chair goes contrary to a joint decision by the National Assembly leadership to allow the south chair the panel.

The thinking was that since the two top positions in the National Assembly are held by the north, it was 'politically expedient to allow the south take the Appropriation Committees in both chambers.'

Already, the leadership of the House of Representatives has 'a gentleman's agreement to cede the same position to a returning member of the House of Representatives from the South south.'

Leadership of both houses had initially agreed to cede some positions in both chambers to the south.

A returning Senator from the North-east has already been penciled down for the Public Accounts Committee. He is a core member of Mark's kitchen cabinet.

Last session, the South-south chaired the Senate Services Committee. It would now revert to the North Central and barring any last minute changes, a former deputy of the committee has been penciled down to head the committee. The Senate President is also from the North central geo-political zone.

Some Senators are reportedly angry that the North west 'wants to get more than its fair share of top committees' by going for the chairmanship of the Finance Committee. Former Kaduna State Governor, Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, chaired the committee in the sixth Senate.

Indications show that the North west is insisting on holding on to the Finance Committee, much to the anger of the south, which wants to grab the committee after feelers indicated that the Appropriation Committee may no longer be within its reach.

It was also gathered that former governors in the Senate, who are also first-timers in  the parliament, are seriously lobbying to head committees.  A source privy to the push told Daily Sun that 'the infuriating aspect is that the former governors even want to cheery pick the committees they want to head.

'There is a tradition in the parliament. New members would be given committees only after ranking members have been given the first right of refusal.'

Meanwhile, in another instance, opposition parties in the Senate are reportedly angry with the Senate President for being 'kept in the dark' over the composition of committees.

'The tradition in the Senate is that for any new session, the opposition would approach the Senate President to know the number of committees that would be conceded to them. After that, the opposition parties would then pick the chairmen of the committees and communicate same to the Senate President who would then announce them when he's announcing the composition of standing committees.This time around, they approached the Senate President and so far, nothing has been given to them.'