Apprehension in Senate, as Saraki announces emergency committee reshuffle

Chairmen of the standing committees in Nigeria’s upper legislative chamber, the Senate, have initiated moves to ensure that their currrent positions are secure.

On the other hand, those who feel left out when the committee heads were announced in late 2016, are not leaving anything to chance.

The fresh apprehensions and lobbying are coming on the heels of an announcement made by the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, that the leadership would carry out a ‘clean up’ exercise that will likely lead to a major rejigging of its standing committees.

At the moment, the Senate has a total of 68 standing committees. Saraki said the exercise would go a long way in assisting the Red Chamber in cleaning up its committee system.

The clean up, according to the Senate President, would be done before members of the upper legislative chamber will proceed on its end of session holiday later in the month.

Saraki made the revelations when he responded to an observation made by the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who had complained about the structure of committees of the Senate at the moment and had described it as “very unhealthy.”

Ekweremadu drew his observation from the report presented by the Senate committee on Tertiary Education, during which he noted that out of the 22 members of the committee, only 12 signed the report.

He said that it was unusual and unwieldy for the Senate to continue to tolerate the development. “We must ensure that senators are placed in the number of committees they can handle,” he said.

Responding, Saraki said: “I agree with you. We are going to clean it up before we go on recess. We have discussed this at the leadership level and we are going to do something about it to ensure that the right thing is done.”

It was learnt that the Senate leadership had become uncomfortable with a development where many lawmakers forced themselves into membership of committees they were not originally posted to.

The last time the Senate reshuffled its committees was in 2016 when many Senators who hitherto were not accommadated in ‘juicy’ committees, were appointed as chairmen.

The committee system was subsequently in January, 2017 slightly adjusted when the Senate created three new committees and reshuffled the chairmanship of two others.

The development then brought the number of committees in the Senate to 68.

In the heat of the crisis generated by the emergence of Saraki and Ekweremadu as leaders of the Senate, the Unity Forum Senators, made up of anti-Saraki lawmakers, had demanded a reshuffling of the committees membership for peace to return to the troubled assembly.

In the ensuing exercise, Saraki’s most outspoken critic, Kabiru Marafa, was appointed chairman of the Petroleum (downstream) Committee. He was chairman of the Committee on National Population.

Also, Oluremi Tinubu, a key member of the anti-Saraki Unity Forum, was named chairperson of the Committee on Environment.

Previously, she headed the Committtee on Women Affairs.

Suleiman Hukunyi, another critic of the senate president, was put in charge of the Committee on National Identity.