Senate President Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu have relocated to London, United Kingdom, to compile the list of chairmen and members of the 57 standing committees of the Upper Legislative House.
Chairmanship of committees in the parliament is keenly contested as those considered Grade ‘A’ are usually given to loyal members of the House leadership.
Sunday Sun gathered that the Senate President left for the United Kingdom shortly after Senate adjourned plenary to September 27.
His Deputy, Ekweremadu reportedly joined him last week.
An aide to the Deputy Senate President, who declined to be named, confirmed that his boss left Nigeria on Tuesday, August 11. “He actually went abroad on holiday with the family,” while another hinted that “he met with the Senate President in the United Kingdom.”
A ranking member of the Senate All Progressives Congress (APC) caucus told Sunday Sun that the two presiding officers “relocated temporarily abroad to avoid unnecessary pressures from our colleagues over the composition of the 57 Standing Committees. But, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the chamber is set for a showdown with the ruling APC.
At the moment, there are strong indications that the Senate leadership has concluded plans to share the chairmanship of the 57 standing committees equally between the APC and their counterparts in the PDP.
An opposition Senator privy to the arrangement alleged that the Senate President, “as part of his campaigns during the heady days before the inauguration on Tuesday, June 9, pledged to share chairmanship of juicy committees with members of the PDP as part of the deal for supporting his ambition…”
Before he travelled abroad, Saraki asked Senators to indicate their choice of committees by picking forms to that effect from the Clerk of the Senate, Mr. Biyi Durojaiye and indicate five committees where they wished to serve as soon as possible.
A senator from the South West geopolitical zone, pointed out that the current plan by the leadership of the Eighth Senate to adopt the provisions of the controversial amendments made to the Senate Rules in the allocation of committee chairmanship to Senators, was a grand design to favour the opposition.
He restated that “the amendment was a drastic departure from the Senate tradition, regarding the allocation of headship of more committees to members of the majority party,” and expressed worry that “some APC Senators might lose out in the process, and end up sharing the positions equally with PDP members.”
He continues: “The controversial amendments made to the Senate Standing Orders (2015, as amended) have made it mandatory for our leadership to share headship of the committees equally among the six geopolitical zones.
“Specifically, Order 3 (4) of the same orders state that, ‘The appointment of Senators as chairmen and members of Committees shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the six geopolitical zones of the country and there shall be no predominance of senators from a few geo-political zones’.
“This means that the leadership of the red chamber will allocate its committees equally among Senators, irrespective of political party affiliation, especially now that Senator Ekweremadu is obviously in charge of Selection.”
Further checks also indicated that each geo-political zone might get at least, nine committee chairmanship seats out of the total 57 Senate committees.
The controversial amendments were a radical departure from what was obtainable in the 2011 version of the Senate Standing Order, which made members of the majority party to enjoy juicy committees.
A close observation of the committee distribution in the 7th Senate revealed that former Senate President, David Mark, allocated them in favour of the PDP caucus in the chamber.
For instance, in the Seventh Senate, it was observed that the South-South got 14 chairmanship slots; followed by the North-Central, South-East and North-West, which got 10 each.
The South-West, with many members in the opposition, got the least chairmanship positions with only five seats while the North-East, also with many senators in the opposition, got seven.
The current arrangement, based on the provisions of the controversial Senate Standing Orders of 2015 shows that the majority party, APC which has more members, mainly from the North-west, North-central and the South-west will not enjoy special preference unlike the PDP in the Seventh Senate.
Regardless, Senate Leader, Ali Ndume told newsmen last week that chairmanship and membership of standing committees would be announced in September when Senate resumes in plenary.
Already, four committees have been constituted, adhering strictly to the rule on geopolitical spread, with both the APC and PDP Senators sharing the chairmanship slots on equal basis.
The committees are, Senate Services headed by Senator Ibrahim Gobir (APC Sokoto East); Rules and Business, which has Senator Babajide Omoworare (APC Osun Central ) as Chairman; Ethics and Privileges, chaired by Samuel Anyanwu ( PDP Imo East ); and Public Accounts Committee with Senator Andy Uba (PDP, Anambra South) as Chairman.
However, Senate spokesman, Dino Melaye insisted that chairmanship of the standing committees would be shared with special preference for the APC caucus, as the party in the majority.
“There is no way PDP Senators would have equal number of committee chairmanship seats since they are not in the majority. But we would carry everyone along because the Senate does not belong to any particular party,” Melaye said.