Ninth National Assembly resumes amid uncertainties

Senate President Ahmed Lawan (C) (Photo by Kola SULAIMON / AFP)

• Oshiomhole, Reps rebuff cash squeeze, reconvene
After its proclamation on June 11, 2019 by President Muhammadu Buhari, the 9th Nigeria’s National Assembly begins its plenary journey to the first legislative year today. Although the major business the bi-cameral federal legislature carried out two weeks ago was to elect the principal officers, namely, speaker and deputy and president and deputy of the House of Representatives and Senate respectively, it is today that the two chambers are expected to consummate the preliminary steps in forming the 9h session.

As the National Assembly resumes today, recent developments, where money for votes allegedly featured in the election of principal officers and the volte-face demonstrated by the Senate President in the appointment of his staff have raised public anxieties and expectations.

Some stakeholders have expressed the hope that the federal lawmakers should rise to the occasion and offer the much-needed stability and direction to the government, especially against the insistence of the executive to have its way at all times.

Senate, challenge of continuity
In the Senate, which is the upper legislative chamber, Nigerians are eagerly waiting to see whether the lawmakers of the 9th Senate would revisit most of the bills passed by the 8th session, which President Buhari declined assent. Top on the list of these unfinished legislations are the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) and Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Bill.

After two controversial visits to President Buhari at Aso Villa, one of which his deputy, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, genuflected to the president, Senate President, Ahmad Lawal, stoked public debate as to what manner of Senate he intends to run. While some observers recalled developments leading to his election and anticipate a mediocre legislature, others point to the alleged inducement and reversal of appointment of Dr. Festus Adedayo as evidence of a mercenary and self-serving legislature.

There is also the attempt to contrast the 8th Senate with the emergent 9th Senate to the extent that most watchers of the National Assembly politics note that despite the supremacy battle between the immediate past Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and President Buhari, it would be hard for to surpass the 8th Senate in its purposeful and effective legislative work.

As the Senate resumes plenary today, Nigerians would like to see evidence of cohesion among the Senators, especially against the background of a nebulous legislative agenda of the 9th Senate.

However, in an interview with The Guardian, Deputy Senate President, Omo-Agege, expressed the view that “in this 9th Assembly, everybody will have an opportunity to thrive; if you are a member of PDP, you will have a say in every decision that comes on the floor.”

While contending that the ruling party, APC, being in the majority would have its way, he noted that whatever is being canvassed in the overall best interest of the country would enjoy the unanimous approval of Senators. On the issue of the Electoral Act amendment bill, Omo-Agege said as a believer in the need for electoral reform, the 9th Senate must get it right.

He said: “Unless and until we get it right, we shall continue to have problems.  I am very big fan of technology. I do not see why we cannot go for electronic voting. Even before we came on board in the 8th Senate, there had been an amendment to the Electoral Act that removed the inhibition from section 52 or 53 of the Act that prohibited the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from e-voting.”

He explained that the harm that befell the Electoral Act reared its head when “the poisoned bill of section 25 of the election sequence was introduced and that also deprived us of the benefits of that provision in the Electoral Act amendment.”

Gbajabiamila

Reps rebuff cash squeeze, reconvene
It would not be out of reluctance that members of the House of Representatives resolved to turn up for today’s sitting. Like their counterparts in the Red Chamber, they have an unfinished business of properly constituting the Green Chamber, the lower arm of the bi-cameral federal legislature.

Speaking in a joint press conference addressed by members of Mrs. Khadijat Bukar Abba Ibrahim-led ad hoc committee on Media and Public Affairs, the lawmakers allayed the fears that it would not turn up for today’s session to protest alleged paucity of requisite funds for their legislative duties.

Despite the general resolve among members, there were feelers that the crisis rocking the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), which has continued to fester, may worsen over the choice of leaders. But ad hoc committee chairperson, Mrs. Ibrahim, said members assured of their readiness to today’s proceedings in spite of whatever concerns they have over the non-payment of sundry allowances expected to enable them settle down for business.

While disclosing that virtually all the 360 members had been allocated offices and attached to no fewer than 96 standing committees of the House, Ibrahim reiterated the resolve of Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila’s leadership to ensure cordial relationship between the executive and legislature in the interest of Nigerians.

Also, a member of the committee, Mr. Salam Bamidele (APC, Osun) remarked that the Green Chamber is ready, noting that the welfare committee was still handling the matter.

His words: “Our office allocation is almost done. On the issue of payment, the day is not ended yet. They are working round the clock on the issue.

“The matter would not affect the determination of members to come in and do the job that they have been elected to do. Everybody is ready to work. I want to believe that the resumption today is not threatened. The ad hoc committees that has to do with putting in place logistics has substantially completed their work by now.”

Yet, it was gathered that moves by the ruling party through the national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, to allegedly impose Aminu Sulaiman as House Majority Leader instead of Ado Doguwa, is said to be stirring up apprehension among some members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party.

Sources within APC NWC reliably informed that the entire members are opposed to Oshiomhole’s designs to back Sulaiman, who apart from being a third termer in the Green Chamber, was also Kano State Secretary of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). Sulaiman, who also represents Fagge Federal Constituency of Kano State, was Chairman, House Committee on Tertiary Education in the 8th Assembly.

But following the intervention of Kano State governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, alongside other federal lawmakers from Kano to APC headquarters yesterday, Oshiomhole’s plot of unilaterally pushing Sulaiman as the House Majority Leader flopped. Governor Ganduje, represented by his deputy, Mr. Nasiru Gawuna, stormed the APC national headquarters with 22 House of Representatives from Kano, alongside Senators Jibrin Barau and Kabiru Gaya to voice their support for Doguwa.

This is just as sources within the upper echelon of the party expressed concern over Oshiomhole’s penchant for taking decisions based on his personal interest.

“This chairman can be so erratic and self-centred,” a source said. “He wanted to impose Sulaiman on the House simply because they worked together before in the NLC (Nigerian Labour Congress) as comrades.

“There is a difference between NLC and party politics. This position was zoned to Kano and the stakeholders in Kano have made up their minds on who to occupy the position. Doguwa is not new to the Gbajabiamila camp. They were together in the struggle in 2015 and in 2019. He has paid his dues. He remains the most experienced lawmaker best suited for the job as far as we are concerned.”

The NWC, it was learnt, had settled for Doguwa who served as the Chief Whip of the House of Representatives in the 8th Assembly. The support was also based on his pedigree as a fifth termer, a staunch supporter of Speaker Gbajabiamila in the build up to the speakership race in both 2015 and 2019. Perhaps, sensing the collapse of Oshiomhole’s ploy, Sulaiman was absent at the meeting between the Kano lawmakers and the APC national chairman.

While speaking at the occasion, Oshiomhole, who was flanked by members of the NWC, disclosed that he would convey the decision to Speaker Gbajabiamila to make the announcement when the House reconvenes today.

Rationalising the decision to settle for Doguwa, the chairman said it was based on the outcome of a broad consultation with members of the Green chamber and stakeholders of the party, even as he urged Doguwa to carry other members along in the scheme of things.

He also adduced the immense contribution of Kano State to APC’s victory in the recently held general election as reason for the decision, adding: “I have been extremely excited by the level of cooperation that members of the two chambers had extended to us, because it could have been impossible if they had insisted that they want to go and fight to finish. It is that mutual respect, loyalty to the party and indeed to our president that has made this very easy.”

Kano Deputy Governor, Gawuna, expressed gratitude to APC, adding that Kano State would continue to contribute its own quota to the party.

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