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Countless ad hoc c’ttees in NASS despite 224 standing ones

There are growing concerns over the penchant of the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives to set up ad hoc committees to look into several areas of issues despite the existence of standing committees with oversight on such issues, Daily Trust Saturday reports.

The consternation, which has been around for a while, got a strong advocate during the week in the person of the Senate’s Chief Whip, Senator Ali Ndume (Borno South), who also questioned the rationale behind the setting up of these ad hoc committees.

Senator Ndume’s censure of the unbridled utilisation of the concept of an ad hoc committee in the National Assembly came to the fore on Tuesday when the Senate constituted a seven-member ad-hoc committee headed by the Deputy Senate President, Barau I. Jibrin, to investigate why the $18.5 billion Abuja Centenary Economic City project has not been completed 10 years later.

The ad hoc committee has Senators Aminu Waziri Tambuwal (PDP, Sokoto South), Titus Tartenger Zam (APC, Benue North-West), Adeola Solomon Olamilekan (Ogun West), and others as members. 

The committee was also saddled with the responsibility of reviewing the original public-private partnership agreement and recommending amendments, if necessary, to facilitate the smooth and expeditious completion of the project within a defined timeframe.

But Senator Ndume kicked against the frequent use of ad hoc committees and suggested that the Senate’s standing committee on FCT should be given the responsibility. 

He said, “I don’t think there is a need for ad hoc committees; I don’t support this idea that for every issue that comes up, we set up an ad hoc committee. 

“Why did we give the committee (standing) the responsibility then? Our committees are based on the capacity and capability of our colleagues. So, unless the issue at stake cannot be properly placed—that is, it’s neither here nor there—then you set up an ad hoc committee.”

Daily Trust reports that, like others, the 10th Assembly also operates a committee system for effective oversight and currently has 224 standing committees.

The standing committees are inaugurated during the commencement of the life of every assembly to provide for the smooth running of the lawmaking body and especially to carry out oversight functions and report back to the committee of whole.

Most of its activities are done through the committees, which are populated by senators and members of the House of Representatives based on their professionalism, pedigree and vast experience.

The experience helps the lawmakers during their oversight functions and especially in engaging top officials of government ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) on contentious issues. 

But despite this, the assembly still set up ad hoc committees to perform functions that a standing committee should have been given the mandate to perform.  

The Senate 

When the principal officers of the 10th Senate were inaugurated in July 2023, with Senators Godswill Akpabio as the Senate President and Barau I. Jibrin as the Deputy Senate President, the Senate, on August 5, 2023, amended its rules to give room for additional committees. 

Sequel to this, the Senate increased its standing committees from 65 to 74.

The Red Chambers, with a total of 109 members, later announced the composition of nine standing committees in addition to the 74, thus summing up to 83 standing committees. 

House of Representatives

The 10th House of Representatives, with a total of 360 members, has 141 Standing Committees that run its oversight functions of monitoring the affairs of various MDAs. 

The Speaker, Abbas Tajuddeen, announced after the inauguration in June the constitution of 134 standing committees, which was an increase from 110 in its predecessor, the 9th Assembly.

Daily Trust Saturday reports that in the 8th House, then Speaker Yakubu Dogara constituted 96 standing committees. Similarly, then Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal constituted 93 standing committees in the 7th House.

It could be recalled that the House had 40 Standing Committees in the 4th House of Representatives when Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999; they were increased to 78 in the 5th House.

They were, however, reduced to 68 in the 6th House under the Patricia Etteh/Dimeji Bankole Speakership.

The astronomical increase of the House of Representatives standing committees in the 10th Assembly was thus greeted with criticisms from various groups in view of the economic challenges bedevilling the country. But defending the decision, the Speaker said they increased the number of committees based on the exigencies of the 10th Assembly and to reduce the burden of some committees having so many agencies under their purview.

However, seven additional committees were later created, which increased the number of standing committees to 141.  

Ad hoc committees for every issue raised

But despite the 224 standing committees in the 10th National Assembly, it keeps constituting and inaugurating ad hoc committees saddled with certain responsibilities, which analysts and even some of the members of the Assembly have noted could have been handled by the standing committee covering the area of focus of the issues.

The House, for instance, drew the ire of Nigerians when it constituted an ad hoc committee to screen the service chiefs appointed by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu despite having standing committees on the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Defence.

Similarly, the Senate has inaugurated several ad hoc committees, with one of the most popular being the ‘Ways and Means’ despite the existence of several standing committees with oversight of the financial sector. As though that was not enough, it constituted a 43-member ad hoc committee on constitution amendment headed by the Deputy Senate President, Barau I. Jibrin. 

Criticisms trail trend 

Some analysts, netizens, and even lawmakers have continued to criticise the trend and asked the leadership of the 10th National Assembly to take caution.

Jackson Lekan Ojo, a political analyst, told Daily Trust Saturday that the uncontrolled utilisation of an ad hoc committee is a waste of resources. 

Ojo said, “In a situation where you have a standing committee and you go ahead to set up an ad hoc committee to perform the function of the standing committee, it is a waste of resources. At the same time, it means something is fishy. It is apparently a move to use some person to acquire ill-gotten wealth.”

Supporting the earlier position of Senator Ndume, Ojo said, “If we have a Senate standing committee on FCT, and the Centenary City we are talking about has to do with housing, and we have a standing committee on housing in the Senate; and if there is a need to query the activities, what is causing the delay and incompletion of the Centenary City project, I think they should have quickly asked the standing committee on FCT and standing committee on housing to probe the situation.

“Nothing will come out of it,” he said of the ad hoc committee, insisting that this has been the norm.

“The ad hoc committee they want to form now will be funded; they will request for logistics; they may want to be sitting at the Transcorps Hilton Hotel; all those ones will cost extra funds when Nigerians are dying of hunger. So, it is not economical in any way,” he added.

Standing committee can compromise – ex-Rep member 

But a former member of the House of Representatives, Bernard Mikko, told Daily Trust Saturday that sometimes an ad hoc committee is set up when it is obvious that the standing committees can compromise.

He said, “The House of Representatives and the Senate have been divided into standing committees for effective oversight. But if there are issues for which they feel the House or Senate should have special attention, the Speaker or the Senate President has the power to set up an ad hoc committee.

“The ad hoc committee will investigate that particular issue and submit its report. It is then that the report, on the directive of the House or Senate, can be forwarded to the relevant committee to do further legislative oversight on it. 

“Don’t forget that sometimes, because of bias or other reasons, the standing committees can be compromised either out of omission or commission.

“So, if the House or Senate feels that there should be an extra investigation, they can constitute an ad hoc committee to deal with the situation.”

Ad-hoc committees are dissolved after concluding specific tasks – Clerk

Speaking to one of our reporters on the telephone, the Clerk to the House, Dr. Yahaya Danzaria, said the nature of ad hoc committees in the National Assembly infers that they are automatically dissolved after concluding the specific tasks they were given.

Danzaria, who couldn’t give our reporter the exact number of ad hoc committees that had been constituted since the House was inaugurated last year, said, “I can’t remember the number of ad hoc committees. They are dissolved after they finish the work assigned to them.”

The Senate spokesman, Senator Yemi Adaramodu, neither answered his phone calls nor responded to SMS and WhatsApp messages sent to him.

 

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Ola Imole
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