Politics

Ad hoc committees: Reps wield the big stick

The House of Representatives recently discharged some of its ad hoc committees of their responsibilities for failing to meet up with their mandates. PHILIP NYAM reports

In strict compliance with the provisions of the Standing Orders and Rules of the House of Representatives, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila last week sanctioned 12 ad hoc committees of the lower chamber for their inability to deliver on their assignments. Unlike standing committees, ad hoc committees do not have the luxury of time as they are often given a specific time within which to accomplish their respective mandates, and report to the plenary.

However, where an ad hoc committee is unable to complete its assignment within the stipulated period, it may apply for extension of time. But if a committee fails to complete its job within the given time and still fail to apply for extension of time, the House Standing Orders and Rules prescribe appropriate actions to be taken by the leadership.

It was against this backdrop that the axe recently fell on 12 ad hoc committees that could not meet up in their statutory responsibilities. It was the first time in the life of the 9th Assembly that such a punitive measure was taken against nonperforming ad hoc committees.

The disbanded committees include the ad hoc committee to interface with the executive arm of government and the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (Shi’ite), which was inaugurated in July 2019 and headed by the majority leader, Hon. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa (APC, Kano); ad hoc committee to investigate the assault and rape of students by teachers at the FCT School of the Blind, Jabi, inaugurated in July, 2019, and the ad–hoc committee to investigate the crude oil theft in Nigeria headed by deputy leader of the House, Hon. Peter Akpatason (APC, Edo), inaugurated in september, 2019. Also, dissolved was the ad hoc committee on the alleged negligence by the federal ministries of Justice and Petroleum Resources in the handling of the Federal Government and the Process and Industrial Development (P&ID) Limited, inaugurated in September, 2019; ad hoc committee to investigate oil-spill clean-ups and remediation in the oil producing states, headed by Hon. Aminu Tukur (APC, Katsina) and inaugurated in March, 2020, and the ad hoc committee on the recent global crash in the price of crude oil on the Appropriation Act, 2020, inaugurated in March, 2020.

Others are the ad hoc committee to investigate the non-inclusion of waste management and disposal in the Nigeria LNG Train-7 Project, led by Hon. Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe (PDP, Cross River) inaugurated in March, 2020; ad hoc committee to investigate the financial budgetary provisions, approvals and multilateral donations on skills acquisition and related programmes of the Federal Government and its agencies inaugurated in May 2020, and ad hoc committee on power sector reform headed by House leader, Hon. Ado-Doguwa inaugurated in May 2020.

The rest are the ad hoc committee on the need to review the purchase, use and control of arms, ammunition and related hardware by military, paramilitary and other law enforcement agencies in Nigeria headed by Hon. Olaide Akinremi (APC, Oyo); ad hoc committee to investigate the governing lease of Federal Government-owned assets inaugurated in December, 2020, headed by Hon. Daniel Asuquo (PDP, Cross River) and ad hoc committee to investigate the failure of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to release retention funds headed by Hon. Abubakar Yalleman inaugurated in March 2021.

The motion that led to the dissolution of the 12 committees was sponsored by the chairman of the House committee on rules and business, Hon. Abubakar Hassan Fulata (APC, Adamawa). Presenting the motion, Fulata noted that the ad hoc committees listed above were constituted to carry out various assignments and were given stipulated time frame within which to present their reports. According to him, “the committees are yet to present their reports contrary to the provisions of Order Eighteen, Rule 3 (1)(g) of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives.”

Fulata said he was aware of the directive of the speaker on April 26, that all ad hoc committees should present their reports on or before April 30. He therefore, prayed that the House should “discharge the ad hoc committees of the assignments and commit same to the Committee of the Whole or any other committee as may be constituted.

The motion was seconded by Hon. Abdul Ganiyu Olododo. But a member of one of the disbanded committees, Hon. Bede Eke, raised a point of order, arguing that the ad hoc committee to review the purchase, use and control of arms, ammunition and related hardware by the military, paramilitary and other law enforcement agencies has already completed its assignment, so discharging the committee of its duty will mean the work done will amount to waste of effort. Similarly, the minority leader of the House, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu rose to defend the affected committees to the effect that the Accounts Department always delay in releasing funds for public hearings.

He called on the speaker to use his good office to impress on the Accounts Department to be more cooperative and proactive. Responding to the submissions by the minority leader and Eke, Speaker Gbajabiamila clarified that though the House actually have challenge of funds, it is not every referral or committee assignment that requires a public hearing. He said some of the assignments can be done quietly and yet effectively. He also clarified that the discharge doesn’t mean the ad hoc committees can no longer submit their reports.

He therefore asked them to round off and lay the report on the floor of the House. The speaker consequently directed that all standing committees should also submit their respective reports on all matters referred to them on or before May 25 or risk being discharged of their responsibilities on the various matters assigned to them. As it is, it is left to be seen how many committees will not pass this performance test in the next two weeks.

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