The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, for the first time since 2015, bowed to the wish of the Senate Unity Forum on the composition of committees in the upper chamber.
The embattled Senate President, on Thursday, conceded the chairmanship of committees that lawmakers considered to be “juicy” to some members of the SUF, who, in 2015, opposed his candidacy and supported Senator Ahmed Lawan.
Members of the forum, who got the chairmanship of the “juicy committees”, included Senator Kabir Marafa, who became the chairman of the Petroleum Resources Committee (Downstream) from the National Identity and National Population Committee.
Also, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, was moved from Women Affairs Committee to the Committee on the Environment.
Senator Sulieman Hukunyi, who was one of the senators, who wrote a petition that led to the Senate forgery suit, leading to the prosecution of Saraki, his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, and two others, now heads the national identity committee.
Saraki and Ekweremadu are currently facing trial at a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory on forgery of the Senate Rules used for the election of the presiding officers of the upper chamber in June 2015
Also, the Senate President is being tried at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for false and anticipatory declaration of assets.
Other chairmen of committees are Senator Adamu Aliero (Aviation); Hope Uzodinma (Customs); Barau Jubril (Tertiary Institutions) and Binta Masi (Women Affairs).
The Public Procurement Committee now has as its chairman Senator Joshua Dariye, while Senator James Manager, who was chairman of the Committee on Power, has been moved to the Solid Minerals committee.
Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, who was chairman, Committee on Information and National Orientation, has been moved to the Committee on Power, while Adokwe Suleiman is chairman, Information Committee.
The newly created Legislative Compliance Committee is to be headed by Senator Babajide Omoworare, who used to head the Rules and Business Committee, while the latter is to be headed by Senator Baba Garbai.
The Federal Character Committee has Senator Tijani Kaura as its new chairman.
The senators, who were made vice-chairmen of committees, are Ahmed Ogembe (Marine Transport); Ovie Omo Agege, (Land Transport); and Philip Aduda (Downstream Petroleum).
Although the Senate spokesperson, Sabi Abdullahi, said the latest arrangement was aimed at strengthening the legislative functions of the committees, our correspondents learnt that the action was taken following two separate meetings on Monday between President Muhammadu Buhari and some ex-National Assembly leaders.
Those who attended the Monday meetings at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, included ex-Senate President David Mark, his predecessor, Ken Namani, as well as a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Masari.
Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, attended the meeting.
A source at the meetings confided in The PUNCH that they were aimed at finding political solutions to the crisis between the Senate and the executive.
It was further learnt that Mark and Masari met with Saraki and advised him to reshuffle the committees with a view to addressing the perceived lopsidedness in the initial appointments, which forced the aggrieved senators to initiate legal action against the Senate presiding officers.
It was further learnt that Saraki had briefed his colleagues at an executive session held on Tuesday and urged them to take the new arrangements in good faith in the interest of peace.
Efforts to get the reaction of the SUF members, such as Tinubu, Marafa and Hunkuyi, who were made chairmen of “juicy committees”, failed as none of them agreed to speak with The PUNCH on the issue.
The new chairmen appeared to be pleased with the new arrangements as they were beaming with smiles and exchanging pleasantries with their colleagues after the session.
It is believed that the reshuffle of the committees’ chairmanship may be one of the steps that can save the Senate President and his deputy from suits pending against them in the long run.
Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, had, in 2015 defied the arrangement of the leadership of their party, the All Progressives Congress, to emerge as leaders of the National Assembly.
While Dogara placated the party leaders by appointing their choice, Femi Gbajabiamila, as the Majority Leader of the House, Saraki shunned the APC by giving his loyalists the committees considered as “juicy”.
The spokesman for the SUF, Marafa, had, in November 2015, kicked against the composition of the 65 Senate Standing Committees by Saraki, saying it was against the Senate Standing Orders 2015, as amended.
Marafa added that the composition of the committees was against fairness, equity and justice.
The senator, who cited the 1999 Constitution and the Senate Standing Orders, called for the review of the committees.
According to him, the composition of Standing Committees did not follow the stipulated rules of the Senate, arguing that seniority in the Senate’s rules was not followed.
Citing an instance, Marafa said in Oyo State, the two ranking lawmakers were denied the chairmanship of any committee while the first timer from the state was appointed the chairman of a standing Committee.
He noted that Kwara and Enugu states, which produced the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President, were allocated four chairmanship slots.
The Senate spokesman had defended Saraki’s action, saying there was no illegality in the composition of the standing committees.
He had argued that Marafa’s complaints could not be separated from his dissatisfaction with the emergence of Saraki as the Senate president.
Meanwhile, the Senate, on Thursday, proceeded on a two-month annual vacation.
The upper chamber is expected to resume sometimes in October.