As NASS resumes plenary season on Tuesday

Issues bordering on the welfare of members of the National Assembly have trailed the expected resumption of the members on Tuesday, writes JACOB SEGUN OLATUNJI

AFTER the first separate session plenary at the Senate and the House of Representative, to flag off the ninth National Assembly on June 12, 2019, the lawmakers resolved to embark on a two-week recess to enable the management of the parliament put necessary measures in place to guarantee their effective legislative duties. At the Green Chamber, the Speaker, Honourable Femi  Gbajabiamila, constituted some ad-hoc committees with responsibilities to ensure the smooth take-off of legislative activities.

The committees are: Media and Publicity, Welfare, Rules and Business and Selection. The Selection committee is chaired by the Speaker himself with membership cutting across party lines, as well as the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

At the inauguration of the committees, Honourable Gbajabiamila urged the members to be diligent and serious with their assignments so that the House could hit the ground running. He specifically charged the members of the welfare committee responsible for office allocations to give preference to ranking members as had been the practice. Nonetheless, he urged all the House members, who were interested in any specific committee, to submit their curriculum vitae to the Selection Committee for necessary consideration.

On her own, the chairman of the ad- hoc committee on Media, Honourable Khadijat Bukar-Ibrahim (APC-Yobe) took time to shed light on the constitution of all the ad-hoc committees on the first legislative day. According to her, the lawmakers, across party lines, unanimously resolved to closed down all pre-election platforms and form a singular WhatsApp platform, where all the lawmakers would henceforth interact as members of a family. Hononourable Bukar-Ibrahim  also dropped a hint on a scheduled ‘Victory party’ for the Speaker, saying it had been cancelled to enable all the lawmakers secure accommodation and settle down for legislative work in earnest in line with Honourable Gbajaniamila’s desires to do things differently and in line with his  reform agenda.

Findings by our correspondent revealed that in line with their mandates, the various committees had been working assiduously so as to beat the deadline set for the assignment by the House leadership. The committee on welfare, chaired by Honourable Raji (Lagos-APC) in particular, was said to be liaising working with the management of the National Assembly on the issue of office accommodation of the lawmakers, as well as other matters. In fact, a member of the committee, who craved to remain anonymous, said other challenges such as funds for the payment of the allowances of members, office accommodation and other logistics had been adequately addressed.

The information was corroborated by Honourable Bukar-Ibrahim, who said the committees were on top of their game. According to her, “There is no threat whatsoever; the House will resume plenary on Tuesday as scheduled. All the ad-committees put in place by the Speaker immediately the House was inaugurated are rounding off their assignments by now; things are going on as planned

“Members are ready to commence their legislative activities. The elections of the presiding officers have come and gone; we are now on the same page, working towards one goal, which is the growth and the development of our country.”

On what Nigerians should expect from the ninth National Assembly, the spokesman promised a purposeful and focused parliament. She dismissed insinuations in certain quarters that the parliament could become a mere rubber stamp in the hands of the Executive arms of Government. She promised that the parliament would strictly adhere to the principle of separation of power, bearing in mind that the three arms of government had a common goal of good governance and service to the father land. Speaking on the threats by a group of some members operating under the umbrella of G-70, led by Honourable Mark Terseen Gbilah (Benue State PDP) to challenge the election of Honourable Gbajabiamila as the Speaker of the House, a member of the ad-hoc committee on media, Honourable Abubakar Yunusa Ahmad (APC-Gombe), said the leadership had reached out to the group towards addressing their grievances. “We are all members of the same family. That issue is no longer a thing of concern. There was a meeting with the members of the group on Friday and if reports from that meeting are anything to go by, it is a non-issue; The leadership has been using diplomacy, robust consultations and dialogue to resolve all issues since assumption of office and it is our promise that the approach will be sustained till the expiration of the ninth National Assembly,” Ahmad said.

Similarly, another member of the media committee, representing Ede North, Ede South, Egbedore and Ejigbo Federal constituency of Osun State, under the banner of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Honourable Bamidele Salam confirmed that all issues relating to office accommodation, sitting arrangements inside the Chamber, renovation work and other logistics had been put in place. “I’m going to take the delivery of my office accommodation after this session with the press. As pressmen, you have free access to the Hallowed Chamber and the offices, so you can go round to verify all claims, as well speak with the members on all these issues,” he stressed.

On complaints by members over non-payment of their accommodation and other allowances ahead of their resumption, Hon Salam, said arrangements had been concluded on the welfare package of the lawmakers. He said: “At the committee level and at the leadership level, this is no problem, as it is being handled at the highest level. Mind you, this is the era of electronic banking; things will start happing any time from now; all the members of the House will start receiving alerts from their banks.”

A member of the Selection Committee, HonourableY emi Adaramodu (APC-Ekiti) also spoke on the activities of the committee, saying its composition reflected the principle of Federal Character. He said the policy of inclusiveness would make the ninth National assembly unique in the history of legislative business in the country. “The work of the committee is fast progressing; we are working round the clock to get the final list ready because we want to hit the ground running immediately,” he assured.