Indications emerged yesterday that the Eighth Senate will be enmeshed in another round of crisis when it finally settles the pending leadership tussle. This time, the crisis might emanate from the distribution of the standing committees of the Assembly, when the lawmakers resume plenary on July 21.
The reason is because the 2015 Standing Order of the Senate stipulates that the committees be shared equally among the six geopolitical zones of the country, irrespective of political party affiliation. Accordingly, each zone is expected to get at least nine committee chairmanship seats out of the 57 Senate committees that will be set up when lawmakers resume plenary and settle their pending leadership differences. The new principle is in compliance with Order 3 (4) of the Senate Standing Orders 2015 as amended.
The Order states that “the appointment of Senators as chairmen and members of committees shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the six geo-political zones of the country and there shall be no predominance of senators from a few geopolitical zones.”
However, chairmanship positions of the 57 committees have over the years, always been skewed in favour of senators belonging to the ruling party and ranking in status.
The PDP enjoyed this privileged up to the 7th Senate. But the tradition is bound to change going by the new provision, which is expected to provoke protest from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), particularly those who are opposed to Senator Bukola Saraki’s emergence as the President of the Senate.
Meanwhile, this portion of the Standing Order, which denies the APC privilege of domination in committee sharing is in conflict with the 2011 version, which favoured the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In the 7th Senate, the distribution of committees showed a serious discrepancy in favour of the PDP. In the previous arrangement, the South-South got 14 chairmanship seats.
This is followed by the North-Central, South-East and North-West, which got 10 each. The South-West got the least number of chairmanship positions with only five seats while the North- East got seven. The political implication of the equal sharing principle as contained in the new rule is that the APC, which got the bulk of its membership mainly from the North-West, North-Central and South- West will enjoy no special preference as the PDP did when it formed the government in the country.
It will be recalled that the 2015 Standing Order of the Senate is in serious controversy and has generated severe contention in the Senate, leading to the intervention of the Police early last week.
Senators belonging to the Senate Unity Forum (SUF), who are challenging Saraki’s emergence, had petitioned the police over what they described as forgery of the Senate Rule.