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Despite calls for cost cut, Reps’ Speaker increases committees to 134 fro 110

Reps reject representatives as Service Chiefs, IGP shun invitation

Many Nigerians have criticised Tajudeen Abbas, Speaker House of Representatives for increasing the number of standing committees in the House, amid dwindling revenue and burgeoning debt profile of the country.

Abbas had last week increased the number of the committees to 134 from 110 constituted by his predecessor, Femi Gbajabiamila.

This means he created 24 new committees in the 360-member House.

However, such decisions have not gone down well with many people, who accused him of not coming to terms with the reality of present-day Nigeria.

Abbas’ decision comes amid widespread agitations for a reduction in cost of governance in Nigeria in line with President Bola Tinubu’s aggressive economy reforms which include the removal of petrol subsidy and the unification of the naira multiple exchange rates, among others.

Tinubu’s economic reforms announced since assuming office, has led to the rise in fuel prices, while doubling transport costs. The price of food prices has risen up dramatically across Nigeria in the last two month.

Nigerians are expecting that President Bola Tinubu and other public office holders will follow up on his announcement that the subsidy is gone with measures to cut the outrageous costs of running the government so that it is seen as sharing in the pain.

Even on social media many Nigerians have criticised the affluence and lavish lifestyles of public officials in the current administration, especially lawmakers.

They are demanding that the government too share in the pain by cutting its high operational cost.

At a time like this when the nation battles dwindling oil prices, 22.41 percent inflation, decreased foreign direct Investment, FDI, acute unemployment rate and high debt portfolio among others.

Nigerians want Tinubu’s government to cut excessive like; the outrageous allowances to federal lawmakers, selling off several plane seats in the President’s fleet, reduction in the number of cars in the convoy of top government officials, especially the President and Governors.

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There are also calls for the pruning of government expenditures, checking leakages in budget and other expenditures of government at all levels.

“It is really sad that despite what Nigerians are experiencing now, the Speaker can set-up such a number of committees. It just goes to tell you these guys don’t even hear when we tell them; cut the cost of governance. It sounds alien to them.

“What we are saying is that Tinubu’s government should dispense with the large bureaucracy he inherited.

“The Tinubu administration should run a lean government and drastically trim the governance costs by reducing unnecessary overheads, and the huge retinue of aides, while expanding the tax net to boost revenues,” Sola Ogundimu, political analyst, said.

Ogundimu added that unlike his predecessors, Tinubu, an accountant, must lead by example by adopting fiscal discipline, accountability, prudence, and cost-cutting as guiding principles.

However, some stakeholders say that increasing the number of the committees rather than the quality will result in a serious decline in legislative assertiveness.

They noted that the House of Representatives standing committees have been progressively fragmented, proliferated and balkanised with each new Assembly largely due to political considerations and patronage over legislative effectiveness and productivity.

Chibuzo Okereke, director of the African Parliamentary Advocacy and Reform Group (APARG), said that most of the committees due to the scarce resources of the institution of the National Assembly, are overburdened and risk nearly 100 percent dependence on the executive MDAs which they oversight as a source for operational survival in performing their constitutional functions.

Okereke said the excessive fragmentation and proliferation of the committee system without consideration of the important principles of robustness and effectiveness weaken the House of Representatives.

According to him, “An empirical analysis of the 109 standing committees of the ninth House of Representatives shows that several of the committees did not hold any meetings nor performed any significant legislative activities under their committees throughout the life span of the ninth assembly while some of them held meetings only about three times in the entire four years.

“The trends in political decisions to progressively increase the quantity of the standing committees rather than the quality of the committees have resulted in a serious decline in legislative assertiveness, effectiveness, productivity and value for money in public service delivery arising from weak oversight design.

“Low participation of members in the numerous perceived low-grade committees, conflicts in the exercise of legislative oversight powers on executive agencies, committees’ incapacity, distress on the limited infrastructure for committee meetings and continuous low perception of citizens on the significance of the governance role of the National Assembly to Nigerians.”

The latest development comes at a time when recent reports indicate that members of the 10th National Assembly may end up having more than 2,563 legislatives aides.

The same Abbas had shortly after assuming office appointed 33 aides, one of which included the Ahmed Safana, a former member of the House of Representatives as his Special Adviser on Special Duties.

Nigeria’s lawmakers are among the highest earners in the world, in recent years there has been growing list of Nigerians who have called for a reduction in the cost of maintaining the legislature.

The current administration recently budgeted N40 billion for lawmakers to buy 465 Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and bulletproof cars for members and principal officials.

President Tinubu also announced N70 billion support allowances budgeted for the 306 new lawmakers as a palliative gift for the new lawmakers. While only N500 billion worth of palliatives is budgeted for 12 million poor Nigerians.

Many Nigerians have simply asked the lawmakers to cancel their illegal allowances and slash the legal ones.

A coalition of civic groups recently threatened to sue the Senate for deciding to spend billions of naira to purchase new cars for its members amidst the tough economic situation and lean resources of the government.

Last week, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) urged the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio and Abbas to drop the plan to spend N40bn on 465 exotic and bulletproof cars for members and principal officials, and N70bn as palliatives for new members.