The Nigerian Senate is made up of 109 Senators assigned to various committees of the house. Committee assignments are usually made at the prerogative of the Senate leadership guided by the Senate rules.
According to the Senate rules, appointment of committee leaderships are made in consideration of the ranks of the Senators. A ranking Senator is referred to as a Senator who has spent more than one term in the Senate or a Senator who has previously served in the House of Representatives.
Today, out of the 65 standing committees in the Nigerian Senate, a number of them are considered as ‘juicy’ committees – juicy in the sense of the relevance, economic or political strength of the agencies or institutions of government oversighted by such committee. Selection of the leadership of these committees are influenced by a number of factors – factors such as the superiority of political parties in the chamber with bias to the party in the majority and the rank, antecedents and competence of the Senator.
In 2007, there were 54 standing Senate committees. Out of the 54 standing committees, the party in majority at the time, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) took the Chairmanship of 50 committees, leaving the opposition with only four. In 2011, the standing committees rose to 56 with the then ruling PDP again taking up the majority of prominent appointments and chairmanship positions.
Recall that in 2011, Anambra central had a Senator from the opposition in the person of Sen. Dr. Chris Ngige. Sen. Ngige was appointed the Deputy Chairman Senate Committee on Power – a sub par appointment not unconnected with the fact that Ngige was a first term senator from the opposition.
During his time as Senator, many accused Sen. Ngige of performing below expectation, without taking congnizance of the limitations placed on him by the political equation at the time.
Today, the Senate seat of Anambra central is again occupied by a first term Senator from the minority, the consequence of this is his appointment as the Deputy Chairman Senate Committee on Labour and Productivity – a position with little or no impact from the point of political influence both at the Senate and in Anambra central, buttressing the fact that Anambra central and indeed Anambra state have lost the chance of a reputable and prominent appointment in the 8th Senate – a feat the zone achieved in 2015 with the appointment of Senator Uche Ekwunife as the Chairman Senate committee on Petroleum Downstream.
The Senate committee on Petroleum Downstream is one of the prominent committees in the Senate. The committee oversights many powerful agencies in the downstream sector – agencies such as Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), PPPRA and NNPC are key in the economic equation of our country Nigeria. These agencies, their subsidiaries and the viability of the sector form the lifeline of many businesses in the Nigerian economy, sustaining and creating thousands of jobs yearly.
Recall that Anambra central was the first zone in the south-east to Chair the Petroleum Downstream committee. So Indeed, it was a big blow as the people of Anambra central and Anambra state lost their grip on this position which is presently being occupied by a northerner – a situation any politically aware individual would consider unfortunate.
As we gradually approach another political season, the people of Anambra Central must look beyond the shore. Aside choosing a credible, competent and reliable candidate, they must take the political equation in the country as it is presently constituted into consideration, with a view of electing a representative that is capable of wielding political influence both in the Senate and in the zone. In achieving this, electing competent individuals from a prominent and a truly National political party is key. Individuals with notable antecedents that can attract the goods to the zone and draw down the much needed federal presence, encapsulated in the form of employment for our young graduates into federal parastatals, and provision of public infrastructure and utilities to our ailing communities.