OrderPaperToday – It is a herculean task to pick 15 persons out of 360 members of the House of Representatives to watch out for in 2021.
Unfortunately, the reality is that even though 360 individuals are representing all the federal constituencies in Nigeria, some members are more prominent and preeminent than others.
For some, it could be their status in the House as principal officers, others for their committee engagements, while participation during plenary debate set others apart.
2020 was indeed challenging for the entire world, and with the recent spike in the cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria, 2021 poses a difficult challenge for predictors. Despite the obvious challenges due to the second wave of the pandemic, the National Assembly has several legislative landmarks to deliver in 2021.
The 9th Assembly already set 2021 as the year to pass the elusive Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and the much anticipated electoral bill. The legislature also needs to deal with the ongoing economic recession, while the lawmakers will have the responsibility of reviewing the economic interventions of the federal government.
On these issues and more, the following lawmakers will feature more prominently and to watch out in 2021.
Many will recall the invitation/summoning of the President back in November but what many may not know is that Ahmed Jaha moved the amendment to the motion that almost torpedoed the House under Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila.
The passionate Jaha represents Chibok/Danbowa/Gwoza federal constituency, an area suffering the onslaught of the dreadful Boko Haram terrorism in Borno State. Jaha has been very vocal about insecurity, and despite being a member of the ruling party, seldom holds back when calling out the executive, including the President, Muhamadu Buhari.
Aside from security, he has also earned a stripe as a debater on the floor of the House. During the debate on Establishment of Army University Biu, Borno state, his intervention saved the legislation that was on the brink of rejection by the House. Moreso, his ability not to back down often leaves the Speaker no choice but to recognize him. He is certainly one to watch out for this year.
So far, Gbajabiamila since his election in 2019 as the Speaker of the House, he has been able to maintain a delicate balance between the House and the executive while maintaining a united House.
However, the invitation/summon of the President and the subsequent controversy that followed the whole thing threatened that balance. His opposition to the original summon which he attempted to block caused some dissatisfaction in among the members. The call was to a large extent a bipartisan issue. Gbajabiamila used his ‘legislative diplomacy’ to prevail on the President to honour the invitation.
This development according to reports irked some APC governors, who faulted Gbajabiamila for allowing the motion to scale through. The subsequent decision of the President to snub the invitation put Gbajabiamila on a tight spot.
His support for the emergence of Ndudi Elemelu as the Minority Leader of the House against Kingsley Chinda lavishly exemplifies his staunch disposition towards advancing the position of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), in the House.
Gbajabiamila in 2021 will be hoping to midwife the passage of PIB and electoral act amendment bill and also some constitution amendment bills. The polity certainly will watch out for the Speaker.
All eyes will watch out for Dukku because of the electoral bill. As the Chairperson of the powerful Committee on Electoral and Political Matters, she will feature more in 2021.
Dukku served as the Chairman of the same committee in the 8th Assembly, but her committee failed to galvanize adequately for the passage of the bill.
The bill was marred in different controversies perhaps due to the relationship between the leadership of the 8th Assembly and the executive. It is unknown if the relationship between the 9th House and Executive will be sufficient to help the bill in navigating the difficult legislative process.
The Minority Leader of the House, Ndudi Elumelu, will have the task of scaling back the defections that continue to hit the minority parties in the House.
Elumelu appeared helpless during all the defections. So helpless that often, the Speaker preempted his objection with mockery statements like “Minority Leader, I know you have an objection.”
Also, on several occasions, the Majority Leader, Hassan Ado Dogwa, had jokingly predicted the defection of Elumelu himself. He would not be the first to do that as Sen. Godswill Akpabio who was minority leader in the 8th Senate decamped to the APC from the opposition PDP.
Aside from the inability to mount opposition against the ruling party, his position is constantly challenged by Kingsley Chinda, who competed for the minority leadership with him. Chinda currently occupies the position of Leader of PDP caucus.
Chinda in 2020 used that position to mount opposition against the ruling party, calling for the impeachment of President Buhari on two occasions. The APC will watch for him and by extension, the rest of the polity.
Muhammed Monguno (APC, Borno)
The Chief Whip of the House will have eyes on him due to his position as the Chairman ad hoc committee on PIB.
Monguno will have the responsibility of guiding the bill through the legislative process: a no small feat considering that the bill failed on several occasions for different reasons. Will he succeed? The economy is on the watch out.
Akin Alabi (APC, Oyo)
Akin Alabi makes more contribution on social media than on the floor of the House. In 2020, his comment on the N37billion National Assembly renovation budget caused some uproar when he erroneously claimed that the item was not brought to the House for deliberation.
Also, recently, his facilitation of healthcare to his constituency generated a lot of controversy on Twitter. As one of the most active lawmakers on social media, eyes will always be on him.
Chinda has been on the sideline since he was outwitted for the Minority Leadership position back in 2019.
The inability of Elumelu to lead the charge against the ruling party has been providing ammunition for him and he has been filling the void to the admiration of opposition figures in the polity. While 2021 provide more issues for him to challenge the ruling party as the Leader of the PDP caucus? Time will tell.
The Deputy Speaker of the House is going to have a busy 2021 as the Chairman of the House Committee on Constitution amendment.
His committee will have the responsibility of guiding perennial bills like local government autonomy, 35% affirmative action and other Constitution alteration bills in the House already.
Also, due to the pandemic, several bills are still waiting for the committee of the whole, where the deputy speaker serves as the Chairman. There would be a strong push for those bills to be considered.
Wase is notorious for his intolerance for long debates, unlike Gbajabiamila who likes to indulge members to have their say. Back in October 2020, Shina Peller had a public spat with Wase during plenary. The Deputy Speaker who presided over that session refused to recognize Peller to speak on the #EndSARS protests.
Will his “headmaster” approach affect the constitutional amendment committee activities? Time will tell and members will also watch out in the House.
Yusuf Gagdi (APC, Plateau)
The Former Speaker of Plateau State House of Assembly is another first timer that made name for himself on the floor of the House.
When critical issues are being debated on the floor, Gagdi often gets the nod from the speaker to speak.
He is likely to continue to enjoy such recognitions given that he is a number of bills to his name. Plateau will watch out for more achievements from him this year.
The Chairman of the Public Account Committee has been opening rocks from the get-go of the 9th Assembly. His committee has been probing almost all MDAs and summoning heads of those MDA.
More eyes will be on this committee in 2021, particularly due to his history in the House. In 2019, during the investigation into the Pension fund, Johnson Agbonayinma, Chairman of the Ad-hoc Committee investigating the matter stepped aside and accused Oluwole Oke of allegedly working with the regulatory body being investigated to offer him a bribe.
Also, in 2016, Abdulmummin Jibrin accused Oke of being complicit in the Dasuki arms deal corruption saga.
Ordinarily, attention in the House is usually on the Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, but it seems the Chairman of the House Committee on Finance, James Faleke has appropriated some powers and influence to himself in the 9th House.
And also, the broad powers of the House Committee on Finance, particularly its power to oversight the monitoring and enforcing the implementation of the fiscal responsibility act means it will be involved in the budget process from start to finish. Through the oversight on the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the committee works on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF).
The implication is that the committee on Appropriations has to rely on the fiscal assumptions such as oil benchmark price, daily production, exchange rate etc as approved by the Finance committee for adjusting the budget.
Furthermore, the finance committee also has the power to “oversight ministry responsible for finance and its parastatals, save for those assigned to other committees,” according to the Order 18 rule 41(2a) of the House standing rules.
Faleke’s burst up with the Minister of Labour, Employment and Productivity, Chris Ngige, points to a man not scared to pick up battles. With the numerous probes his committee is conducting, more will be heard from Faleke in 2021.
The pattern of ascending Speakership via House Majority leader position is another tradition parliamentarians in Nigeria are trying to adopt from the American system.
Both Femi Gbajabiamila and Sen. Ahmad Lawan emerged as Speaker and Senate President respectively after serving as Majority Leader in their respective chambers in previous Assembly.
Ado Dogwa, the proud father of 27 children and 4 wives, is also on the same path. While 2023 is still far away, Dogwa who may not have the charisma or the oratory of Gbajabiamila will try to use 2021 to cement his hold on the House.
Dogwa is one of the longest-serving members of the House. He was in the House in the 3rd Republic. And he has been in the House since 2003. 2021 will another year to watch out for him.
Before swapping the umbrella of the PDP for the broom of APC in 2018, Onyejeocha was part of the trio of Betty Apiafi and Nnenna Elendu that ‘led’ the opposition at the time when former Minority Leader, Leo Ogor was sick.
Apiafi is now in the Senate, Elendu did not get a return ticket, and Onyejeocha who is now the Deputy Whip cannot criticise her party having joined them before the 2019 general elections. She no longer has her voice as before, save for shouts of “Order! Hon….take your seat” when she is acting as Whip of the House
Constitutional amendment will take centre stage in 2021, and affirmative action which failed in the 8th Assembly is back in the House. Onyejeocha is one of the most ranking female members of the House and being the only female principal officer in the House will have the responsibility of leading the charge for the passage of the bill.
Only time will tell if she will be able to find her voice at that crucial time.
The House legislative agenda is the blueprint or framework the 9th House uses in achieving its promises to Nigerians according to Gbajabiamila.
In September 2020 Gbajabiamila appointed Nwawuba as the Chairman of the Ad hoc committee on Legislative Agenda and in the speech announcing the appointment, the Speaker said: “This Ad-Hoc Committee will work with the Committee on Rules and Business to ensure that bills brought forward for consideration align with our Agenda.”
For anyone familiar with the House, this committee determines the priorities of the House. Which bill should be considered first and which motion should get the legislative hours. Nwawuba will therefore be involved in taking these major decisions. He is one to watch out for in 2021.
The Deputy Minority Leader of the House has been, perhaps, one of the strongest voices on the minority leadership bench.
The PDP has been bleeding from defections. The party will be hoping to patch up and mount opposition against the ruling party. On the minority leadership bench therefore, much will be expected from Toby Okechukwu.