Public expectations should have been high as the Senate resumes from the yuletide break today, but issues of yesterday continue to scar the prospects of the David Mark Senate.
JUST before proceeding on the seasonal vacation, the lawmakers had passed the 2013 budget of the Federal Government, an unprecedented act in the annals of the fourth republic.
However, what little triumph or goodwill from the legislature, is today fouled by the foot dragging on the part of the executive in giving assent to the budget bill.
Nigerians had in the past watched the two arms of government trade blames over the delayed passage and implementation of the budget. So it is an irony that the singular milestone in passing the budget before the commencement of the fiscal year has now become tainted as it seems that the aim of fast-tracking the budget may not be realisable.
The feat helped by the efficacious lobbying of the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Joy Emodi, is now about to be scared given the dithering procrastination of the president to sign the bill.
Besides the budget, many other issues of national interest await the lawmakers as they reconvene.
Out of the 163 bills the Senate received between September and December, 2012, only five were passed, leaving others either untreated or at various stages just as only 15 resolutions were passed within the period under review.
The bills duly passed into law included the 2013 Appropriation Bill, National Automotive Council Act (Repeal) and Re-enactment Bill 2012; Terrorism Act (Amendment) Bill 2012 as well as Prisons Act (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill, 2012.
Among the issues eyes are fixing on the senate to anxiously handle include the report on the Dana Air crash, fuel subsidy probe and the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB.
Eyes are especially focused on the Petroleum Industry Bill given the raucous debate on resource allocation in the polity.
While the Northern governors, through Northern senators are set to strongly oppose the PIB as presented, the Southern states and in particular, oil producing areas as well as the Minister of Petroleum Resources are set to back the comprehensive industry bill.
There are also prospects for the passage of a spending bill for the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC.
While the debate on the PIB will further polarize the Nigerian society, given its nature, the re-opening of debate on the SEC by the Senate with a view to approving funding for the commission may pitch the senate against the House of Representatives which had earlier insisted that unless President Goodluck Jonathan sacked Ms Arunma Oteh as the SEC Director-General, it would not approve any budget for the organization in the 2013 fiscal year.
“The president submitted to all of us and to the National Assembly along with the National budget, the budget of the statutory corporations. And this is one of the things we will give priority to as we resume,” Senator Ita Enang, one of the leading senators told newsmen recently.
Another critical issue the Senate would look into is the constitution review. Senator Enang had recently confirmed this when he said, “it is expected that the on-going Constitution Review process having progressed from senatorial districts and state levels hearings to the zonal public hearings, we will receive the reports, then analyze them and progress to findings and conclusions on sections for amendment, for submission to the floor for consideration”, adding, “we bear in mind the time-table set by the Constitution review Committee”.
Pension task team
One issue again, which the Senate would have to confront as it gets back to business from today is that involving the Chairman, Pension Task Team, Alhaji Abdulrasheed Maina. Maina had consistently failed to appear before the Senator Aloysius Etok’s led Committee on Establishments to explain his role in the controversial depletion of the pension funds. The Senate President, David Mark, had waded into the issue with a warrant of arrest on Maina, through the Inspector General of Police but to no avail.
Whether the Senate which had seen the development as a slap on its face will allow the matter to permanently die down or prove nobody is above its order, is what people wait to see as the senators reconvene.
Others issues that will not be delayed in considering are the Public Procurement Act, the 2013 budget of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, as well as the Nigeria Police Reform Trust Fund Bill.
Others are the bills he listed were Federal Universities of Technology Act (Amendment) Bill, 2012; Public Procurement Act No. 14 2004 Amendment Bill, 2012; Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes, Genocide and Related Offences Bill, 2012; Nigeria Police Reform Trust Fund Bill, 2012; National Economic Intelligence Committee Act (Repeal) Bill 2012, FCT Appropriation Bill and NDDC 2013 Appropriation.