Issues As Senate Resumes Plenary Today | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe


Issues As Senate Resumes Plenary Today

Posted: Sep 20, 2016 at 3:15 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Rotimi Akinwumi


Abuja – It is almost becoming a ritual that there would be knotty controversial issues awaiting the parliament intervention whenever they resume from any holiday.

Among the very many incidences in the past, one can easily recall the penultimate holiday taken by the Senate, which  saw the Upper Chamber coming back to tackle the issues of the clash between Sentor Oluremi Tinubu and Senator Dino Melaye, an incident that shook the senate to its foundation.

The senate is expected to resume plenary today after an elongated holiday which started on July 21st.

While the parliamentarians were on holiday, various issues of national interest cropped up that ordinarily should have seen the parliament cut short its holiday and converge to discuss, but since it was not done, certainly, the workload of the parliament is expected to contain the heavy luggages of national issues which are begging for their inputs.

Hardly had the senators commenced their recess when the budding economic crisis blew up in the face of the people as the Federal Government declared that the nation has slipped into recession.

The President Muhammadu Buhari government also stirred the hornets’ nest when it announced the desire of the president to seek emergency power from the parliament to administer the economy.

These issues, Senate President, Bukola Saraki has said will be effectively tackled as the senate resumes today.

Speaking on the economic challenges occasioned by the unexpected recession,  Saraki has at different fora during the holiday disclosed the preparedness of the senate in leading the task of ensuring that the executive arm of government,  get to work and produce strategies to take Nigeria out of the economic mess.

Even as the senate president didn’t give inkling on the position likely to be taken on the controversial sweeping power for the president which is contained in a Bill, body language of some senators shows that the Bill is set to encounter stiff opposition in the Senate.

Majority of those who have made one or two comments about the request of the president, have expressed reservations on why the president needs presidential fiat to cause serious overhaul in the system.

Even if the Bill must pass, it is likely to come out with serious amendments in such a way that it’s conformity to democratic norms might not make it too useful for the president to do anything undemocratic if such was intended covertly.

Quite a number of Senators who, during the holiday, had a sort of interaction with newsmen made it clear that they are not at peace with the current economic situation, most especially, now that the government has officially declared recession in the economy.

At an interactive session with newsmen during the Eid-el-Kabir celebration, Saraki did not mince words in stating the agenda of economic revival inputs as what the main focus of the senate will be.

According to him, on resumption, the senate will engage managers of the economy in series of interactions  to give account to the people on how they managed the economy so far; while not shying away from making tough recommendations to the President on needed changes.

The senate he noted, will also engage its legislative power in formulating necessary legislative framework for economic recovery while wide consultations across the private sector will be given consideration as a way of getting rich ideas on how to take the nation out of the economic  blues.

He has also stated clearly the need for cohesive efforts in ensuring a broader economic plan with input from both legislative and executive arms of government, the private sector, and professional groups.

His words: “We are going to have an exhaustive and comprehensive debate on fixing the country’s economy when we resume next week. We understand the pains that Nigerians are feeling and we do not take this for granted.

“Additionally, the Senate intends to invite everybody involved in the management of the economy to address the Nigerian people through the parliament on the steps that are being taken to get us out of this mess. We fully intend to hold all those involved in the economic management of the country accountable.

“However, we will do so in a manner that is transparent and there will be no cover-up. We will make tough recommendations as necessary”

The upper chamber if the words of the Senate President is to be taken without any questioning, will beam searchlights into the performance of the 2016 budget, even as the parliamentarians await the 2017 budget estimates.

“We need to know why the promises of external borrowing has not materialised, why devaluation has not helped to strengthen the Naira,  why inflow of foreign currency has continued to dry up and interest rate is still very high. Doing this will help us to understand where we are, so that we can determine where exactly we want to go from here.

“In every crisis, there is always an opportunity for positive reforms, in this regard, in order to solve this crisis, all hands must be on deck. Ideas should be sourced from all quarters.

“All arms of government, people of different political beliefs, from all socio-economic backgrounds and every part of Nigeria must work together at this time” he said.

Already, the presidency has explained that it has already commenced the process that would lead to the formulation and presentation of the budget.

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) had in August, 2016, approved the 2017-2019 MTEF and FSP in which it pegged the crude oil benchmark for the 2017 budget at $42.5 per barrel.

According to the Budget and National Planning Minister, Udoma Udo Udoma, government intend to use $42.50 as a reference price in 2017 while projecting $45 in 2018 and $50 in 2019.

To that extent, the Upper Chamber would begin work on the 2017 to 2019 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) which the Federal Executive Council approved last month.

Aside from the economic issues on board, the senate might not resume without having any political agitation to attend to. It is expected that some disgruntled members of the senate would have put together some knotty wool balls for the senate leadership to unroll.

The president of the senate had given an insight that he’s aware of the need to close all political borders towards ensuring smooth running of the government which has seen the executive and the legislature operate a cat and dog relationship.

“I want to use this opportunity to advise those politicians who specialise in causing division between the executive and legislature for their personal benefit to know that this is not the right time for them to ply their trade.

“We need all arms and levels of government to work together with the people because we are in an economic emergency and all hands must be on deck”, he said.