Tension in Saraki’s Senate

As the Senate resumes plenary today, the stage is set for another legislative phase that would be characterised by drama and intrigues given the quantum of national issues.

THE resumption of the Senate today from its one month recess would unarguably be  met with so many dicey national  issues that require its imprint.

Indeed, the approach to be employed in handling the concerns is likely to put the Senate on the spot light.

With so many contentious questions left unresolved before it embarked on break in August and others that had taken place while it was on recess,  today’s resumption heralds a period of uncertainty among the lawmakers.

After sitting for 14 days in two months since its inauguration, the Senate in a move that rattled Nigerians, embarked on its third recess since the commencement of the legislative year on June 8, 2015, leaving so many issues unaddressed.

Key issues

The specific concerns before  the senate as of August 29, 2015, were the leadership crisis occasioned by the emergence of the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, imbroglio over sharing of principal offices, reduction of salaries and allowances of legislators, power sector probe among others.

However, other issues of note that became more topical while the Senate was on vacation include; Controversy over false assets declaration charges against the Senate President, expected ministerial list, alleged impeachment moves against Saraki and ratification of appointments made so far by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Therefore, as legislative business commences  today, there is indeed anxiety among the populace regarding the steps that would be taken on these issues.

Detailed observation

A detailed observation of the underlying issues provides an insight into what to expect from the  lawmakers, who have roundly been criticised for allegedly not paying much attention to legislative activities since their  inauguration.

Saraki/CCT controversy

FILE: Senate President Bukola Saraki (M) going in for his first plenary session as President of Senate yesterday. Behind him is Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu. Photo: NAN.
FILE: Senate President Bukola Saraki (M) going in for his first plenary session as President of Senate yesterday. Behind him is Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu. Photo: NAN.
The invitation of Saraki to appear before the Code of Conduct Tribunal , CC T, and his subsequent appearance, seem to have dwarfed other challenges before the lawmakers given its attending mixed signals across the country.

With arguments and counter-arguments as to the merit and demerit of such development, the relative calm that had existed in the Senate before its vacation, seems to have been mortally affected.

Obviously, another fire has been rekindled among the lawmakers, who were hitherto factionalised by leadership crisis. And this time, the soul of the senate leadership is believed to be at stake, given the perceived intensity of the matter.

Alleged impeachment moves

On the strength of the allegations against the Senate leadership, the prospects of witnessing an anti Saraki revolt in the Senate from today onward are real.

It is one of the few possible developments that could be described as certain as the lawmakers resume. Already, the events preceding this day, did not foreclose such, as media reports had predicted such.

It was gathered that those, who will spearhead the onslaught, may lay claims to morality and subsequently call on the senate president to throw in the towel.

Expectedly, senators under the aegis of the Unity Forum have been touted as those that could lead the campaign.

In spite claims of having secured the needed numerical support to go ahead with such plans, analysts contend that the Senate president may survive what they describedas  impeachment scare considering his acceptability among the generality of Peoples Democratic Party ,PDP,  senators and a section of lawmakers elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress,APC.

Though, the spread of Saraki’s support is a  truism, it is regarded as a stumbling block against any impeachment move, against the Senate President, who was earlier given a vote of confidence by over 80 senators.

Indeed, if such plays out, the tone for a stormy phase, which observers say could be  distractive  and as well consume a considerate phase in the life of the senate.

Expected list of ministerial nominees

Given that political vendetta is believed to be the fulcrum of the crisis in the Senate since inception, the expected list of ministerial nominees, may trigger crisis of interests among the senators, who are not on the same page with the presidency and APC leadership.

With allegations that senators from the PDP states are planning to block the clearance of ministerial nominees from their states when the president submits his list, Nigerians may be treated to surprises on the issue.

The matter may become more contentious given allegations that prominent among the reasons for Saraki’s travail, is the desire to have easy clearance of eventual nominees.

Committee chairmanship

Indications that another impasse may come up over the sharing of principal offices, when the senate resumes exist.

Having constituted special standing committees before embarking on vacation, it is expected that the formal committees would be eventually constituted in line with the vexatious amendments of the Senate Rules 2015, which made it mandatory for the leadership of the senate to appoint the leadership of the committees among the six geopolitical zones.

Pointedly, Order 3 (4) of the Senate Standing Orders 2015, as amended, states that:  “The appointment of senators as chairmen and members of committees shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the six geopolitical zones of the country and there shall be no predominance of senators from a few geopolitical zones.”

The Senate Leader, Sen Ali Ndume, had said that the standing committees would be announced when members resume.

The committees earlier constituted include;  Senate Services,  under the chairmanship  of Ibrahim Gobir, who is an APC senator from Sokoto State; Rules and Business, headed by Senator Babajide Omoworare, an APC senator from Osun State; Ethics and Privileges, chaired by Samuel Anyanwu (PDP, Imo East) and Public Accounts Committee, headed by Sen  Andy Uba (PDP, Anambra South).

The senators, who may wish to serve in the committees, were  asked by the Senate leadership to pick forms from the Clerk of the Senate and indicate the committees where they wish to serve.

Power probe

The legislators are also expected to continue with the probe of the power sector, which it had embarked upon lately.

The investigation, which has attracted criticisms from many, who described as a misplaced priority, seeks to unearth irregularities in the sector that had resulted in the poor power supply despite huge investment in the sector.

The Senate had constituted the ad-hoc Committee to carry out a holistic investigation into the management of funds appropriated to the power sector from the Olusegun Obasanjo civilian administration to date.

Announcing the 13-man ad-hoc committee, Senate President, Bukola Saraki urged members of the committee to consider their reputation and integrity and come up with a report that would be acceptable to Nigerians.

Challenge of power supply

He lamented that a lot of money had been spent on the sector with no results, while Nigeria is still faced with the challenge of power supply.

The committee which has Senator Abubakar Kyari, APC, Borno North, as chairman, was also saddled with the responsibility of looking into irregularities in the unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN.

Approval of appointments

Some key appointments made by President Buhari, are expected to be ratified by the Senate as it resumes.

However, some of them had already attracted condemnations, following the notion that the President had not carried the National Assembly,NASS, along in making the appointments.

Some legislators had expressed anger over what they termed as the refusal of the presidency to subject nominees into appointive offices to screening and confirmation processes before assumption of office.

In claiming that , the legislators argued that such actions violated the law.

The appointments in this regard are;  the appointment of the acting chairman of the  Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, appointment of the board of the Asset Management Company of Nigeria, AMCON, the chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service ,FIRS, and the National Communications Commission, NCC.