With the release of the 2019 elections timetable by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Senators are expected to take nine critical decisions before the general elections.
Daily Trust reports that while some of the decisions are going to be taken collectively, others would be done individually.
The lawmakers are resuming plenary next Tuesday from the Christmas/New Year break. Budget defence had resumed on Tuesday.
PASSAGE OF 2018 BUDGET
Carried over from last year, Senators are expected to conclude the consideration of the 2018 budget presented to the joint session of the National Assembly on 7th November 2017 by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The budget proposal was expected to be passed last month in a bid to return the country to January to December fiscal calendar but the Senators delayed it over lackadaisical attitude of heads of MDAs and poor implementation of the 2017 budget.
Already, the Senators had on Tuesday resumed budget defence, which was suspended late last year. It is expected that the fiscal document would be passed within the first quarter of this year.
Also, by the end of the year, the Senators are expected to receive and consider the 2019 budget, which would be the last for this administration.
Concerns are being raised over confirmation quagmire occasioned by the rejection of the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, twice. The impasse has stalled the confirmation of about 50 nominees of President Buhari.
The trouble started in July last year when the Senate suspended further confirmation of nominees of President Buhari over the statement of Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo on Magu.
The pending conformations include that of Deputy Governor of CBN, four nominees of Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) 10 Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), 9 INEC RECs, Pension Commission (PenCom), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC) and Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA).
But in an interview on Tuesday, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, said the issue is being addressed.
“The president has submitted as required by law it is pending before the legislature and we are engaging with the legislature within the law. Therefore we are conscious that the legislature, the Senate in particular, is very responsive and concerned about the economy,” he said.
For peace to reign between the Senators and the Presidency, it is expected that the confirmation embargo is lifted.
Over two months after President Buhari dropped the hint of his plan to expand the federal cabinet, the list is being awaited at the Senate for screening and confirmation of the ministerial nominees.
On 30th October last year, Buhari during the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the APC disclosed his intention to expand the ministerial appointments from 36 to an undisclosed number. It is expected that the list would be forwarded to the Upper Chamber anytime from now.
Our correspondent reports that the last ministerial screening and confirmation was done in May 2017 when Professor Stephen Ocheni of Kogi State and Mr. Suleiman Hassan of Gombe State were confirmed. The first set of ministerial confirmation was done in 2015 when this administration came on board.
It was gathered that the delay in the expansion of the cabinet was as a result of the crisis among top guns in the APC over those to be considered for the plum job.
The cabinet expansion from all indications is part of the politicking for the 2019 general elections.
COMPLETION OF OUTSTANDING PROBES/PASSAGE OF BILLS
Before the end of the year, it is expected that the senators complete the numerous probes hanging at the Upper Chamber. At the moment, there are pocket of probes that have dragged for months.
Critical among the pending probes are that of an adhoc committee to review the country’s security architecture, probe of the subsidy regime, caused of the recent fuel scarcity, diversion of revenue by some MDAs, etc.
In the same vein, bills that are in first and second reading are expected to be given accelerated consideration to enable the lawmakers pass the draft laws this year.
Although the 8th Senate has surpassed the 7th in terms of bills’ passage, there are many bills hanging at the Red chamber. If the considerations of the probes and bills are not accelerated, many of it would be uncompleted by the end of this Senate.
ALLOCATION OF COMMITTEE TO NDUME
The selection committee of the Senate chaired by the Senate President Bukola Saraki, is expected to allocate a committee to Senator Ali Ndume (APC, Borno) who was removed in January 10, last year as the Senate Leader.
Ndume, who was suspended in March last year following a point of order he raised against Saraki and the chairman of the Senate committee on FCT, Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi) has finished serving his six months suspension term.
The Borno-born lawmaker resumed in November last year but he has not been allocated a committee, he is left floating at the Upper Chamber without a committee. Before his suspension, Ndume after his removal as the Senate Leader, was made the chairman of the INEC committee. But when he was suspended, the committee was allocated to Senator Suleiman Nazif (APC, Bauchi).
RESOLVE ZAMFARA REC SQUABBLE
Awaiting the resolution of the Senate is the feud between Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara state and Senator Kabiru Marafa (APC, Zamfara Central). They are locking horns over Ahmad Bello Mahmud, a nominee of President Buhari for Resident Electoral Commission of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
While Governor Yari is insisting that the nominee, who is to represent Zamfara in INEC should not be confirmed by the Senate, Marafa who chairs the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), is saying otherwise.
The battle over the nominee whose confirmation has been hanging for nine months became messier when the Senate Committee on INEC chaired by Senator Suleiman Nazif (APC, Bauchi) recommended that Mahmud’s confirmation be rejected.
Mahmud was among the 27 persons nominated as RECs by President Buhari in March, last year. The rest nominees have been confirmed.
Following the objection of Marafa, the issue has been reassigned to Nazif’s committee. The report is being expected this month. Whichever way the Senate resolution goes on the matter, it will be the beginning of a bigger fight between Yari and Marafa.
BATTLE FOR TICKET
Aside legislative activities, the lawmakers are going to spend more times angling in their respective political parties to retain their seat or move to another elective position as their tenures elapse next year.
This year, the Senators would struggle to get the ticket of their party. INEC has fixed October 7 this year for the conclusion of party primaries.
At the moment, there are 108 senators at the Upper Chamber as the Anambra Central Senatorial District has been vacant for over a year. All the lawmakers will struggle to get the ticket of their respective parties, except those who may want to aspire for other positions. The fight for ticket will lead to alignment and realignment in the political arena.
DEFECTION AND REALIGNMENT
The crisis that may arise from the party primaries coupled with the lingering feud between some of the Senators and state governors will lead to defections and political realignments.
This year will no doubt witness the defection of more senators from one party to the other. It is getting clearer that some of the lawmakers will dump their parties and move on.
At least, there are crises between governors and senators in 10 states. Some of the feuding governors and senators are Senator Shehu Sani (APC, Kaduna) versus Governor Nasir el-Rufai, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (APC, Kano) and his successor, Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje.
DECLARE FOR PRESIDENCY
Three out of the senators are said to be nursing presidential ambitions. They are expected to formally make their aspirations public this year and slug it out with President Buhari.
The senators said to be eyeing Buhari’s seat are Bukola Saraki, his predecessor, David Mark and the immediate past governor of Kano state, Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso. While Saraki and Kwankwaso are in the APC for now, Mark is of the PDP.
Reports have it that Mark would declare his intention to vie for the presidency in April this year. Saraki and Kwankwaso contested for the presidency in 2015. While Saraki withdrew from the race, Kwankwaso went to the primary with Buhari and came second.