By Emmanuel Aziken & Henry Umoru

Senator Mark’s dominance of the Senate continues unabated, his purpose and his actions are, however, still unfolding. THE seventh senate was never expected to be significantly different from the preceding sixth senate in character. It couldnt, given the continuing dominance of the David Mark-Ike Ekweremadu tendency.

The return of Senators Mark and Ekweremadu as Senate President and Deputy Senate President at the inauguration of the Senate exactly a year ago was a record in the annals of the legislature at the federal level. It was the first time that a presiding officer in either of the two chambers was returned to the position of first among equals since the advent of the fourth republic.

None of Senator Mark’s predecessors as Senate President had even served a four year term in office as the duo of Mark and Ekweremadu did between 2007 and 2011.

Senator Mark has, however, been adept in utilising the survival skills he is alleged to have so carefully taken away from his predecessors.

It was as such not surprising that at the beginning of the seventh senate that the leadership continued with the proliferation of committees, a survival instinct that empowers all senators as either Committee chairmen or vice-chairmen.

The creation of 56 Senate Committees in a chamber presently constituted of 108 senators means that all senators are either committee chairmen or vice-chairmen. That is every senator has a portfolio and a vote!

Just as it did at the commencement of the sixth senate when it picked up the GSM telecommunication sector as its focus even before the then new senators settled down, the seventh senate just after inauguration a year ago brought its focus to bear on the privatization exercises of federal government enterprises.

Given that committees were yet to be inaugurated at that time the task was handed over to an ad-hoc panel chaired by Senator Ahmad Lawan, one of the most experienced legislators who has himself been in the National Assembly since the restoration of civil rule in 1999.

Lawan moved the motion that led to the investigation. Even though he is a member of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP he is also one of the key members of the inner caucus around Mark. It was as such not surprising that the primacy given the probe received political colouration in some quarters.

It was suggested by some that the Mark Senate was working in cahoots with the Goodluck Jonathan administration to embarrass one of the leading lights of the opposition, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai who was a key figure in the privatization schemes of the Olusegun Obasanjo administration between 1999 and 2003.

The investigation as with previous investigations turned out sour for El-Rufai. Unarguably, one notable effort of the Mark senate in the past year was its role in the unmasking of the alleged fraud in the utilisaiton of subsidy in the importation of petroleum products.

A motion sponsored by Senator Bukola Saraki, PDP, Kwara Central brought the issue to the fore with the revelation that the administration had as at October when the motion was proposed exceeded the N240 billion earmarked for petroleum subsidy by several times.

The motion in the senate could have been the trigger that eventually led to the unmasking of the subsidy scam in the House of Representatives in January 2012. Though the Senate constituted its own investigation into the issue, the Senate investigation which is still ongoing has almost been dwarfed by the scintillating revelations from the House.

When the subsidy scam fully unraveled after the administration removed the alleged subsidy in fuel prices at the beginning of the year the initiative from the legislature was almost wholly from the House. The initiative from the Senate was essentially directed at brokering peace between the adamant administration and the almost collective will of the people against the removal of the alleged subsidy.

Senator Mark’s role was largely that of mediation as he played a role that was essentially described as fatherly and it was not surprising that no one was satisfied given the unwillingness of the senate to push the administration to satisfy the desire of the majority of the people.

More purposeful was the senate’s commendable role in unearthing the pension scam involving a handful of bureaucrats who ate away the patrimony of a large section of the working people.

Suckers of blood money
Senator Mark played a leading role at the commencement of the public hearings with his castigation of the pension thieves as suckers of blood money.

Not unexpectedly, those involved in the pension scam fought back alleging that the Senator Alloysius Etok led Pension Investigative Committee was compromised with some multi billion naira bribe.

That allegation was dismissed by Senator Etok. In the year under review the Senate also commenced fresh moves to review the 1999 Constitution with the inauguration of a committee again led by Senator Ekweremadu. That committee as at press time is now set to go into action having recently called for memoranda from the general public.

The senate in the last year intervened in the unpopular move by the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC to add to the burden of the people when it stopped the implementation of the new fee regimes of the commission which were generally seen as extortionist.

The Senate in its first year sought to position itself as being on the side of the people but has undoubtedly been impeded by the seeming lethargy on the side of the administration. How it is able to extricate itself to show its solidarity with the people is an issue for the 108 senators in the next year.


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