By Henry Umoru
AFTER its one-month brainstorming exercise with ministers, heads of agencies, and parastatals during the defence of 2021 Budget, the Senate will resume plenary today, November 24, 2020, to face an avalanche of challenges.
In line with its legislative calendar, the Senate suspended plenary on October 20, 2020, to allow chairmen and members of the Standing Committee to engage ministers and heads of MDAs on the 2021 Budget soon after they took turn to discuss the general principles of the budget.
As the Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan -led Ninth Senate resumes plenary today, there are various issues especially unfinished jobs that must be done.
One of the major assignments that will engage the Senate is the reading of Communications from President Muhammadu Buhari and one of the Executive Communications will be a letter re-appointing Professor Mahmood Yakubu as the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The Senate was on recess when Yakubu’s first five years tenure expired and President Buhari wrote to the Senate forwarding the name of Yakubu.
President of the Senate will today read the letter and thereafter, the name will be forwarded to the Senator Kabiru Gaya, All Progressives Congress, APC, Kano South led Senate Committee on INEC for Screening and subsequent confirmation by the Senate at Plenary after receiving the report.
As the Senate resumes plenary today, another major national issue to be addressed is the 2021 Appropriation Bill and its subsequent passage.
Senate committees have been engaging the MDAs on the Budget and the Chairman of the Committee are at the moment, presenting their reports to the Senator Jibrin Barau, APC, Kano North led Senate Committee on Appropriations for onward presentation to the Senate during plenary for passage.
President Buhari had in October submitted a 2021 budget of N13.08 trillion christened budget of recovery and resilience.
Another issue that must be accomplished before the very eyes of the senators is the lingering Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB that was sent for the first time to the National Assembly in December 2008 by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua.
To kick start the work and which led to the Bill, a Presidential Committee was set up in 2007 to look into the Oil and Gas sector as well as to increase transparency at the NNPC and to increase Nigeria’s share of oil revenue.
The PIB was read the second time in the Senate in September and was consequently forwarded to the Committees on Petroleum Downstream, Petroleum Upstream and Gas to make required legislative inputs into the bill within eight weeks.
It will be recalled that since it came on board, for almost two decades now, the PIB had been on a journey, with a lot of anticipation and promises, but failed overtime in previous Assemblies.
As the Senate resumes plenary, it would be confronted with yet another national assignment that has to do with the alteration of provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
Prior to the break, the Senate ad-hoc committee on the review of 1999 constitution chaired by the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo Agege, APC, Delta Central and it has formally commenced the process of further amending the country’s laws.
To kick start, the Omo- Agege-led Committee had called for the submission of memoranda from Nigerians at home and in the diaspora on various issues currently agitating the polity with a view to amending them in the overall interest of Nigeria as a nation.
At the moment, the Committee has so far received over 100 memoranda, seeking to alter provisions of the constitution, even as the Chairman had pledged that it would not kill any of the bills and proposals before it.
Also to be on the top burner is the Electoral Reform against the backdrop that if Nigeria as a country must get the Election processes right in all its ramifications, it has become very imperative for an amendment of the Electoral Reform Act that is long overdue.
The 9th Senate is prepared to amend it following the fact that the amendment carried out by the 8th National Assembly was not signed into law by President Buhari.
The lawmakers will be confronted with yet another increase in the price of Fuel and the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU over the lecturers’ disagreement with the Federal Government on plans to capture the Universities into the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) by the government.