SENATE THIS WEEK: Saraki’s victory oils fresh muscle-flexing as legislative aides protest

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By Titilope Fadare

OrderPaperToday – The week commenced with a promising tone as Nigerians were delighted to learn of the much awaited assent to the 2017 budget by the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo. There had been a lot of dilly-dally since the budget was submitted to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari on December 14 2016. The President who is currently away in the United Kingdom on a medical vacation expressed hope that the 2018 budget be submitted by October this year and signed into law latest by December.

Aides protest death of colleague over unpaid salary…

After ending the previous week on a celebratory note of its second anniversary, the Senate began the week with a protest from legislatives aides who lamented that their salaries were being delayed and had caused the death of a colleague because he was unable to raise N165,000 for the surgery of his ruptured appendix. The aides also accused the National Assembly management of diverting their salary accounts from a well-known bank to a less popular micro-finance bank, believed to be promoted by an influential senator. President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki addressed the protesting aides and promised to speak with the management.

Melaye’s Kogi emergency rule and suicide worries…

At plenary same Tuesday, Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi) demanded the declaration of a state of emergency in Kogi state after dramatically narrating an alleged assassination attempt on his life for the second time. Melaye told his colleagues that since Governor Yahaya Bello commenced his tenure, there has been an increase in violence. Senator Ike Ekweremadu (PDP, Enugu) who presided over the plenary criticized the happenings in Kogi state adding that perpetrators of insecurity must be prosecuted.

Same day, the Senate clamored for free mental health stations and awareness campaign on suicide. This motion was moved by Sen. Oluremi Tinubu (APC, Lagos) who raised concern over the rising spate of suicide attempts in the country which she said was caused by the economic challenges faced in Nigeria. In addressing the issue, it was agreed that access to mental health specialists be made affordable if not free for all citizens, especially the poor.

Saraki’s vindication and the stock market…

 A day that would never be forgotten in the life of the 8th Senate was Wednesday, June 14 as the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) acquitted its President, Bukola Saraki of an18-count charge of false asset declaration leveled against him by the federal government since 2015. Amidst all the back-slapping and excitement, Saraki graciously said he bore no grudge against his persecutors as he declared that his vindication meant the judiciary could be trusted. However, the Minority Leader of the Senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio (PDP, Akwa-Ibom) added a humorous slant to the dramatic episode when he declared that Saraki’s trial affected the business of the stock exchange by slowing down the economy; he noted that shares prices went up immediately the president of the senate was cleared of the charges!

In the atmosphere of jubilation that day, 105 senators in solidarity, moved a motion on national unity to denounce the current wave of sectarian tensions ravaging the land while they accordingly resolved that the Federal Government directs the Ministry of Information and National Orientation and other relevant agencies to intensify enlightenment and advocacy of loyalty to the nation.

Diesel for power plant as budget brick-bat resumes… 

In the meantime, the Senate on Thursday resolved to probe a decision by the federal government to spend up to 70million dollars on diesel to power the 215 MW Kaduna power plant instead of gas. This decision followed a motion by Senator Bassey Akpan (PDP, Akwa-Ibom).

Recall that the Acting President, Yemi Osibanjo accused the National Assembly of injecting new projects into the budget thereby displacing priority projects of the administration? Senate reacted to the reports by concluding that Osibanjo must have been misquoted by the media. It was a different kind of reaction however in the House of Representatives as Speaker Yakubu Dogara proceeded to issue subtle threats over the matter.

Theatre of egos…

The week could not end without a little theatrical display from the upper chamber as senators engaged each other in a disagreement over which chamber of the National Assembly has more powers and prestige with respect to relations with the Executive. While senators who were members of the House of Representatives before crossing over to the Senate argued that both chambers had co-equal powers, the antagonizing faction held the view that the Senate is conferred with additional powers such as confirmation of public officials.

The plenary session ended as the Senate adjourned the legislative session till July 4th  to celebrate the forthcoming Sallah break.

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