Senate to Focus on Ministerial Screening, Budget, PIB

Ministerial screening and inquiries into the non-implementation of the N556 billion capital expenditure in the N4.493 trillion 2015 budget are major issues expected to top the agenda of the 8th Assembly of the Senate, as they resume from their annual recess tomorrow.

Senator Ighoyota Amori (PDP, Delta Central) told BusinessDay that the upper chamber would also give attention to the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and amendment of the 1999 Constitution.

Recall that the 7th Assembly had spent over N4billion on constitution amendment exercise, but former President Goodluck Jonathan vetoed the amendment for failing to meet the provisions of Section 9 (3) of the Constitution.

The Senate is also expected to confirm President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointment of heads of some federal parastatals, including acting heads of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler; Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Umaru Danbatta; Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Emmanuel Kachikwu; Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Ahmed Lawan Kuru, amongst others.

According to Amori, all the appointments made by the President so far are ‘unknown’ to the Senate.

“We believe that Mr President will come up with his nominees for ministerial appointment and other appointments for the Senate to look at. The 2015 budget is still an issue today. And a lot of people who are in acting capacity now, according to Mr President, have not been brought before the Senate, so as far as the Senate is concerned, they have not been cleared by the Senate. They are not known to the Senate yet.”

The federal lawmaker also disclosed that the PIB – the longest serving bill in the National Assembly – would be revisited.

In a meeting with the National Institute of Legislative Studies Development Partners last week, Senate President, Bukola Saraki had called on development partners to cue into the Legislative Agenda of the 8th Senate.

Clement Nwankwo, Executive Director, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), asked the 8th Assembly to review the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), establishment of an Independent National Budget and Research Office Bill (NABRO) in addition to constitution amendment.

“The NABRO Bill in particular has suffered setbacks in the 6th and 7th Assembly, as it did not receive Presidential assent after passage, despite its acclaimed importance to Nigeria’s budget process”, Nwankwo stated.

The House of Representatives had set up an adhoc committee chaired by Aliyu Pategi to probe the non-implementation of capital budget contained in the 2015 Appropriation Act.