A minute silence for National Youth Corps Member slain in post-election violence, confirmation of two political appointees and the declaration of another one week vacation were the climax of senate seating on Tuesday, indicating the outlook of the outgoing senate.
The senate, Tuesday, resumed its six weeks long election vacation to begin it valedictory session with an impressive turn out of members – about fifty – but only a few were ready to legislate on any bill.
The senators began the Tuesday plenary with a closed door meeting. The senate president, David Mark, later read his ceremonial welcome speech to mark the beginning of the end of the sixth senate. The plenary which lasted about one hour had the senators confirm two appointees to join the National Population Commission board and hold a minute silence for NYSC members who were slain in the post-election violence in the north.
The Sovereign Wealth Fund bill was lined up for final legislation that day, but majority of the attending senators declined calls by the senate president to legislate on the bill. They rather voted unanimously for another seven days vacation notwithstanding other significant bills lined up for legislation later in the week.
Most of the defeated senators, expectedly, have become nonchalant and truant. Only 36 out of the 109 senators are returning to the senate to join the seventh senate even though they all aspired. A lot of the defeated senators, especially from the south west region, were present at the Tuesday seating and actively participated in shutting the one hour plenary.
Ayogu Eze, the senate spokesman predicts the senate will get scantier by the week but is optimistic these last days of the sixth senate will be “positively eventful.”
The senate is not alien to frequent holidays. Even though the senate recently regrouped at the snap of a finger for matters of urgent national importance, events leading to the termination of this session of the senate indicate that most of the senators have lost the passion to legislate.
The senate went of the previous vacation on 17 March, to adequately prepare for the National assembly elections. Before then, they had reduced their seating days from three to one per week; a trend which was continued on Tuesday.
Mr. Eze, however, explained that the senate was shut down because most of them will be attending the Offshore Trade Conference going on in Texas, United States.
“A number of senators are billed to travel and to come back over the weekend and we thought that since we will need the numbers to do some of the things we need to do, it will be proper to shut down and give everybody the opportunity to go for the conference and come back,” Mr. Eze explained.
While the senators will be away for the conference in Texas, the fate of National Sovereign Wealth Fund bill, the Freedom of Information bill, the Petroleum Industry Bill and a host of other important bills will hang on the balance.
“If those bills are not finished before the term of this current National Assembly expires on the 5th of May, they will be re-introduced to both chambers afresh through first reading,” Dan Olayinka an analyst said. “That will set the nation back by years and moreover, a lot of money that was spent to drive these bills up to this level would have been wasted.”
The senate will also have to finalize the details of the budget with the twelve seating days that would be left on their resumption next week.
Winding up focus
“We intend to make sure that we conclude all outstanding activities and ensure that we leave a clean slate as much as possible for the seventh senate,” the senate spokesman said.
He said efforts are being made for the details of the 2011 Appropriation to be finalized so that the president can sign it and possibly come up with a supplementary appropriation which the government has already hinted.
“We are also minded of fulfilling our promise of passing the freedom of information bill and send it to the President before the sixth National Assembly winds down. We are also interested in making sure that we start work on the petroleum industry bill (PIB) which as you know is a bill that all Nigerians look forward to,” Mr. Eze added.