Written by Uchenna Awom And Andrew Oota:

The Senate yesterday summoned the army to explain the Jos crisis and what it is doing to stop it from recurring.

The Senate also assured that the N4.37 trillion 2010 budget would be ready before the end of this month, even as it attributed the delay in its passage to the injection of N1.5 trillion deficit by the executive.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Defence and Army, Senator Ibrahim Ida, who addressed a press conference in company of the Senate spokesman, Senator Ayogu Eze, explained that the Senate was not oblivious of the murmurings as regards the military in the crisis and as such has invited them to appear before it to tell the senators what they were doing.

The Senate president, he said, had released a statement concerning this issue, the crux of which he said was that the security forces, the army and the police were doing a very good job trying to curb crises nationwide.

“It is natural that some people will criticize here and there. That should not becloud the objective. These people need to be commended. When the military are sent on assignment, they have rules of engagement and they abide by that rule. Naturally, some people will raise issues here and there.

“But I think the bottom line is that we should really commend them for the job they are doing. At the same time we in the committee of the Senate we are not oblivious of all these and we have already invited them to appear before us to tell us what they are doing. I want to use this medium to commend the armed forces and the police for the very good job they are doing. We need to encourage them by understanding the terrain and the circumstances under which they operate.”

On the budget, Eze disclosed that the delay in the passage of the budget bill was due to the late injections made by the executive arm and the computations that were expected to be painstakingly done, saying the budget was in its final stages of preparations.

“I can’t say specifically when it will come but I know that we are trying to look at the budget properly. You know, when it came it has an inbuilt deficit of N1.5 trillion, that deficit by the additions that the executive branch has made is even moving up and we have to balance the deficit with the size of the budget. I am sure that the budget will be presented and possibly passed this month”, he said

On electoral reform, he said, “The issue of the Electoral Reform Bill or rather the Electoral Reform Act and the alteration of the constitution, if you look at the notice paper you will see that it has already been listed and some of them will be listed this week. I believe that as programmed in the schedule of activities of the Constitutional Review Committee, it will be taken this month and further legislative activities will now commence on the various sections affected.”

Also speaking on the feasibility of March date for the completion of work on the constitution review, Eze expressed doubt, saying, “What we said was that the Constitution Review Committee will conclude its work and make a presentation by the end of the first quarter. If you go by our timetable, that is what we are trying to do to make sure that within the first quarter, that we will table the matter on the floor of the Senate for consideration. How long it will now take depends on the activities of individual members in plenary because the committee cannot dictate the pace at which we proceed after we have put it on the floor.”

However, he explained that no matter to what extent the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has gone in preparation for the 2011 general elections, it would still key into the new electoral law when it is finally passed by the National Assembly.

“INEC is doing its work based on extant laws and the constitution the country has and the electoral Act guiding its conducts. INEC can’t just fold its hands and wait for the constitution to be amended. They will continue to work. When we now kick in the amendment, INEC will be guided by it. There is no conflict at all”, he said.

Responding to questions on the situation of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as at yesterday, Eze noted: “The situation is that we have an acting president and the acting president is conducting the affairs of the country admirably well. We are very pleased with the steps he has taken so far and we are standing with and behind him. That is why all communication coming from him is treated expeditiously. And we don’t feel that the acting president has performed below expectation. As an institution, we are very pleased with the acting president for now.”

Giving insight into the likely Senate position on the bomb blast in Warri, Delta State, Senator Eze said, “The Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Ndoma-Egba, did move a motion on order 42 of matter of urgent national importance. That matter is coming in plenary tomorrow (today) and it will be unfair for me to now begin to poke my hand into what will happen tomorrow. It is important for you to know that the Senate is distressed enough to have admitted it as an emergency item to be taking as a matter of urgent national importance because we believe it is a very serious matter.

Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday passed a vote of confidence on Acting President Jonathan Goodluck and said it will remain solidly behind him on all actions so far taken.

Similarly, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba brought before the Senate the bomb blast incidence in Delta State which claimed some lives, using order 42 (1) .

The Senate President, David Mark, following the provision of the order, urged that the matter be deferred for discussion today and all voted unanimously for it.

Eze said, “It is important for you to know that the Senate is distressed enough to have admitted it as an emergency item to be taken as a matter of urgent national importance because we believe it is a very serious matter”.

On the report of the Committee on the Establishment and Public Service on the National Assembly Service Commission Act (Amendment) bill 2010, the Senate spokesperson explained that the committee of the whole has gone a long way in the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill and has passed many of the clauses.

He stated that the report was referred back to the Committee on Establishment because of the importance attached to the bill.

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