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How regional sentiments delay new petroleum law – Senators, Reps

The latest move to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) at the National Assembly hit the rock on April 26, 2016, when senators from the…

The latest move to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) at the National Assembly hit the rock on April 26, 2016, when senators from the South-south and South-east frustrated the move.
The debate on the second reading of the bill tagged: “Act to provide for the governance and institutional framework for the Petroleum Industry and for other matters connected therewith, 2016 (SB. 237),” sponsored by Senator Omotayo D. Alasoadura (APC, Ondo Central) was suspended when senators, mostly from the South-south and South-east moved against it.
The senators had while Alasoadura was leading the debate on the bill, kept murmuring: “No, no”. Since its introduction many years ago, the fate of the PIB had always remained controversial as it was uncertain.
The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) had called on President Muhammadu Buhari to set up a task team to fast track passage of the PIB albeit piece-meal.
The NEITI made the call in its latest policy brief titled: “The Urgency of a New Petroleum Sector Law,” where it said that there was need for Buhari to take the lead by rallying stakeholders to achieve consensus on the bill.
The agency pointed out that Nigeria had experienced huge losses to the tune of about $200bn due to failure to pass enabling law for the petroleum industry.
A cross section of senators interviewed said the bill can only scale through when it accommodated yearnings and aspirations of all parts of the country.
A senator said  that the bill cannot scale through because it was crafted to favour the interest of a particular region, not the country as a whole.
“The Niger Deltans are asking for too much, they have NDDC, Amnesty programme, 13 percent derivation, Ministry for Niger Delta, among others, yet, they still want 10 percent host communities development fund,” he said.  “The removal of the host communities development fund halted the latest debate on the bill.
“The problem of Niger Delta is not about allocation but mismanagement. Funds allocated to the region are not being judiciously utilised. For the bill to scale through, it must accommodate interest of every part of the country.”
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Defence, Senator Ahmed Lawan, said that the bill couldn’t scale through at seventh Senate because it gave enormous powers to the minister of petroleum.
He said: “At the last Assembly, it was an executive bill and the minister of petroleum personalised it, thus, it wasn’t successful.  It is possible for the bill to be passed, so long as we are ready to accommodate each.
“We need to bridge the gap between those that are in support of it and those who are opposed to it.  Everybody should be for it. During the debate on it at the last Senate, nobody opposed the bill but it’s provisions.” 
Also Speaking, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), Senator Kabiru Marafa said two previous bills were brought by the executive and that he is still new at the committee.
He referred our correspondent to the Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum (Upstream), Omotayo D. Alasoadura (APC, Ondo Central).
However efforts to get Alasoadura’s comment were unsuccessful. But another senator said the bill should give maximum attention to Frontier Exploration Services for the exploration of crude oil deposit in the North.
The Senate, at the end of a two-day debate on the state of economy, prioritised the passage of the PIB.  The need to quickly passage the bill was among the 22 resolutions unanimously adopted by the senators.
Also, some members of the House of Representatives, who spoke to the Daily Trust, highlighted the need to quickly pass the PIB, saying that the House had already started work on its own version of the bill.
The Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Rep Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers) said via telephone: “Immediate passage of the original version of the bill to stimulate the petroleum sector and quickly revive the economy is very important.”
For his part, Rep Abubakar Chika Adamu (APC, Niger), said that the legislators were ready to pass the bill, calling on the executive arm to present the bill early. “We are more than ready to fast-track the process,” he said.
Commenting on the bill, the Chairman of the House Committee on Agricultural Production and Services, Rep Mohammed Tahir Monguno (APC, Borno), said: “It’s one of the priority bills to be considered by the House.”
The Chairman of the House Committee on Budget and Legislative Research, Timothy Golu (PDP, Plateau), said: “The National Assembly is poised and set to accelerate action on the passage of the bill to minimise loses and open the indigenous space for domestic ownership and control of our endowed resources,” he said. “I’m concerned about it as the NASS under the pragmatic leadership of Speaker Yakubu Dogara and Bukola Saraki will go to any extent to legislate on anything that will bring economic prosperity.”
However, Rep Yusuf Bala Ikara (APC, Kaduna), said that though they were ready to consider the PIB, the legislature could only look at a clean and unbiased copy of the bill from the executive arm.
The National Public Relations Officer of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Comrade Emmanuel Ojugbana, said that the passage of the PIB was necessary to solve problems bedevilling the oil industry.
“If there is no commitment to finding solution that is agreeable to, and in interest of, all, then, the discussion over the bill is going nowhere,” said Dr Magose Abraham Eju of the Abuja-based Energy Business Total Solutions Ltd. 
The former president of the Nigerian Association of Energy Economic (NAEE), Professor Adeola Adenikinju, said that the bill, though crucial, can “will not solve all problems in the oil sector.”   
The Executive Secretary of the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Thomas Obafemi Olawore, said that oil marketing companies were ready to assist the government to create world class downstream sector.
“To achieve this, we appeal to both Houses of the National Assembly to quickly pass the PIB into law without further delay.”