How NASS passed controversial Petroleoum Industry Bill into Law, 14 years after
The National Assembly, comprising both the Senate and the House of Representatives, on Thursday passed the protracted Petroleum Industry Bill which has been pending before the lawmakers for 14 years.
In what appeared to be a rancorous atmosphere in the Senate that bothered on regional interest as each Senator contributed to the debate based on the interest of their region of origin, the PIB was finally passed.
The Bill generated badblood among the Senators when some northern senators opted to jettison the 5% which was recommended in the joint committee report for the development of host communities in the Niger Delta region.
Prior to the commencement of the legislative debate, the Chambers met with the Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Engr Mele Kyari behind closed doors for a discussion that many believed was aimed at smoothening any rough edges regarding the Bill.
The provision of 5% for the development of host communities was recommended by the joint committee to be domiciled in the Host Community Trust Fund for purposes of developing the Niger Delta in the new Petroleum Industry.
In his contribution to the debate,Senator Ahmad Kaita, Katsina North, suggested for the reduction of host communities development fund to 3%, citing other national challenges and other funds already assigned for the developmental purposes of Niger Delta region.
The Katsina senator’s submission was contrary to the Joint Committee report.
The report reads in part:
“After extensive engagement with the various stakeholders, and on-the-spot assessment visits to host communities across the country, the joint committee recommended strengthening measures and saddled the host communities with responsibilities with a view to reducing or completely eradicating interferences and tampering with the country’s oil and gas assets.
“Furthermore, to ensure adequate development of the host communities and reduction in the cost of production, the joint committee recommends 5% of the actual annual operating expenditure of the preceding financial year in the Upstream Petroleum operations affecting the host communities for funding of the Host Communities Trust Fund.”
Senate President Ahmad Lawan had to put Kaita’s proposition to voice vote and the senate upheld the 3% against 5%.
Senator Thompson Sekibo, Rivers East, however, in a swift reaction disagreed with the ruling and raised a Point of Order through Order 43 of the Senate rules calling for division of the Chambers.
Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, the Senate Leader, however, pleaded for understanding, stressing that the Red Chamber has never been divided since the commencement of the 9th National Assembly.
“Mr. President, Distinguished colleagues, my heart is bleeding because we have never been so divided on any national issue like this.
“I want to plead for understanding to enable the Bill be passed into Law,” the Senate Leader said.
Senators Bala Ibn’Nallah and other senators from the north however insisted on the sustenance of the 3% provision for host communities.
Delta South Senator, James Manager, in his submission, reminded northern Senators of how they collaborated with them in passing the North East Development Commission Bill into Law.
Manager argued that it was in the interest of the nation to stick with the 5 % that was recommended in the report, insisting that it was not too much.
The Delta Senator stressed that the only benefit available to the oil host communities was the 5%.
Sensing a dangerous debacle playing out, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, urged the parties to sheath their swords, particularly because the PIB had suffered many somersaults in the past without being passed.
“I appeal to Senator Sekibo and other colleagues to withdraw their objection to the 3% in the interest of the people we are representing,” Lawan said.
This. thus, paved the way for the PIB’s passage in the Senate.