The Senate and House of Representatives have constituted two committees to fine-tune the controversial Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) for presidential assent.
The two chambers of the National Assembly last Thursday, passed the long-awaited PIB but differed on the percentage of yearly expenditure of oil revenue to be devoted to the development of oil-bearing communities. While the Senate approved three percent, the House okayed five per cent.
They are in agreement on the 30 per cent of oil and gas profits of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited be set aside for exploration in the Lake Chad Basin, Benue trough, Anambra Basin and Gombe basin.
The percentage allocation to the oil host communities and the 30 per cent oil and gas profits for exploration have since the PIB passage drawn the ire of Niger Delta stakeholders, including governors of the 17 Southern states and PANDEF Leader Chief Edwin Clark.
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The Southern governors had in their Lagos meeting on Monday also kicked against the ownership structure of the proposed NNPC Limited and for its supervision to be handled by the Federal Ministry of Finance.
On Tuesday, the leadership of the National Assembly explained that the two committees would meet to harmonize their different positions on the PIB.
The Senate committee is headed by Senate Leader Yahaya Abdullahi, while that of the House is led by Chief Whip Mohammed Mongunu.
Mohammed Sabo (Northwest); Albert Bassey Akpan (Southsouth); Danjuma Goje (Northeast); Opeyemi Bamidele (Southwest), Stella Oduah (Southeast), and Gabriel Suswam (Northcentral) are the other members of the Senate committee.
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The other members of the House committee are Victor Nwokolo, Ademorin Kuye, Kingley Uju, Tijjani Yusuf, Ibahim Hamza and Mansur Soro.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan charged members to immediately swing into action so that “we will transmit for the final document for presidential assent.”
“We expect our delegation here under the leadership of the Senate Leader to engage with our colleagues in the House of Representatives”.
Chairman of the House committee Mongunu told reporters they would defend their position on five percent.
More Niger Delta stakeholders have picked holes in the passed PIB. The latest are Bayelsa State Governor, Douye Diri, the Coalition of Rivers Oil and Gas Host Communities (CROGHCOM) and the League of Professionals for Strategic Advocacy (LPSA).
Diri, who featured on Channels Television breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, restated the position of governors of the Southern states that it was an injustice to grant only three percent of oil revenue to the host communities.
He added that it was unacceptable to people of the South that a provision of 30 percent profit of the proposed NNPC Limited was inserted into the controversial bill for “frontier exploration.”
The governor, according to a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Daniel Alabrah, also strongly frowned at the definition of oil-producing communities or host communities to include areas where pipelines pass through.
He called for a reversal of such proposal, saying it was a time bomb that if not properly handled could create avoidable crises.
Also yesterday, CROGHCOM said the passed PIB was not only mischievous, but it could also compound the problems of the communities.
It therefore called on the Federal Government to merge the PIB with the Solid Minerals Act into a single document to be called, Extractive Mineral Resources Development Bill (EMRDB).
Chairman of the group, Barituka Loanyie, said: “We reject the PIB as for the reason that it fails to address the lingering issues of the oil and gas host communities.
“The bill rather than solve germane issues in the oil and gas sector end up compounding them.
“We want to state without equivocation that the law is a mischievous piece of legislation and a far cry from the yearnings of oil and gas host communities which only ends up providing a legal framework for corruption and portends a sinister ploy to continue with the unhealthy practice of denying host communities the right to their God-given resources.”
Comparing the provisions of PIB and that of the Solid Minerals Act, the group observed that the law is very liberal to the communities and recognizes the rights of landlords.
It therefore called on the President to direct that the Act be merged with the PIB.
In Asaba, the Delta State capital, the LPSA accused the Federal Government of plotting the use of the PIB as a slush fund for siphoning Nigeria’s commonwealth into private pockets.
“The 30 percent allocation of NNPC Limited earnings for Frontier Basin Exploration is a slap on the sensibility of Nigerians, especially the accommodating people of the South-South. Who does that in a world where capital deployed into business is at the risk of the investor whose ultimate goal is profit-making?” it said in a statement by its Convener, Obaro Unuafe,
The group also rejected the three percent stake approved by the Senate for the Host Community Trust Development Fund, describing it as an aberration.
“We are convinced that three percent is a far cry and does not match all the sacrifices of the oil-producing region to the Nigerian State. We demand that this should be scaled up to 10 percent during harmonization of the bill by the two chambers of the National Assembly,”