From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Three bills relating to the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) yesterday scaled second reading in the House of Representatives.
They include a “Bill for an Act to provide for the governance and institutional framework for the petroleum industry and to establish a fiscal framework that encourages further investment in the petroleum industry while increasing accruable revenues to the Federal Government of Nigeria and for related matters,” which was transmitted from the Senate to the House for concurrence.
“Bill for an Act to provide for a framework relating to petroleum producing host communities’ participation, cost and benefit sharing among government, petroleum exploration companies and petroleum host communities and for related matters.”
And a “Bill and memorandum on legal and regulatory framework, institutions and regulatory authorities for the Nigerian petroleum industry, to establish guideline for the operations of the upstream and downstream sectors and to provide for the establishment of the legal and regulatory framework and authorities as well as guidelines for the operation of the upstream and downstream sectors of the Nigeria petroleum industry and for connected purposes.”
However, this was not without arguments whether or not the bills should be consolidated into a single bill.
As soon as Mohammed Monguno, who stood in for the Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, was called to move commencement of debate on the bills, the Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, raised a point of order.
Citing Order 3 of the House Rules, Ogor said the three bills ought to be consolidated before the commencement of debate.
According to him, “failure to consolidate the bills for a holistic legislative exercise on the PIB would make the others lose their essence and a much longer period of debate.”
But the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, disagreed with him, stating that the House had agreed with the Senate to take the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), which had earlier been passed by the Red Chamber and sent to it for concurrence, and its own PIB separately.
“We had a gentleman’s agreement with our counterparts in the Senate and I think it’s incumbent upon us to act the way they separated their own,” he said.
Thereafter, Dogara called Monguno to continue with debate, after he had ruled the Minority Leader out of order.
Leading the debate, the acting House leader said the bill will lead to the unbundling of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). He stated that the NNPC “has become an untamable hydra-headed octopus, which sucks water from the ocean without giving much in return.”
According to him, the bills, if passed, will automatically take care of issues concerning the petroleum industry and its governance, and ultimately ensure transparency in the oil and gas sector.
On his part, Victor Nwokolo, who chairs the House Committee on Petroleum (downstream) argued that the bills are aimed at reforming the oil and gas sector, saying, “it is important that the office of the Minister is separated from anything regulation as it is meant only to formulate policies for the governance of the sector.
“It is high time government divested its interest in the NNPC. There is no where in the world where government succeeds in involving itself in the day-to-day running of the oil sector, which has been liberalised and opened to the private sector.”