- To probe $6bn NNPC’s joint venture cash calls
From Fred Itua, Abuja
THE Senate yesterday kicked off the process of passing the much-awaited Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) as the bill scaled first reading on the floor of the Red Chamber. The bill was re-branded as Petroleum Industry and Governance Bill (PIGB).
The first reading was the aftermath of the conclusion of its harmonisation by both chambers of the National Assembly, making it the third time it would pass first rea ding in the Senate since it was first introduced.
Similarly, the Senate asked its Joint Senate Committee on Petroleum (Upstream and Downstream), Finance and Appropriation to immediately commence the investigation of joint venture cash calls by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Both the Senate and House of Representatives had recently harmonised a new draft of PIB and renamed it PIGB following a prolonged silence by the presidency on the bill as well as the continued agitation for its passage by the citizenry.
The new wave of criticisms over the non-passage of the bill, Daily Sun gathered, was what compelled both Senate President Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, to repeatedly urge President Muhammadu Buhari to present a new PIB to National Assembly.
The petroleum industry framework was first conceived by the administration of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua and sent to the sixth National Assembly. But the failure of the sixth National Assembly to pass the bill compelled the immediate past government of President Goodluck Jonathan to re-present the bill to the seventh National Assembly.
However, the seventh National Assembly again failed to pass the bill as a result of unrelenting opposition from northern lawmakers, especially over the allocation of 10 per cent royalty to oil producing communities in the bill.
Northern lawmakers had opposed the provision of host community fund in the bill on the ground that Niger Delta region where oil is domiciled had received more than enough benefits with little or nothing to show for it.
During yesterday’s plenary, the Senate expressed concern over an allegation that the NNPC had been violating rules governing its joint venture cash call responsibility and consequently asked its committee to investigate the allegation. It also asked the committee to come up with sanctions for any known violation of appropriation acts in the oil and gas sector.
The move followed the adoption of a motion by Senator Bassey Akpan (Akwa Ibom North-east). Akpan in the motion alleged persistent constraints by NNPC to meet its cash call obligations, a situation he said had worsened the country’s crude oil production output and other activities in the oil and gas sector.