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PIB: Controversial bill passed into law at Lower, Upper Chambers after 14 years

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The Petroleum Industry Bill which has been pending in the last 14 years has been passed into law at the House of Representatives and the Senate on Thursday in Abuja.

It passed in the Senate amid rancorous atmosphere that bothered on regional interest which each Senators who contributed to the debate having to defend the interest of the region of origin.

Before the Senate commenced the legislative debate, the Chambers met with the Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Engr Mele Kyari behind close door for a discussion believed to be of help to the Petroleum Industry Bill.

The bill which was anchored on the earlier joint Committee report became controversial and generated bad blood among the Senators when contributors from the northern zone opted for jettisoning the 5% which was recommended in the report for the development of host communities in the Niger Delta region.

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However, Thursday’s plenary which was dedicated to the passage of the Bill was rancorous and in sharp division on the
provision of 5% for the development of host communities which would be domiciled in the Host Community Trust Fund for purposes of developing the Niger Delta in the new Petroleum Industry.

Senator Ahmad Babba Kaita representing Katsina North Senatorial District first 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.

Kaita’s position was contrary to the Committee report which 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.”

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Kaita’s proposition was put to voice votes by the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan and upheld the 3% against 5%.

But Senator Thompson Sekibo representing Rivers East Senatorial District 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.

Senate leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi however pleaded that the red Chamber has never been divided since the commencement of the 9th National Assembly.

He said: 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.

Meanwhile, Senators Bala Ibn’Nallah and other Senators from the northern zone pleaded for the sustenance of the 3%.

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Senator James Ebiowo Manager representing Delta South Senatorial District, while adding his voice reminded northern Senators of how they collaborated with them in passing the North East Development Commission in the interest of the nation, insisting that the 5 % which was recommended in the report was not too much.

According to him, the only benefit available to the oil host communities was the 5%, but the
Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan urged the aggrieved Senators to be patient given that the PIB has suffered many failures in the past.

After appealing to Senator Sekibo to withdraw his Order which he said was Sekibo’s privilege, the withdrawal was to douse tension among the lawmakers.

“I appeal to Senator Sekibo and other colleagues to withdraw their objection to the 3% in the interest of the people we are representing.”

Responding, Sekibo withdrew his order.

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