PIB Scales First Huddle

David Mark

In spite of the hostility that characterise its debate, the Petroleum Industry Bill passes second reading and was subsequently sent to Senate joint committees for more work thereby|raising hopes of its eventual passage

 By Olu Ojewale  |  Mar. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

AFTER two days of heated arguments, the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, was passed for the crucial second reading in the Senate on Thursday, March 7. The joint committee (Upstream), Petroleum (Downstream), and Justice and Human Rights now have six weeks to work on the Bill and conduct public hearings before returning it back to the house for consideration. The seamless passage of the Bill must have surprised many Nigerians who had witnessed or heard about the heated arguments which attended the debate on the Bill on Tuesday and Wednesday.

David-West
David-West

While reviewing the submissions of members, David Mark,  Senate President,  said that the PIB would be sent to joint committee for more works and public hearing and that “by the time it comes back, there will be amendments, additions and subtractions.” He urged that the PIB should not be seen as North versus South affair, “because what is good for the North is also good for the South and what is bad for the South, is bad for the North.”

Mark remarked that a lot of work still needed to be done on the Bill and made it clear that “the draft bill that has been given to us is not sacrosanct.” He added: “So, I want to say that the Bill is a worthy Bill. The important thing is whether the Bill guarantees the transparency we want in the petroleum sector, because that is a key issue and for now there is no transparency at the moment.”

He said that the Bill, like most Senators had pointed out, is the life-wire of the country with national and international interest. Mark disclosed that the Senate had agreed that the Bill would give so much power to the minister, especially where the minister can grant lease unconditionally and can also revoke lease unconditionally. Mark assured the country that a whole lot of things would be looked into to ensure that Nigerians get a fair deal. On the issue of giving 10 per cent of the net profit made by oil companies to host communities, for development, Mark  assured that all the senators agreed that the host communities should get some benefits but the method of getting that benefit was the contentious issue. “The fear is whether the 10 per cent for the host community will be another pipeline where a few characters would hijack it at the expense of the host community,” the Senate president said.

The two-day debate was a rowdy session during which the Senate was split on ethnic lines on Tuesday, over a provision which requires operating oil companies in the Niger Delta, to pay 10 per cent of their net profits to the fund for the development of host communities. But several senators from the north opposed the Host Community Fund in the Bill, saying the oil communities should be contented with the 13 per cent derivation being provided currently.

Apparently angered by the development, the supporters of the PIB were jubilant on Wednesday, when Ita Enang, chairman of the Senate committee on business and rules, revealed that 83 per cent of oil blocs in the country are owned by northerners. “There should be equity and federal character in the allocation of oil blocs in this country. Eighty-three per cent of all present oil blocs are held by northerners,” he said. Therefore, Enang, who is representing Akwa Ibom North-East, (Uyo) Senatorial District, demanded a review of oil bloc licences in the country.

PIB Scales First Huddle
PIB Scales First Huddle

To back up his claim, Enang read out a list of major oil blocs and their owners. Prominent among them were  Mai Deribe of Borno State who allegedly “makes an average of about N4bn monthly;” Theophilus Danjuma, retired general and former minister of defence; Sani Bello, retired colonel; Rilwanu Lukman, former minister of petroleum; Abubakar Atiku, former vice president; Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, late president and Ado Bayero, the Emir of Kano. Others are Aminu Dantata; Yinka Folawiyo; Emeka Ofor; Saleh Mohammed Gambo; Mike Adenuga, all businessmen.

Tam David-West, a professor of virology and former Petroleum Resources Minister, has blamed General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), former military president, for the lopsidedness in the award of oil blocs in favour of northerners. Speaking in an interview with a national newspaper, David-West, said that the ownership of 83 per cent of the blocs by northerners  was “unacceptable and politically explosive.”

He recalled that during his tenure as minister under the General Muhammadu Buhari government, no oil bloc was awarded without following due process. David-West said: “None of those oil blocks was awarded during General Buhari’s regime. All these terrible management of oil started during the tenure of Babangida when most of the strict rules were set aside. It is very unacceptable and politically explosive to have a situation where 83 per cent of the  oil blocs belong to people from a particular section of the country, especially when oil is the main stay of the country’s economy.” The professor said he was shocked that one of the oil blocs belongs to Lukman, a former minister of petroleum. “It is very unfortunate and terrible for an oil minister to own an oil block. It is corruption,” he said.

Indeed, the oil industry is reputed for corruption and working like a mafia setup. “I do not know what is happening in that industry and I have tried to (know) but it looks like a Mafia world where nobody is willing to tell you anything,” Mark said. However, he said the PIB “must ensure that the industry is opened up and there is transparency.”

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