•Accuses 4 S’south states of earning more than region
From ADETUTU FOLASADE-KOYI, Abuja
The battle-line was drawn between Northern Senators and the Senate leadership yesterday over consideration of the new Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). The North is angry that the new PIB will further impoverish the 19 northern states because the revenue accruable from the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) to four states in the South-South is presently more than what accrues to the entire region. Besides, the North is also unsettled that the Presidency may have strangulated the region of energy supply.
The war shifted to the Senate chambers as lawmakers dared their leadership when they outrightly rejected the commencement of debate on the new PIB when it was introduced by Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN). Daily Sun authoritatively gathered that the North has marshalled its opposition to the new law with the commissioning of its independent study on the PIB by consultants, who have written a comprehensive report condemning the proposed new legislation.
The report has urged the Northern Governors’ Forum (NGF) to scrutinize the PIB “very closely” and ensure that it does not scale through in the National Assembly. The North’s opposition is hinged on five factors which are skewed highly in favour of the South-South. They are: institutional arrangement; fiscal provisions, divestment of equity, gas supply to the North and the host community fund. In the commissioned study, a copy of which was obtained by Daily Sun, the region is vexed that, “on top of the 13 per cent statutory derivation from the Federation Account,” with the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) collecting another 3 per cent of oil operations and the “massive amount of federal funds being spent on the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme, the new PIB is adding 10 percent of the profit of all oil and gas companies to the Niger Delta states and communities.”
In the document under review, the region fingered the revenue accruable to four states, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers, as being more than the 19 states put together.One wonders what kind of federation we would end up with, if this situation is escalated by the new PIB.” Also, the North is angry that if the new PIB becomes operational, “it would not only affect assets of the whole federation, but would also seriously impact on the inflow of revenue into the Federation Account. In addition, northerners are worried that the proposed new legislation “could be drafted and forwarded to the National Assembly without the input of, or due consultations with the federating states.”
The North only stopped short of accusing the Jonathan administration of fiddling with the original draft of the PIB submitted in 2010 to the National Assembly by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua. On accruable royalty, the North expressed great concern that “leaving the question of the determination of royalties to the regulatory discretion of the Minister of Petroleum Resources is not only dangerous for the nation, but also an open invitation for phenomenal corruption in the future.” In the document, the North expressed dismay that divestment of equity and setting up a national oil company and national gas company is designed to exclude the region because “the communities and businesses in northern states are not very active players on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).
Offloading equity of these national assets on the stock market, the North said could “lock the people of the region out of ownership of these critical resources.” Back in the Senate yesterday, lawmakers rejected a motion for the commencement of general debate on the draft law which would have kicked off the crucial second reading. The legislators especially those from the North, refused to allow the Senate Leader to go ahead with take on the PIB, which would officially kickstart the debate. On four occasions, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu who presided over the session, strove to convince his colleagues to allow Senator Ndoma-Egba read just the lead debate and four times, Senators rejected the request. Shouts of No! No! No! rent the chamber. Ekweremadu hit the gavel continuously to restore order and also persuade his angry colleagues, but they did not budge. Ndoma-Egba reminded them of the importance of the bill and the fact that it had been listed for consideration on the day’s Order Paper.
He said that shelving debate on the bill will send a wrong signal to Nigerians who may see the Senate as not being committed to passing the bill, considered as vital for the much-needed reforms in the oil and gas sector. The Senate Leader had prayed his colleagues to allow him take the lead debate after which the Upper Chamber will adjourn and take full debate the next legislative day (which is today). His entreaties, however, did not succeed, as the lawmakers mounted pressure on him to stand down his motion after which further consideration of the bill was deferred till another legislative day instead of the next legislative day.
To further drive in Northern opposition to the PIB debate yesterday, Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Ahmad Lawan, interjected with a motion predicated on Order 56 (12) (d) of the Senate Standing Order. He said that the bill requires more than a day’s debate and would require “at least three to five days and in the mood of the nation, we should stand down this bill till another legislative day.” At this point, the Senate Leader got up and said: “ I’m minded and guided by the mood of the Senate. The circumstances under which this bill was introduced should not be lost on us.
We shouldn’t forget so soon…Let’s stand down this bill till another legislative day.” Deputy Minority Leader Sani Yerima seconded the motion which was deferred to another legislative day.