With ripples over Farouk Lawan’s alleged bribery scandal still in the air, Speaker, House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, yesterday warned that more members may still fall prey to the baits of oil magnates. To prevent that, he cautioned members of the House Committee on Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to stay away from moguls in the oil sector.
Not doing that, he warned, would put their reputation and integrity to question. Tambuwal gave the admonition during the inauguration of the PIB ad hoc committee headed by the Chief Whip, Mohammed Ishaka Bawa. The committee, constituted three months ago, is expected to hold public hearing on the desirability of the controversial bill.
The hearing would take place in all the zones in the country. Harping on the need for the committee members to flee from meetings and associations that would soil their hands, the Speaker stated that interested oil stakeholders would come after them. He drew the attention of the committee members to the interests and controversy PIB had generated and urged them to take cognizance of that.
Tambuwal said, “I should also caution that with the demanding nature of the task before you and high stake interest and expectations lies the glittering but slippery line of integrity test. When you encounter it do not take a second look, do not slow down, do not stop but rather flee because it is outside the scope of your mandate.”
He prayed: “May the Almighty God grant you the wisdom and strength to come out of this assignment with greater honour and integrity than you now possess.”
The Speaker who received applause for the warning contended that, “it will not be an overstatement to say that the biggest activity in the country’s oil sector now is the wait for the Petroleum Industry Act. It means then that you must do a good job.”
“From the tempo of public discuss, it should be obvious to all and sundry that there is high level of interest as well as expectations on the Petroleum Industry Bill from various interest groups both within the country as well as the international community. I therefore need not emphasise on the need for absolute circumspection, diligence, transparency and patriotism on the part of the committee.”
He reminded the committee that they would be failing in their assignment if they refused to capture the mind and wishes of Nigerians for the PIB. He counseled: “As you are already aware, your mandate is to facilitate the delivery to the people of Nigeria and indeed the global oil industry, a legislation that addresses most comprehensively, the hiccups that have encumbered Nigeria’s oil sector and constrained optimal operations and returns: issues of environmental degradation, general operational inefficiency, outright fraud as well as insecurity of investment and infrastructure.”
Referring to the sentiments that had attended the bill both within and outside the National Assembly, Tambuwal urged the committee to “do well to place at the back of your minds that you are working on a legislation not just for today but also for tomorrow and tomorrow’s tomorrow.
“Accordingly, therefore, it is important to reflect on the future position of oil in the global economy where the craving for alternative energy sources is on the rise with speedy advances in technology and beckoning possibilities. It is imperative that the law keeps pace.”
Earlier, Chairman of the committee, Bawa, pledged that his committee would be firm and forthright in the handling of the assignment. He explained that the decision to hold public hearing in all the zones was to afford the grassroots to speak their mind on the bill.
He disclosed that, “since the setting up of the committee, a lot of background work has taken place culminating in today’s inauguration. We have carefully drawn up a comprehensive work plan for the committee, which comprises members’ retreat scheduled to take place from the 18th to 20th of this month in Lagos. This will be followed by public hearings in the six geopolitical zones with the grand finale in Abuja on dates to be announced in due course.”
Bawa explained that “the essence of the zonal public hearings is to bring the process to the doorsteps of the people at the grassroots, especially the oil producing communities, whose views will be a critical factor in packaging the kind of Petroleum Industry Law that will address not only elitist concerns but also the other crucial issues concerning the environment as well as human development.
“The grand finale in Abuja will provide other stakeholders the opportunity to present their own perspectives on the bill. Other citizens and stakeholders not able to attend the public hearings can articulate their positions via memoranda to the committee.
“The committee’s final report and recommendations shall be reflective of the aggregate views of Nigerians and, of course, with due regards to global best practice. The House of Representatives has no fixed or hidden agenda on the PIB and accordingly this committee will be so guided in this assignment.”
The chief whip noted that, “in the final analysis, we would have struck a delicate but necessary balance between overriding national interests on the one hand and the need to make our oil industry attractive to foreign investments on the other. Stakeholders present at the inauguration include World Bank, British High Commission and European Union representatives, NNPC GMD, heads of the diplomatic corps, civil society organisations and agencies of government.