The North is plotting fresh obstacles against the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) even as the Senate President David Mark is set to inaugurate four standing committees for the new oil law today.
The region is asking for an amendment of certain sections in the new PIB failing which it would deploy its numerical strength in both chambers of the National Assembly against the bill at the clause-by-clause stage of the Third Reading.
The Senate and the House of Representatives have taken the Second Reading and are now set to conduct separate public hearings on the PIB.
After three plenary days of debate on a bill for an Act to provide for establishment of a legal, fiscal and regulatory framework for the petroleum industry in Nigeria and for other related matters, Senate resolved that its Committees on Petroleum Resources (Upstream and Downstream), Gas, Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters would fine-tune the document submitted to it by President Goodluck Jonathan last July.
Besides fine-tuning the bill, the joint committee will also conduct a public hearing on the new oil law. One of the new set of demands from the North is unbundling of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and that the proposed National Oil Company (NOC) must be listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).
Listing the NOC on the nation’s stock exchange, the region argued, would make it a public company open to Nigerians unlike what presently obtains with the NNPC. The North also wants the National Assembly to specifically amend section 118 of the PIB which makes provision 10 per cent of net profit of oil companies for the Petroleum Host Communities (PHC) Fund “by reducing it to just three per cent.”
Section 118 (a), (b) (c) explains PHC Fund as “profit derived from upstream petroleum operations in onshore areas and in offshore and shallow water areas, all of such remittances shall be made directly into the PHC Fund and (b) for profit derived from upstream petroleum operations in deep eater areas, all of the remittance directly into the fund for the benefit of the petroleum-producing littoral states and (c) for the purpose of this section ‘net profit’ means adjusted profit less royalty, allowable deductions and allowances, less Nigerian Hydrocarbon Tax less Companies Income Tax.” Some federal lawmakers from the North told Daily Sun that several probes initiated by the National Assembly “to ascertain the daily revenue accruable to the Federal Government from the sale of crude oil have always failed.
“The only constant from officials of the NNPC is that a daily allocation of 446,000 barrels of oil is available for local consumption. When you ask them how many barrels are refined locally and how many are sold and how many are used for crude oil swap with foreign partners, you will never get a straight answer.
“If we allow the PIB to pass in its present form as submitted to us by the executive, it means the old order will subsist. That, we will never allow. Imagine a situation where the Department of Petroleum Resources does not even have the equipment to measure how much oil is being drilled, yet, they now want us to approve its transformation as Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Agency.”
The subsisting order where it is only the President and the Minister of Petroleum Resources who know the true state of NNPC activities with the Joint Venture (JV) partners will no longer be condoned, it was also gathered at the weekend. In addition to that, lawmakers also insist on amending sections 6 (g), (h) and (i) of the new oil law.
Section 6 (g) empowers the minister to “upon the advice of the Inspectorate, grant, amend, renew, extend, or revoke upstream petroleum licences and leases” while (h) further explains that “upon the advice of the agency, grant, renew, extend or revoke downstream petroleum licences for gas transportation pipeline, gas distribution networks, refineries, LNG and GTL plants, petrochemical plants and gas exports.”
Also, section 6 (i) stipulates that the minister would “advise the president on the appointments of the chief executives of the Upstream Petroleum Inspectorate, Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Agency, the National Oil Company, the Asset Management Corporation and any other government agency or corporate entity established or to be established pursuant to this Act…”
Lawmakers would have none of that and agree, across the political divide, that the Senate must reserve that right, as granted it by the 1999 Constitution, to screen and confirm presidential nominees for any government appointment.
“In this new PIB, the President may nominate but the Senate must retain the constitutional right to screen and confirm any appointment made in the company. If we are sincere about reforms in the oil sector, then, the way things are done must change and be seen to be transparent.”
Should the four committees fail to address these issues, the region is perfecting plans to stop the passage of the bill at the clause-by-clause stage when the report is considered on the floor. “If our observations are not reflected in the report, we will wait for them during the clause by clause consideration of the Third Reading. We have the numerical strength to force our way through,” said a ranking member of the NSF who declined to be named.
Fresh facts also emerged at the weekend that the North is not comfortable with the fact that the two standing committees on Petroleum Resources (Upstream and Downstream) are held by the South south. Senator Paulker Emmanuel chairs the Upstream Committee while Senator Magnus Abe leads the Downstream Committee. In addition, they are equally angry that a southerner also chairs the Gas Committee, led by Senator Nkechi Nwaogu.
“With the equation stacked against us, that was why we insisted that a northerner, chairman of the Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Umaru Dahiru, must also be involved in the consideration of the PIB.” Dahiru is the chairman of the Northern Senators’ Forum (NSF).
Members demanded he stepped down from the office in a tense meeting which held in Senate Hearing 1 last Tuesday. Dahiru, however, refused to resign which led a splinter group within the NSF to convene another meeting, this time, comprising only ranking members with a view to moving a motion for the disbandment of the entire NSF’s executive council.