The House of Representatives has said it will pass a more holistic Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) that will encompass the interest of host communities and fiscal regulation of the oil and gas industry.
Chairman of the House Committee, Petroleum Upstream, Hon. Victor Nwokolo (Delta-PDP), said this thursday while speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a workshop organised by the committee for House members on the bill.
Should the House pass its version of the PIB, it will be a major departure from the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) passed by the Senate last week, which was limited to the proposed governance structures for government institutions in the oil and gas sector, including the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Before the passage of the PIGB, the Senate had argued that it would be easier to get the legislation passed on the omnibus PIB if it was balkanised.
Accordingly, the upper chamber in the legislature left out critical issues governing licence awards and renewals, the fiscal regime for oil and gas operators, gas supply obligations, a commission for E&P activities in the Lake Chad basin and Benue trough, and the host community fund, among others, as proposed in successive versions of the bill by past administrations.
However, Nwokolo said the lower chamber of the National Assembly would begin consideration of the bill in a few days and it would be given accelerated hearing.
He confirmed that the bill recently passed by the Senate was only one-third of the entirety of the document before the National Assembly.
According to the lawmaker, the committee decided to organise the workshop to bring the lawmakers up-to-date on what the House has done in respect of the PIB in the past.
He said: “The bill has gone through its first reading and by next week, it will go through the second reading and will be given the accelerated attention that it requires.
“It is true, like you said, it has been passed in the Senate, but what the Senate has done, they have only taken a fraction of it, only one-third of it – what is referred to as the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) is what they have passed.
“But, in the case of the House of Representatives, we are taking it holistically.
“Like you read in the newspapers, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) and Ijaw National Congress (INC) have stated that they do not agree with what the Senate has done, because the issue of host communities has not been addressed.
“If you are also following the proceedings in the House of Representatives, you will agree with me that we are taking it holistically, because we have dealt with the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB).
“We have also gone through the fiscal and the host community bill, so we are taking it holistically, so that no section of it will be left out.”
Nwokolo explained that the House resolved to treat the bill holistically in consideration of what had happened and what obtains in other parts of the world where petroleum is a natural resource.
He listed Alaska, Mexico and Venezuela as jurisdictions that the House used as case studies, where host communities were all stakeholders.
He said: “Coming home here, look at the case of the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Company. Have you ever heard that NLNG is being shutdown for a day?
“The basic reason is because they have taken care of the host community; this is what we want to address.
“The essence of this workshop is to broaden members’ knowledge for them to go home to begin to think; this contentious issue of the host community fund, is it going to be restricted to oil-producing communities, because when you are talking about mineral resources today, it is not only petroleum that we are talking about.
“By the grace of God, the government is trying to drive mining towards other mineral resources like coal that you find in Plateau, Kogi and other areas.
“So, when you talk about host communities, it is going to be applicable to all parts of the country so that it will not be seen as empowering only the Niger Delta region or oil producing communities.”
The lawmaker called on the media to provide the right information on the host community fund to Nigerians.
“We thank God that you journalists are here in your numbers; you will help us to pass the information to Nigerians, because they have a different view when you are talking about host communities.
“So what we are doing here today is to refresh members so that by the time we start discussing the bill, it will move faster than we expect.
“This is because it has been three or four weeks since it went through the first reading,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Senate thursday confirmed 15 of the Resident Electoral Commissioner-nominees of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), out of the 27 nominations submitted to the chamber by the presidency.
It however deferred the confirmation of the nominees from Lagos and Katsina States, Mr. Rufus Akeju and Asmau Sani Maikudi, and 10 others.
The confirmation of the 15 followed the adoption of the report of the Senate Committee on INEC.
The committee, however, noted that all remaining 12 nominees were still undergoing the screening processes and may be cleared if all issues surrounding their nominations were sorted out.
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, last February, had forwarded the names and details of the 27 nominees for confirmation by the Senate, in line with Section 14(3)(a) of the Third Schedule of the Constitution.
The commencement for consideration of their nominations however suffered a setback, when the Senate suspended the process for a period of two weeks.
The suspension was to protest the inaction of President Muhammadu Buhari on the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, despite his rejection as the substantive chairman of the commission by the Senate.
However, the Committee on INEC finally commenced screening of the nominees on May 10.
Presenting the report of the screening exercise thursday, the chairman, Senator Suleiman Nazif said all the 27 nominees had been cleared in the security reports on them.
He added that the report for the screening of the remaining 12 nominees would soon be presented to the Senate for adoption.
“The REC nominees fulfilled all the necessary pre-requisites needed for their confirmation. The confirmed 15 fall within Batch ‘A’. The remaining 12 REC nominees fall in Batch ‘B’,” he said.
The nominees who were confirmed yesterday are Prof. Godswill Obioma (Abia), Mr. James Apam (Benue) Dr. Nwachukwu Orji (Ebonyi), Dr. Iloh Joseph Valentine Chuks (Enugu), Dr Nentawe Goshwe Yilwatda (Plateau) and Mr. Umar Ibrahim (Taraba).
Others are Mr. Emeka Ononamadu Joseph (Imo), Mr. Obo Effanga (Cross River), Prof. Francis Chukwuemeka Ezeonu (Anambra), Dr. Briyai Frankland (Bayelsa), Mr. Ibrahim Abdullahi (Adamawa), and Mr. Agboke Mutiu Olaleke (Ogun).
Mr. Hussaini Halilu Pai (FCT), Alhaji Ahmad Makama (Bauchi) and Sadiq Abubakar Musa (Kaduna) were up for reappointment and were confirmed by the Senate.
The nominees yet to be cleared for confirmation are Mike Igini (Delta), Jibrin Ibrahim Zarewa (Kano), Asmau Sani Maikudi (Katsina), Mahmuda Isah (Kebbi), Samuel Egwu (Kogi), Rufus Akeju (Lagos), Mustapha Zubairu (Niger), Sam Olugbadebo Olumekun (Ondo), Abdul Ganiyu Olayinka Taju (Oyo), Riskuwa Shehu (Sokoto), Kasim Gana Geidam (Yobe) and Ahmad Bello Mahmud (Zamfara).
Presiding, Senate President Bukola Saraki congratulated the cleared nominees and charged them to be patriotic in the discharge of their duties.