Opposition mounts as National Assembly transmits PIB to Buhari next week

The National Assembly may transmit the Petroleum Industry Bill, passed by both chambers of the National Assembly, to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), for assent next week.

A principal officer of the Senate, who spoke with one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity on Monday, confirmed that the Senate and the House of Representatives would harmonise their different positions on the bill latest by next Tuesday.

The senator said the conference committee of the two chambers, which would harmonise the two versions of the bill, would start sitting before the end of this week.

He said, “It is just that people love to play politics with everything. This is not the first time that the Senate and the House of Representatives would pass different versions of a bill.

“The usual conference committee will be constituted this week to harmonise the different versions and they are likely to submit their report early next week.

“We are going on our annual recess on July 15 and we will transmit the bill to the President before we go on vacation. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives’ leaderships have said so on a number of occasions.”

When contacted, the spokesman for the Senate, Dr Ajibola Basiru, said, “The National Assembly will carry out necessary legislative actions on the bill,” and declined further comments.

Meanwhile, a coalition of Rivers State oil and gas host communities has rejected the Petroleum Industry Bill recently passed by the National Assembly, saying it fails to address the aspirations of the communities.

The coalition said the PIB, which offers the host communities three per cent equity participation, was unacceptable and described it as a mischievous piece of legislation.

The host communities advocated that rather than the PIB to stand alone, it should be merged with the solid mineral Act to better tackle their plights as they were denied the right to their natural resources.

The Chairman of the coalition, Barituka Loanyie, said in a statement issued in Port Harcourt that the PIB rather than solve the problems in the oil and gas sector, would end up compounding them.

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The statement read in part, “Having critically studied the Petroleum Industry Bill, 2021 recently passed into law by the National Assembly, we, the Coalition of Rivers Oil and Gas Host Communities reject it for the reason that it fails to address the lingering issues of the oil and gas host communities.

“The bill, rather than solve germane issues in the oil and gas sector, ends up compounding them.

“We want to state without equivocation that the law is a mischievous piece of legislation and a far cry from the yearnings of oil and gas host communities, which only ends up providing a legal framework for corruption and portends a sinister ploy to continue with the unhealthy practice of denying host communities the right to their God-given resources.”

Loanyie added that the provisions of the PIB were surreptitiously making every community that had a pipeline underneath them oil and gas host community, stressing that the Solid Minerals Act, which governs the solid minerals sector, had better protection for the communities in extraction sites, hence would better serve the oil producing communities.

Similarly, the Ijaw nation has rejected the three and five per cent allocated to the host communities in the PIB.

It insisted that anything less than a minimum of 10 per cent, which the oil-bearing communities demanded during the public hearings on the PIB, would not be acceptable.

The President, Ijaw National Congress, Prof Benjamin Okaba, made the position of the Ijaw people known on Monday during a press conference in Yenagoa,  Bayelsa State.

Okaba described the proposed three and five per cent as a Greek gift, stressing that the slashing of host communities’ percentage was ridiculous.

He contended that the Ijaw nation deserved fair treatment as it had suffered long years of environmental pollution and injustice despite producing the wealth that had sustained the health of Nigeria.

He also posited that increasing the percentage for more petroleum reserves in the “frontier basin” to 30 per cent as well as redefining the meaning of host communities to include communities where oil pipelines pass through were disgusting and provocative.

Okaba stated, “We reject in its entirety the three per cent and five per cent provisions as compensation; the redefinition of host communities and other provisions, including the allocation of 30 per cent of our oil resources to grope in the dark in the name of exploitation, a paradox of extreme kind that is not in symphony with common sense, equity and good conscience.”

He therefore urged the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to refrain from appending his signature to the PIB until the National Assembly prescribed 10 per cent.

Similarly, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum has rejected the recently passed PIB, describing its provisions as unjust, satanic and provocative.

The National Leader of PANDEF, Chief Edwin Clark, said this at a media briefing in Abuja on Monday.

He said the bill as passed was part of a larger plot to continue the subjugation of the people of the Niger Delta by International Oil Companies and their northern collaborators.

Clark specifically noted that the provision of 30 per cent of profits for further frontier oil exploration in the North called to question claims by the current regime that it was working towards an economy away from oil.

Clark, who was represented at the press conference by PANDEF’s National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson, said the OICs would face a difficult operational environment if the bill was not revisited and the concerns of the people of the region properly addressed.

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