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Host Community Tranche Of PIB Scales Second Reading …Senate Adjourns To Sept 19

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A Bill for an Act to provide a framework relating to petroleum producing host community’s participation, cost and benefit sharing among government, petroleum exploration companies and petroleum host communities, has passed second reading at the Senate.
The bill, which passed second reading following an unanimous adoption by the lawmakers through a voice vote at plenary, yesterday, was sponsored by Sen. Kabiru Marafa (Zamfara-APC) and members of the Joint Committee on Petroleum Resources.
The bill, which is one of the tranches of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), scaled first reading on December 8, 2016.
Leading debate on the bill, Marafa said the bill was structured to bring direct funding for the development of host communities.
He said the bill recognised the pitfalls of past efforts and is structured to bring direct funding for the development of the petroleum host communities under the direction and control of the communities themselves.
According to him, when enacted into law the bill will create the much desired harmony and partnership among various stakeholders in the petroleum operation process.
He added that it would engender huge cost savings, extensive investment and overall transformations of the Nigeria oil and gas industry.
The lawmaker further said that the passage of the bill would help in curbing restiveness, by assuaging the fears of petroleum host communities and providing a veritable regime of compensation directly to the communities.
He noted that it would enable the host communities develop their local infrastructure, educate their people, access health care and earn a livelihood.
He added that the development would enable them cope with the devastated environment foisted on them by the poorly managed petroleum producing activities of the oil companies.
Marafa pointed out that the bill sought to establish a pool of funding for development of petroleum host communities and specifies the sources of this funding.
He maintained that the pool would be funded through a direct contribution from petroleum producing companies.
The senator also said that the bill defined petroleum host communities that would be beneficiaries of the fund.
According to him, the bill also provides reciprocal responsibilities on the part of communities by creating grounds for deductions for repair of any damaged oil facilities resulting from sabotage.
“The bill also sets out the requirements for account and audit of fund paid to petroleum host communities,
“Agitation for participation for host community in petroleum business and the conferment of financial and other benefits of the industry on such communities is as old as the petroleum industry in Nigeria.
“In fact this has been a critical issue of deliberation at several national forums and even here in the National Assembly.
“Over the years government has attempted to address this issue by providing forms of palliatives to the host communities but this has always fallen short of the expectations of the people in the manner in which it was conceived.
“This bill is presented in line with the perspective of this 8th Senate to split the PIB into smaller partitions to allow for easier consideration and where necessary further amendments,’’ he said.
He said the financial implications of the bill would result from the registration of Petroleum Host Communities Associations and National Committee on Petroleum Host Communities.
He said cost of registration of Petroleum Host Communities Associations would be borne by relevant communities.
He added that the running cost of National Committee on Petroleum Host Communities would be deducted from funds payable to petroleum host communities by petroleum producing companies.
“No funds are needed to be appropriated by the National Assembly for funding Host Communities Associations and National Committee on Petroleum Host Communities.’’
The lawmaker noted that the bill would provide the requisite succour to host communities that had borne the brunt of oil production activities, ensure peaceful co-existence and substantial investment to the Nigerian oil and gas industry.
Contributing, Sen. James Manager (PDP-Delta), said the 8th Senate had made history for the level of achievement with regard to the ensuring the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill that had lingered for long.
He commended the sponsor of the bill for an extensive job that would be of benefit to all stakeholders in the industry, particularly the host communities.
According to him, “when passed into law, petroleum host communities will heave a sigh of relief.’’
The President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, referred the bill to the Joint Committee on Upstream, Downstream and Gas for further legislative action after putting it to a voice vote.
The joint committee was mandated to report back in four weeks.
Similarly, the Senate, yesterday, passed the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency (NSIA) Bill as a central body in Nigeria responsible for receiving, requesting, analysing and disseminating financial intelligence reports and other information to law enforcement agencies.
This followed the consideration of the report of the Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes presented to the Senate by its chairman, Sen. Chukwuka Utazi during plenary.
The Bill, which was only read for the first time, penultimate Thursday, passed second reading last Tuesday and was approved by the upper legislative chamber on Thursday, exactly one week after.
With the passage of the Bill, the risk of Nigeria being expelled from the Egmont Group has been reduced by half as the bill is just waiting for presidential assent to become law.
The Egmont Group is a network of national financial intelligence units and the highest inter-governmental association of intelligence agencies in the world, with 154 member countries including Britain and the U.S.
Nigeria is currently serving a suspension from the group arising from the non-establishment of the NFIA as a unit standing autonomously.
The group accused the Acting Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu of interfering with the affairs of the unit and sharing information that should be confidential to the unit with others including the media.
The group had also threatened to expel Nigeria permanently by January 2018 if the Nigerian government failed to grant the unit the autonomy it required to be a member of the EGMONT group.
It is in a bid to save Nigeria from being expelled that the Senate gave accelerated passage to the Bill without conducting a Public Hearing.
It would be recalled that the NFIA, if given the Presidential assent, would act as the central body in Nigeria responsible for requesting, receiving, analysing and disseminating financial information to law enforcement agencies.
Speaking further on the Bill, Sen. Chukwuka Utazi, said the proposal sought to make the unit, which is currently domiciled under the EFCC an autonomous and independent body.
He said that the unit was the backbone of the EFCC but had to be made autonomous as pre-requisite of being a full member of the Egmont Group.
Under the passed Bill, the NFIA would now be domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and also report to the National Assembly.
The unit, which represents Nigeria at the global body, is charged with tackling money laundering and monitoring financial flows, a task made easy by its membership of the EGMONT Group.
In his remarks, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the plenary, thanked all the senators for ensuring they expedited the process leading to the passage of “this very important bill.
“We believe that this is a major contribution in the fight against corruption in Nigeria and believe the international community will take us more seriously for taking the step today.
“I hope that Egmont Group will also take the decision to lift the suspension on Nigeria because of this step we have taken today.
“The fact of relocating the agency under the CBN will give other agencies sufficient access to the job of this agency in such a way that there will be no control of the NFIU that will not lead Nigeria to another round of suspension.”
He said that the Senate had taken the right step especially when it considered that they had was in consonant with what was done in other countries of the world where they had similar agencies.
Meanwhile, the Senate adjourned sitting to September 19 after deliberations on the two bills.
However, as the 8th Senate winds its second session, the upper chamber has approved amendments of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), to clear certain ambiguities in the extant law.
The Senate also condemned, “non-transparent process” being adopted by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in concessioning of the Port Harcourt Refinery to ENI/AGIP and OANDO.
The lawmakers, therefore, resolved that every the process of the deal henceforth be stopped while advertisement and open bidding for transparency should be adopted for every maintenance of the refinery.
In the new amendment to the NDDC Act, “an indigene of an oil producing area” to  be appointed into the NDDC Governing Board has been clarified to read “an indigene of an oil producing local government area”.
Three PIB related bills, Bill for an Act to Establish a Fiscal Framework, A Bill for an Act to provide for Administrative Framework for the Petroleum Industry and the Host Community Bill passed second reading in the Senate chambers.
The host communities’ bill, provides for Petroleum Host Community Associations (PHCA) “to be funded through a direct contribution from petroleum producing companies”.
The Bill also provides for National Committee on Petroleum Host (NCPHC) Communities designed solely to be “a small advisory body which provides support to the Petroleum Host Community Associations when required”.
According to the provisions of the bill, the cost of Registration of the PHCA will be borne by relevant communities, while the running cost of the NCPHC will be deducted from the funds payable to the communities.
The bills would be subjected to Public Hearings before final passage by the National Assembly when Senate resumes plenary Sitting (after annual recess) on September 19, 2017.

Nneka Amaechi-Nnadi, Abuja

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Nigeria, US Sign Pact To Reduce Illicit Trafficking Of Ancient Arts

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The Federal Government and the United States, yesterday, signed the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) Agreement.
According to the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, the CPIA would reduce the pillage of Nigeria’s ancient arts which are mostly smuggled to Europe, the US and other places for the benefit of art collectors.
Mohammed said the signing of the MoU became necessary because, despite all efforts by the Ministry of Information and Culture and the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, with the assistance of law enforcement agencies, to prevent illicit export of the nation’s archaeological and ethnological materials, widespread looting and illicit excavation of these materials still continue.
He said this when he signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the CPIA with the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, in the presence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, in Abuja.
Special Assistant to the President on Media, Office of the Minister of Information and Culture, Segun Adeyemi, disclosed this in a statement titled, ‘Nigeria, US Sign Pact To Reduce Illicit Trafficking of Ancient Arts.’
Mohammed was quoted as saying, “This legislation was enacted by the United States to restrict the importation into the US of archaeological materials ranging in date from 1500 B.C. to A.D. 1770 as well as ethnological materials, including those associated with royal activity, religious activity, etc from nations that have entered into the kind of bilateral initiative that we are signing here with the United States today.”
The minister said on the basis of the agreement, Nigerian antiquities being imported into the US without the requisite export permit will be seized at the border of the US and returned to Nigeria without the arduous and costly task of going through the labyrinth of judicial and diplomatic processes.
“We are optimistic that this agreement will reduce the pillage of our irreplaceable archaeological and ethnological materials, as the market for these materials is being shut in the United States against illicit traffickers.
“The agreement will last for an initial period of five years. If it works well, as we anticipate it will, it shall be renewed for a longer term. We implore other friendly nations to take a cue from the United States of America and join us in finding means to prevent the illegal importation of our antiquities into their countries,” he said.
The minister, who thanked the US Government, in particular the US Embassy in Nigeria, for making the MoU possible, said the Nigerian Government looks forward to a diligent implementation of the landmark agreement, so it can become a game-changer in the nation’s efforts to prevent the looting of its priceless ancient works of art.
In her remarks, the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Beth Leonard, said the agreement was aimed at preserving, restoring and protecting Nigeria’s cultural heritage.
“In Nigeria, over the past decade, the US Mission has partnered with the Nigerian government and state institutions to preserve cultural landmarks and sites through projects worth over one million dollars and funded by the US Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation.
“Just last November, I signed a grant award to digitally survey the Busanyin Shrine located within the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove. That $125,000 grant will help document a series of shrines within the Grove and provide training to local professionals in digital tools and cultural heritage management,” she said.
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Three Out Of 10 Nigerians Are Mentally Sick -Reps

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The House of Representatives has said that three out of every 10 Nigerians have one form of mental illness or another.
Quoting the World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics, the House added that over 20,000,000 Nigerians were currently suffering from various degrees of mental illness or disorder without psychiatric health care.
To this end, the House mandated its Committees on Health Institutions and Healthcare Services to liaise with the Federal Ministry of Health towards improving mental health facilities around the country and further carry out serious sensitization of Nigerians on this issue.
It also asked the Committee on Health Institution to explore the modalities of liaising with stakeholders in the health sector to promote, educate and sensitise Nigerians on mental health.
The resolution, however, followed a motion titled “Need to Address the Rising Cases of Mental Health in Nigeria” presented by Hon. Uchechuku Nnam-Obi from Rivers State and considered by the House at yesterday’s plenary.
Presenting his motion, Nnam-Obi noted that the World Health Organisation (WHO) considers mental health as a state of well-being in which the individual can cope with the stress of life, work productively and contribute to the community.
According to him, mental illness manifests in mood disorder, anxiety disorder, trauma-related disorder, personality disorder, old age-related disorder, substance abuse disorder or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning.
He said: “According to the World Health Organisation statistics, over twenty million Nigerians are currently suffering from various degrees of mental illness or disorder without psychiatric health care.
“Three out of 10 Nigerians have one form of mental illness or the other, presently there is no mental health legislation in Nigeria. However, the Nigerian mental health policy is the only framework that has access to mental healthcare, dealing with mental and neurological disorders in Nigeria, discouraging stigmatisation against persons with mental disorders and has institutionalised standards for Psychiatric practice.
“The increase in cases of depression is traceable to multifactorial inter and intrapersonal issues which leads to suicidal death in the country and this requires urgent attention.
“Nigeria has only 130 Psychiatrists with over 20million citizens suffering from mental disorders.
“With the few functional Mental Health Facilities and inadequate mental health practitioners in the country, mental health cases are left for traditional practitioners, hence the upsurge in mental health in Nigeria.
“The statistics are troubling and the continued lack of a legal framework on mental health in the country will simply cause the situation to degenerate”
Adopting the motion, the House gave six weeks to the committees within which to carry out the assignment and report back to it for further legislative action.

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Wike, PDP Govs Commiserate With Tambuwal Over Brother’s Death

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Representatives of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governors’ Forum, yesterday, paid a condolence visit to the Sokoto State Governor, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal over the death of his elder brother, Alhaji Muhammed Bello.
Bello, who is also the Waziri of Tambuwal, passed on in Sokoto, last Tuesday night at the age 87.
He was the head of the Tambuwal family.
On the PDP governors’ delegation were, Governors Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State; Nyesom Wike (Rivers); Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu); Oluseyi Makinde (Oyo); and Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa State.
The Vice Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, who led the delegation, said they were in Sokoto to commiserate with Tambuwal and his entire family over the sudden death of his elder brother.
“We feel your pain, and we understand that a great vacuum has been created, not only within the caliphate, but across Nigeria and other places where Daddy had sphere of influence. We believe that God Almighty will grant you the fortitude to bear this great loss.
“We are, however, consoled by the fact that Daddy left legacies that will remain indelible; one of them is your very good self and your impact and contributions to our dear country.”
The governors urged the Tambuwal family, particularly the Sokoto State governor, to remain strong, steadfast and uphold those virtues which the late Waziri of Tambuwal, cherished so much.
In his response, Sokoto StateGovernor, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, who is the PDP Governors’ Forum chairman, said the entire Tambuwal family was gladdened by the condolence visit.
According to him, his late elder brother, who lived his life in the service of community, held the family title, Waziri of Tambuwal for 37 years after the demise of their father.
“We are, indeed, very highly consoled not only by your presence, but your words of consolation. For you to have left behind whatever you are doing in your respective states to come all the way to Sokoto this afternoon, shows clearly how you sympathise with us and how close you are to us. I assure you that we appreciate this.”

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