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Editorial

Pass PIB, Now

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On September 30, the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) scaled first reading in the Ninth Senate.
The bill is expected to return to the floor of the Senate next Tuesday for second reading and formal debate. And the first reading comes barely 48 hours after it was re-transmitted to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari in a letter read by the Senate President, at the resumption of plenary on September 29.
But this is not the first time that the PIB has gone through extensive legislative interrogation in the National Assembly.
Indeed, almost 20 years after it was first introduced on the floor of the National Assembly, the PIB has passed through several alterations and debates without success, leading to it being split into different pieces of legislation, and passage of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), for the first time in May, 2017, and its concurrence by the House of Representatives, later that year.
Unfortunately, Buhari withheld assent on the PIGB in July, 2018. By a presidential communication of July 29, 2018, addressed to the Senate and House of Representatives, the President referred to constitutional and legal reasons why he declined assent.
The Tide recalls that the PIGB was articulated to establish a framework for the creation of commercially-oriented and profit-driven petroleum entities that ensure value addition and internalisation of the petroleum industry while promoting transparency and accountability in the administration of petroleum resources as well as fostering conducive business environment for industry operations.
The PIGB was the first tranche of the PIB, which includes the Upstream Petroleum Licence and Lease Administration, Downstream Oil and Gas Administration, and Petroleum Industry Fiscals, and Petroleum Revenue Management, including Petroleum Host Community Fund.
However, on November 4, 2019, Buhari signed the amended Deep Offshore Act 2019, being part of the PIB that incorporates the Production Sharing Contracts, designed to ensure Nigeria gets fair and equitable share of income from natural resources for the first time since 2003.
With the reintroduction of the PIB, which comprises the Petroleum Industry Fiscal Bill (PIFB), Petroleum Industry Administration Bill (PIAB), Petroleum Host and Impacted Communities Development Bill (PHICDB), and renewed optimism in the National Assembly on its passage, The Tide feels particularly glad that the push to perfect the deregulation of all streams in the oil and gas sector is gathering momentum.
This feeling is even more satisfying when we reckon that the new bill has, in addition to the upstream and downstream portfolios in the earlier one, the recognition that the midstream (pipeline) sector holds the key to accelerating the diversification and competitiveness of the industry for increased benefits for the nation’s economy. We charge the NASS to pass the urgent legislation simultaneously.
While The Tide agrees that the oil and gas companies must play pivotal roles in the development of host communities where they make fortunes for shareholders, it is surprising that the Buhari administration has surreptitiously reduced the statutory contributions of the oil and gas firms from the initial 10 per cent in the bill presented to the Eighth NASS to 2.5 per cent in the current bill, thereby denying the region huge chunk of money that would have helped transform communities and empower millions of people.
Even as we note the statutory three per cent contribution from the annual budgets of oil and gas companies to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the 13 per cent derivation paid to the nine oil-producing states from the federation accounts, we insist that the cumulative allocation of about 26 per cent from oil revenue for the development of the difficult region is not too much.
We, therefore, urge NASS members from the region to lobby for increase in the contributable funds to 10 per cent to promote peace, development and progress in the host communities.
Interestingly, the quick passage of the PIB will not only accelerate development through the infusion of more funds into host communities, boosting youth employment and peace in the region, but will serve as a comprehensive instrument for the diversification of the oil and gas sector and the country’s economy.
Indeed, the PIB, when passed and assented to, will bring about more inclusive development away from crude oil to other product lines and by-products, just as it ensures robust engagement between international oil companies (IOCs) and the government in the area of investment and modifications in the Joint Venture Partnerships (JVPs)/cash call obligations.
Besides, the PIB will engender activation and extension of indigenous participation and local content development, just and fair engagement of the oil producing communities and transparency/accountability in an industry that would be more efficient and effective with clear and separate roles for governance and regulatory institutions in the petroleum industry.
It is not in doubt that the delay in the passage of the PIB has been holding down lots of Final Investment Decisions (FIDs) and critical investments in the oil and gas sector. The Tide, therefore, urges the NASS members to fast-track the passage of the PIB to send the signal to the world that Nigeria is serious about an oil sector reform that provides a win-win landscape for all players in the industry. Time is of the essence. There is no better time than now, especially as oil is being found everywhere around the globe.
Of course, with oil production capacity declining by between 10 per cent and 15 per cent annually, and Nigeria struggling to maintain two million barrels per day production quota, it is imperative to speed up the passage of the PIB so that investors can begin to splash the desperately needed $10 billion capital expenditure (CAPEX) annually in the country. This will also help attract the required $20 billion to $30 billion CAPEX yearly to grow Nigeria’s target daily production of three million barrels per day, going forward.
The timely conclusion of this reform process would guarantee legislative certainty and clarity, which the industry needs now more than ever before.
No nation yearning for development will allow various unfavourable fiscal and regulatory frameworks to impede the take-off of an estimated $100 billion worth of projects awaiting FDIs in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector.
We insist that the opportunity cost of this unwarranted delay in terms of industry growth, infrastructure and value addition to the economy and job creation is too high, for the country to continue to toy with the passage of the bill.
We believe that this time around, the Ninth National Assembly will break the jinx and holistically pass the PIB. The lawmakers must know that struggling to pass a bill for 20 years is a shame and a betrayal of the trust their constituents have bestowed on them as representatives.

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Editorial

Withdraw Onochie’s Nomination Now

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In what appears to be a deliberate assault on the sensibility of Nigerians, President
Muhammadu Buhari recently nominated a card-carrying member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Ms Lauretta Onochie, into the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as a National Commissioner.
Coming at a time when the torrents of protests against the notorious anti-robbery unit of the Nigerian Police Force known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) have reached a feverish pitch, the appointment of Onochie is, to say the least, very insensitive and ill-advised.
No fewer than 70 civil society organisations (CSO), some opposition parties, Senior Advocates of Nigeria and other interest groups have vehemently criticised the appointment.
It is unimaginable and paradoxical too, that the President who, not too long ago, enjoyed the goodwill of the Nigerian populace over the conduct of the Edo State governorship election and the dismantling of the vicious, infamous anti-robbery squad would make a turnabout to commit such a political heresy.
Recall that President Buhari was commended for his non-partisanship in the Edo State governorship election held on September 19. He was also recently hailed for dismantling the notorious arm of the Nigerian Police that was terrorising Nigerians.
His recent appointment of Onochie, a well-known member of APC in Delta State into INEC has, however, eroded this goodwill going by the avalanche of criticisms that is currently trailing this infamous action.
Like many other Nigerians, The Tide considers Onochie’s nomination as an assault on the Nigerian Constitution and in particular, a gross violation of Item F, Paragraph 14 of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which forbids a card carrying member of a political party to be a member of INEC.
By this constitutional provision, the appointment of Onochie is an insult to the institution of INEC and a direct affront on the patience and emotions of Nigerians who have tolerated the excesses of the Buhari government in the last five years.
Besides being a card carrying member of Buhari’s political party, Onochie is the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Social Media. Her nomination into such a sensitive position will surely compromise the neutrality of the electoral body.  As a political officeholder and an ally of a political party, Onochie should ordinarily not be allowed to hold any office in INEC.
We say this because the position of INEC commissioner requires some elements of maturity, neutrality and non-partisanship. Onochie doesn’t have these credentials to serve as an impartial arbiter in INEC.
Like the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, recently noted, the appointment of Onochie is a recipe for election rigging ahead of the 2023 elections. Her appointment will not only constitute an impediment to the independence and sanctity of the electoral umpire, it will also erode the recent gains recorded by INEC and undermine the entire democratic process.
At a time when Nigerians’ confidence in INEC and the nation’s electoral system is beginning to shore up, it will be suicidal to erode the people’s trust on the platter of vested interest. In other words, Onochie’s appointment does not sit well with the Nigerian Constitution and the recent gains of the nation’s electoral system and should, therefore, be withdrawn forthwith.
This appointment is least expected from a President who has always professed his support for the independence of INEC. As a President who is serving his second and final tenure in office, it would have been more honourable and dignified for Buhari to bequeath to the country a viable, non-corrupt and truly independent electoral body.
We insist that the mood of the nation at this period of #EndSARS protests does not call for such erratic nomination by the President. This period calls for sober reflection and a lot of proper reasoning on the part of our leaders. Anything short of this will be very insensitive to the feelings of the generality of Nigerians and may further challenge the already angry populace to action.
Again, we urge President Buhari to withdraw, without delay, Onochie’s nomination that is currently before the Senate. If, however, the President finds Onochie’s services too indispensable to him, he may find another job for his beloved aide. But her service is surely not needed in INEC.
However, if the President refuses to yield to popular demand, the members of the Senate, irrespective of their political leanings, should rise up to the occasion to reject Onochie’s nomination and save the nation the ugly backlash of this thoughtless appointment.

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Editorial

That FG’s Package For Teachers

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Smarting from this year’s World Teachers Day celebration, a day dedicated to celebrating
teachers for their contributions to the development of society, Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, recently announced a special package for the country’s beleaguered teachers.
In announcing the package, Buhari approved a special salary scale for basic and secondary school teachers, including provisions for rural posting allowance, science teachers allowance and peculiar allowances.
The package includes a special teacher pension scheme to enable the teaching profession retain its experienced talents, extension of teachers service years from 35 to 40, automatic employment for graduates of education, reintroduction of bursary award to students in universities and colleges of education, building of low-cost houses for teachers in rural areas, and sponsorship of teachers to, at least, one refresher training per annum.
In addition, the annual presidential teachers and schools awards have been expanded to cover more categories with outstanding winners to be considered for national awards and National Productivity Order of Merit (NPM) awards.
More still, prompt payment of salaries and other emoluments including consideration for first-line charge in annual budgets, timely promotion of teachers to eliminate stagnation, provision of loan facilities, free tuition and automatic admission for biological children of teachers in their respective schools.
For a profession that has been so denigrated to the point that a teacher’s reward is derisively said to be in heaven, these obviously fundamental and far-reaching incentives would, no doubt, motivate teachers, restore their lost glory, and galvanise teachers into repositioning primary and secondary education to the ultimate and maximum benefit of pupils, students and the society at large.
Like Buhari stated, the implementation of the new policies will certainly attract the best brains into the teaching profession and encourage teachers in delivering better services that would produce quality students who would, in turn, contribute to national development. What this means is that the education system will now produce the much-needed skills and manpower that would set the country on the path of industrialisation.
There is no gainsaying the fact that teachers deserve even more than what the Federal Government has rolled out for them, considering their pivotal role in moulding our children who are the leaders of tomorrow.
It is common knowledge that teachers exert a lot of influence on their students because learners spend more time in school than at home except during holiday period and the prevailing unusual situation that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has foisted on everyone.
Apart from waking up very early after lateness to bed daily for the sake of other people’s children, teachers even play the role of nannies – in the case of kindergartens and crèche – and ensures that students imbibe lessons taught, and are generally happy.
The rampaging Covid-19 pandemic which has left in its trail a deleterious impact on virtually all facets of human life has not been kind to teachers.
The hardest hit are private school teachers who remained unsalaried for about six months that schools were closed. Many lost their jobs just as some private school proprietors opted out of the sector, with some converting their classrooms to accommodation for people to rent. Some school owners even sold their properties off.
For that, The Tide believes that teachers in the country deserve every encouragement now for their resilience and for coping with new developments in the education sector brought about by the outbreak of COVID-19.
Thus, the Federal Government’s reprieve for teachers, albeit long overdue, could not have come at a more auspicious time.
Good and commendable as the Federal Government’s package to teachers appear to be, not a few Nigerians, including the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, think that government was hasty about it.
They argue that the Federal Government should have consulted widely before arriving at the implementation of the policies, given the lean purse of states already worsened by their dwindling revenues arising from the fatal impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
They further argue, just as Wike had persistently maintained, that unless the present revenue sharing formula is tremendously improved upon in such a manner that states are given enough respite, the new policies would be difficult to implement in the states considering the huge financial outlay involved. The Tide agrees no less.
While the new package is expected to enthrone a culture of competence, commitment, discipline, increased learning, and better service delivery in the nation’s education sector howsoever, it behoves the Federal Government to speedily address the present system of inequitable fiscal federalism to avoid unnecessary hiccups in its implementation in the states.

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Editorial

Still On Constitution Review

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Like every Senate before it since 1999, the Ninth Senate recently set up a 56-member
committee for the amendment of the 1999 Constitution. The committee, headed by Deputy Senate President, Obarisi Ovie Omo-Agege, may be the Senate’s response to objections and continual whines of the constitution for containing some ambivalence that impede harmony and development of Nigeria.
As the review process starts up, Omo-Agege of the All Progressives Congress (APC, Delta Central) said recommendations of the 2014 National Conference chaired by late former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Idris Kutigi, and the Committee on Restructuring headed by the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, would be evaluated and used as working documents.
Speaking further, the Deputy Senate President said the alteration of the Sixth Schedule, the establishment of National and State Houses of Assembly Pre-election Matters Tribunal, Governorship Pre-election Matters Tribunal and Presidential Pre-election Matters Tribunal including time limits for the disposal of all pre-election matters before the conduct of the general election would be considered as well.
Also to be examined, according to the committee chairman, are devolution of powers, full local government fiscal autonomy, full autonomy of the judiciary, youth inclusiveness in governance, and gender parity, among others.
“In carrying out this national assignment, this committee will, no doubt, consider the alteration of the Sixth Schedule to make provision for new items, the establishment of National and State Houses of Assembly Pre-election Matters Tribunal, Governorship Pre-election Matters Tribunal and Presidential Pre-election Matters Tribunal including time limits for the disposal of all pre-election matters before the conduct of the general election,” Omo-Agege said.
It is reasonable that the Senate has, for once, pledged to study the reports of the 2014 National Constitutional Conference and the el-Rufai Restructuring Committee. There were far-reaching deliberations and resolutions on moving the country forward in those reports. We believe it will be wise to initiate relevant bills based on their recommendations in this constitution review activity.
Indeed, the items contemplated for amendment are what Nigerians have always clamoured for in previous constitution modifications. But will anything change with this fresh initiative? Will the outcome be acceptable and assented to by the President? This ritual was performed four times in the Fourth Republic, all of which failed woefully to address the crucial issues undermining the country’s corporate existence.
For instance, there are many recurring issues like local government autonomy, devolution of powers, rotation of power at federal and state levels, full autonomy for state Houses of Assembly, electronic voting, state police, and the likes, which had the sanction of majority of Nigerians during previous exercises, but they failed to make it to the amended Constitution. It is for this reason Nigerians have always found fault with the 1999 Constitution.
This has led to the screaming advocacy for the complete rejection of the present document in favour of an autochthonous one. The campaign is based on the opprobrious fact that it is dubious and a product of the military regime of Abdulsalami Abubakar, with the counterfeit claim that it was the creation of the people.
Nigeria is eclectic in ethnicity, culture and religion. Therefore, it should be run with deference for these sensibilities through pristine federalism. If this model works for the United States of America (USA), Canada, India and Australia with diversities as ours, why can’t it work for us?
It is explicit that lack of a home-grown constitution has made nation-building complicated; economic growth and development evasive; and social harmony a sisyphean task. Consequently, ethnicity and religion have become divergent points in the Nigerian state.
It was to prevent chaos that the country’s founding fathers adopted the 1963 Constitution entrenched in true federalism. The four regions at the time: West, North, East and Mid-West were the federating units with their own constitutions. Revenue was not shared at the centre. Rather, every region was a wealth creator; developed at its own pace; had its police, controlled its resources and paid royalties to the Federal Government.
We need a return to this archetype, not a constitutional amendment. So, the National Assembly should begin a process that will hand down a brand new constitution to Nigeria, which would bring it to self-rediscovery. Having borrowed the presidential system from the United States, we ought to have replicated its constitution. Is it not astonishing that while Nigeria has 68 items in the Exclusive Legislative List, the US has only 12 items in its exclusive list, known as Enumerated Powers?
Today, Nigeria has been transformed into a valley of death, largely because of the notorious activities of terrorist groups, bandits, kidnappers and armed robbers, among others. That is why the nation must undertake urgent political restructuring and enthronement of true federalism through the ongoing constitution amendment exercise.

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