After three days of intense debates and contributions on the controversial Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), northern senators were yesterday caged by their southern colleagues, and the bill unanimously scaled the crucial second reading.
The resolution by the senators to pass the bill was contrary to fears from some quarters, especially with the initial stiff opposition from the lawmakers from the North that it will not see the light of the day.
The passage also comes barely 24 hours after the Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Ita Enang, PDP, Akwa Ibom North/East, called on President Goodluck Jonathan to revoke and re-allocate oil blocs where he raised alarm that the Northerners control 83 per cent of oil blocs in the country, leaving a negligible 27 per cent for the South, where the oil comes from.
Notable Northerners including Emir of Kano, Ado Bayero; late president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua; former vice president, Atiku Abubakar; former minister of defence, Gen Theophilous Danjuma; Sanusi Lamido Sanusi; Rilwanu Lukman, among others were named as the owners of the oil blocs in Nigeria.
The bill, which passed through second reading at the upper legislative chamber, had altogether 81 out of the 109 senators that spoke on it for the three days.
Speaking after discussions on the bill by the senators, Senate President, David Mark, who presided over the plenary, said that the PIB belongs to all Nigerians, and not a part of the country.
Senate president, said that the bill was not about the North versus the South, adding that what was good for the North was equally good for the South.
Several senators from the North had rejected the 10 per cent host community fund proposed in the PIB, and said that it would further widen the disparity in federation allocations.
Mark said: “I must emphasise that the bill is not North versus South, far from that. What is good for the North is also good for the South and what is bad for the South is bad for the North.”
The Senate president said that all the senators, who contributed to the debate acknowledged the fact that the bill was critical to the restructuring the oil sector.
He said that the lawmakers were unanimous in their demands that certain aspects of the bill needed to be amended to ensure transparency in the oil industry.
“Let me emphasise that no bill has come to the chamber that we have not tinkered with. So, the draft bill that has been given to us is not sacrosanct.
“It will go for second reading and public hearing and by the time it comes back; there will be amendments, additions and subtractions.
“The committees that will look at it will bring the bill back in a manner that will reflect the views that we have expressed here and the views gathered from the public.
“More importantly, when the bill comes back from the public hearing, we are going to do clause by clause consideration of it in this chamber,’’ he said.
Mark decried the continued mismanagement of the funds which accrued to the oil producing communities by a “few criminally minded individuals’’.
He said that Nigerians were disturbed that the level of development in the oil producing communities had failed to reflect the huge allocations given to those areas.
Mark added that such mismanagement had fuelled the suspicion expressed by some senators on the practicability of the 10 per cent host community fund, proposed in the bill.
“The background to it is that the monies accruing to the Niger Delta has not been properly utilised and that is the underlining fear of everybody.
“Everybody that spoke here agreed that the host community needed to benefit.
“The fear is whether the 10 per cent (proposed) for the host communities (in the bill) will be another pipeline where a few characters will hijack it at the expense of the host community.’’
The Senate president rejected suggestions at the floor of the senate, that an ad-hoc committee be constituted to consider contentious areas in the bill.
He said that the Senate standing committees were sufficient enough to handle all matters relating to the bill.
Mark, however, cautioned that some provisions in the bill were “impracticable”.
For instance, he said: “How can you suggest that this bill should be exempted from the Procurement Act?
“It is scandalous. The Procurement Act will be there.
“If the bill offends it or if an operator of this bill when it becomes an Act, offends the Procurement Act, it offends an Act of the National Assembly.
“It is not Act of an individual it is an Act of the National Assembly,” he said.
The Senate, however, referred the bill to the committees on Petroleum (Upstream and Downstream), Gas and Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, with a period of six weeks to organise public hearings and report back to the entire House.
The Committee on Petroleum (Upstream) has Senator Emmanuel Paulker (PDP-Bayelsa Central) as chairman; Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) has Senator Magnus Abe (PDP-Rivers South East) as chairman; Committee on Gas has Senator Nkechi Justina Nwaogu (PDP-Abia Central) as chairman; while the Chairman, Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters is Senator Umaru Dahiru (PDP-Sokoto South).
CAS Lauds Troops For Exceptional Performance In South-East Operation
Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Hassan Abubakar, has lauded Nigerian Air Force (NAF) troops for exceptional performance in ongoing Joint Task Force in the South-East code-named “Operation Udo Ka II”.
Abubakar said this yesterday in Enugu during his maiden visit and tour of operational and training assets and facilities within NAF Ground Training Command (GTC), Enugu.
He noted that NAF troops had done exceptionally well and recorded series of success in the joint operation meant to keep the South-East safe and secured for all.
The CAS noted that the GTC Command was highly important to NAF as it housed the ground component (non technical component) as well as a unit of air component necessary to ensure the attainment of the mandate of NAF.
He said: “Today, we are in Enugu, which is the host of the GTC Command in our maiden visit and we are here to interact with the NAF personnel, see the facilities and infrastructure on ground.
“We are also here to encourage the personnel to continue to do the good job they had been doing before now.
“The GTC Command and the Air Training Command are key to all of our activities in NAF and the two commands ensure we have the adequate and skilled manpower for all our activities and operations.
“I am also here to strengthen our activities within Operation Udo Ka II, which Enugu is the headquarters, and see how we can achieve greater successes more than what we are having now and ensure that South-East is totally secured.”
He disclosed that 750 personnel were currently undergoing training and would be graduating between December 2023 and January, 2024.
“These training are important to us in terms of our operation; and the current number is very significant amount of manpower to be injected into our operations and other activities in the country,” he said.
On the inspection in the new GTC Command Headquarters, new 553 Base Services Group (BSG) Headquarters and BSG Annex; Abubakar said that he was quite satisfied and impressed with the pace, level and quality of work done already.
“I have taken out time to inspect the projects and asked questions about the projects and I tell you that I am satisfied with what are on ground and all our assets and facilities are well maintained and protected,” he said.
The NAF boss commended NAF officers, airmen and airwomen in GTC Command for “doing a good job and keeping the flag flying high” as well as extolled their sacrifices and commitment to duties as well.
“I am very happy for their performance. We at the NAF headquarters, we are doing all we can to make sure they have all the necessary support and equipment as well as welfare and accommodation to carry out their jobs effectively,” he said.
He assured NAF personnel of doing more by providing all necessary infrastructures to ensure the maximum working of the GTC Command.
The CAS also inaugurated a renovated airmen’s club and new Mrs Rakiya Abubakar Children’s Park as well as inspected the water treatment and reticulation system and the hospital within NAF Base, Abakpa in Enugu.
UNIBADAN Lecturer Wins Best Thesis Dollar Prize
The Institute of African and Diaspora Studies (IADS), University of Lagos, has announced Dr Muhammad Ribadu as winner of this year’s Rahamon Bello Best Ph.D thesis in African Studies award.
The Director of the institute, Prof. Muyiwa Falaiye, made the announcement in a statement issued to newsmen yesterday in Lagos.
Ribadu, of the University of Ibadan, will be rewarded with a total of 1000 dollars, a plaque and a certificate.
Falaiye said a total of 18 entries for the 4th edition of competition were received from various universities in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa
He gave the title of the winning thesis as: The Social Context of Gentrification in Lagos State; Ph.D (Jan. 2023) Department of Sociology, University of Ibadan.
“The first runner up for this competition was Oluwaseyi Popogbe, currently a lecturer at the Department of Economics, Crawford University in Ogun.
“The title of his thesis is: Social Exclusion and Poverty in Selected Coastal Slum Areas in Lagos State; Ph.D (Dec. 2022) Department of Economics University of Lagos.
“The second runner up position went to Dr Charles Akwen, currently a lecturer at the Department of English, University of Lagos.
“Akwen’s thesis is titled: Notions of Identity in the Literary Creativity of Odia Ofeimun and Yang Mu; Ph.D (Dec. 2022) English Literature, University of Lagos,” the director stated.
He said that both the first and second runners up would be awarded plaques and certificates in recognition of their contributions and hard work.
Falaiye noted that the competition was in honour of Prof. Rahamon Bello, who was the 10th Vice Chancellor of the university, at the time the institute was inaugurated.
The prize money is usually donated every year for the award by friends of Prof. Bello.
Falaiye said that Dec, 6, had been fixed for the presentation of the awards.
The Tide source reports that the award was first presented in 2020.
States, LGs Lack Infrastructure To Manage Ecological Fund, Shun Queries – Perm Sec
The 36 states of the federation and the 774 local government councils have no structure in place to manage Ecological Fund.
The declaration was made in Abuja, yesterday, by the Permanent Secretary, Ecological Project Office, Malam Shehu Ibrahim.
Ibrahim made the declaration at an interactive session with the House Representatives Committee on Ecological Fund.
He said since states and local governments began to share the fund with the Federal Government they had not been able to put structures in place to manage their share.
The Ecological Fund is an intervention fund by the Federal Government to address the multifarious ecological challenges in various communities in the country.
Ibrahim told the house committee that the sharing of the fund among the three tiers of government followed a court decision.
He said governors and local council chairmen never welcomed queries about how they deployed the ecological funds.
“It is a `no-go’ area,’’ he quipped.
“They don’t want to see officials of the Ecological Project Office near them; so we cannot ask them how they spend the money,’’ he added.
Ibrahim said also that all motions by the National Assembly regarding intervention on ecological project matters had been treated.
“The Ecological Project Office acts expeditiously on documents sent to it to solve problems; it looks at some of the gaps within the motion and tries to fill the gaps, and we have had more than five of such motions.
“ The Ecological Project Office does not handle funds; it only appraises projects and makes recommendations to the president,’’ he said.
The permanent secretary explained that it is the Ministry of Finance that manages the fund and the projects.
He stressed that it was a misconception that the Ecological Project Office is in charge of funds and at liberty to decide on where projects would be sited with the money in its coffers.
He said whenever there were interventions; the Ecological Project Office informed affected communities and went with the contractor to hand over the projects to the community.
This is to enable the community to take ownership of the intervention and communicate their observations to the project office.
Responding, Rep. Sani Jaji (APC-Kaura Namoda/ Birnin Magaji), chairman of the committee, said there should always be stakeholders engagement before embarking on ecological fund intervention projects.
He noted that the projects were stakeholders’ projects and failure to include the stakeholders would always lead to security breach.
“So many things happened with UNICEF’s polio vaccine rejection; but when it included stakeholders, people began to accept the vaccine.
“It is critical to involve stakeholders and ensure equity. Security cannot be the reason why you won’t execute projects in certain parts of the country.
“The perception about your office is that there is money out there; so you need to change that perception and let people know that you have limitations about the execution of projects,’’ he said.
Jaji challenged the Ecological Fund Project Office to provide the needed advice to the president to enable him to take the correct steps.