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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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2023: Opobo/Nkoro Agog As Thousands Join PDP

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It was celebration galore in Opobo Town, headquarters of Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Area of Rivers State as thousands of members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Labour Party (LP), the Social Democratic Party (SDP), and National Conscience Party (NCP), among others, joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Speaking while receiving the decampee, yesterday, in Opobo Town, the state Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Amb Desmond Akawor, described their action as wise decision, assuring them of their safety and support.
Akawor, who was represented at the colourful event by his Deputy, Chukwuemeka Aaron, urged the defectors to remain calm as the PDP, the only development-oriented political party, believes in equity, unity, fair play and justice in Nigeria, saying that the party was poised to build better transformational governance that would be a beneficial to all Rivers people.
He said that it was shameful for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to subject Nigerians to poverty, bad governance, sufferings and hardship, and described the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari as a ruined government with clear negative agenda that lacked quality governance for the well-being of the people.
On the 2023 general election, Akawor enjoined the defectors to join forces with the PDP to chase out APC for good by remaining loyal and supportive towards PDP victory at the polls both in the state and at the federal level.
Akawor warned that any attempt to rig the votes in the 2023 elections would create more hunger, stagnation, poverty and death in the land.
Responding, a former chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and decampee in the area, Dr. Promise Diri pledged to ensure the victory of Amaopusenibo Siminialayi Fubara as successor to Governor Nyesom Wike and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as president in 2023, among other PDP Candidates, describing the emergence of the duo of Fubara and Atiku as God’s divine order for Rivers State and Nigeria.
Others who spoke to The Tide, described PDP as the largest development-minded political party in Nigeria, and thanked Rivers State Governor, Chief NyesomWike, and the entire PDP family for giving the governorship ticket to Opobo son.
They assured of 100 percent victory of Fubara and other candidates of the party come 2023 polls both in Rivers State.
Also speaking, Chief Ibiwari Jeremiah, said he was happy for the party whose transform agenda for the past seven years has remained remarkable, and pledged to woo more supporters for the PDP in next year’s election.
In her remarks, one of the decampee, Madam Matilda Jaja, commended Governor Nyesom Wike’s leadership qualities and charisma ,which she said, helped produce quality services in all the hooks and crannies of the state, and stressed that she would use her capacity to mobilise for votes in 2023 for PDP, adding that victory was sure in 2023 for the party’s candidates in the elections.

By: Bethel Toby

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Reps Probe 12-Year Remittances, Withdrawals From Ecological Fund

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The House of Representatives has resolved to investigate remittances to the Ecological Fund and withdrawals from the account between 2010 and 2022, alleging mismanagement of funds by the beneficiaries.
Particularly, the House mandated its Committee on Ecological Fund to “investigate the total consolidated mandatory accruals into the Ecological Fund from 2010 to March, 2022,” adding that the committee should equally “evaluate the disbursement of the Ecological Fund in line with the provision of the 1999 Constitution from 2010 to March, 2022.”
The committee is also to “investigate the utilisation of the Ecological Fund by benefiting government’s departments and agencies (MDAs) from 2010 to March, 2022 and establish infractions (if any).”
To establish these facts, the House asked the committee to conduct public hearings with all the major stakeholders on the effective and efficient utilisation of the Ecological Fund and report back within six weeks for further legislative action.
These resolutions were sequel to a motion moved by a member of the House, Femi Bamisile, titled, ‘Need to Investigate the Total Consolidation Accrual and Utilisation of Ecological Fund.’
Bamisile, while in the motion, noted the existence of the Ecological Fund as an intervention fund set up by the Federal Government to address multifarious ecological challenges across the country.
He also noted that the Federal Government, the 36 states of the federation, the 774 local government areas and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) receive funds through the Federal Allocation Committee as shares from the Ecological Fund.
The lawmaker stressed that apart from the annual statutory appropriations, four agencies of the Federal Government draw funds from the one per cent share of the Federal Government allocated to Ecology and Derivation Fund, according to their respective enabling laws.
Bamisile stated that the National Emergency Management Agency, by virtue of Section 13(2) (b) of its Act, draws 20per cent; National Agency for the Great Green Wall, by virtue of Section 12 (2) (b) of its Act, draws 15per cent; the North East Development Commission, by virtue of Section 14(12) (b) of its Act, draws 10 per cent; and the National Agricultural Land Development Authority, by virtue of Section 18 (2) (a) of its Act, draws 10per cent.
He said, “The House is worried that efforts at making beneficiaries of the Ecological Fund accountable for their accrued shared funds in the last few years have been ignored. Sections 88 and 89 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) empowers the National Assembly to conduct investigation and power as to matters of evidence.”

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Organ Harvesting Charges UK Court Denies Ekweremadu, Wife Bail

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A magistrate’s court in London has denied bail to Senator Ike Ekweremadu, and his wife, Beatrice Nwanneka, over charges that they trafficked a 15-year-old Lagos boy with the intention to harvest his organ.
The arrest was announced by the London Metropolitan Police, yesterday, with officials saying that the couple would be charged promptly before a court in Uxbridge.
Ekweremadu appeared before a magistrate, yesterday afternoon, and was denied bail.
The case was subsequently adjourned until July 7, after the child involved was identified as a homeless 15-year-old from Lagos.
However, details of the alleged offence of Senator Ike Ekweremadu, and his wife, Beatrice Nwanneka, were unveiled, yesterday, as they were accused of plotting to traffic a homeless child from Lagos into the UK to harvest his organs.
The court heard the couple, who have four children and a house in Willesden, North London, hoped to transplant the boy’s organs to their daughter who suffers from kidney failure.
Police were alerted to potential offences under modern slavery laws last month and arrested the couple two days ago at Heathrow Airport as they attempted to board a plane to Turkey, the court heard.
Ekweremadu, 60, is said to have had £20,000 on him at the time of his arrest, according to prosecutors.
The child is now under the care of safeguarding authorities and the Metropolitan Police, officials say.
Ekweremadu, and accountant wife, Beatrice, 55, are charged with conspiracy to arrange or facilitate travel of another person with a view to exploitation, namely organ harvesting.
The senator was wearing a grey sweater while his wife was wearing a black and white knitted cardigan at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court, yesterday.
Prosecutor Damla Ayas said: “It is conspiracy in relation to human trafficking offences for the purposes of organ harvesting. The victim in this case is 15 years old.
“They (the couple), were interviewed at the police station. Both of the defendants have provided a prepared statement.
“Mr Ekweremadu, in his prepared statement, denied allegations of human trafficking.
“He said at no stage has he arranged transport for anyone with intention to exploit them.”
His wife similarly denied the allegations in her prepared statement, the court heard.
Counsel to Ekweremadu, Gavin Irwin, said: “There is no question this is a serious allegation. Mr Ekweremadu is a member of the Senate in Nigeria.
“He has previously held an even more senior role as deputy president of the Senate.
“He is a member of the bar in Nigeria. He is a principal in a law firm that bears his name.
“Those issues taken together go way beyond him being a person of good character…rather that he has led a blameless life as a public servant.”
Irwin added that the allegations were “nothing short of preposterous”.
Also speaking, Counsel for Mrs Ekweremadu, Antonia Gray, said: “She has never been complicit or involved in any alleged illegal trafficking of any young person.
“She is a financial accountant with an unblemished record.”
The couple have an address they could stay at in Willesden, northwest London, the court heard.
The prosecutor made an application to adjourn the matters for 14 days.
Ms Ayas said: “In respect of these offences, Attorney General’s consent is required and the Crown requires 14 days for that to be obtained.”
Magistrate Lois Sheard said: “These are serious allegations and these matters are now adjourned until July 7, back here at Uxbridge.”
Ms Sheard remanded both defendants into custody ahead of their hearing next month.
The Ekweremadus are charged with “conspiring to arrange or facilitate travel of another person with a view to exploitation….between August 1, 2021 and May 5, 2022 within the jurisdiction of Central Criminal Court”.
The investigation was launched by the Met’s Specialist Crime team after detectives were alerted to potential offences under modern slavery legislation in May, 2022.
The Met Police has confirmed that the boy is safe and being looked after.
Mr Ekweremadu was held with Nwanneka Ekweremadu in Britain this month.
Ekweremadu has been an elected senator in Abuja since 2003 after moving into politics after years as a lawyer.
His wife, five years his junior, is an academic and doctor, and also a major public figure in Nigeria.
They are believed to have four adult children.
The Metropolitan Police has said that the child, who is under the age of 18, at the centre of the alleged plot, is in care.
Organ harvesting involves removing parts of the body, often for cash and against the victim’s will.
Ekweremadu has been in the UK for, at least, the past fortnight having met with members of the Nigerian community in Britain in Lincoln around 10 days ago.
He tweeted: “It was a pleasure and an honour to receive a letter of appointment by the University of Lincoln, UK, as Visiting Professor of Corporate and International Linkages. I also got a highly treasured gift – a copy of the Magna Carter. It was created in 1215, about 807 years ago”.
The investigation was launched after detectives were alerted to potential offences under modern slavery legislation in May, 2022, the force said.
Spokesman for Ekweremadu, Uche Anichukwu, confirmed that his principal had been held in the UK.

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