The PIB has witnessed numerous transformations and inherent delay in the passage process.
After repeated rescheduling, the Senate on Tuesday commenced full debates of the new petroleum law, with touchy sections of the legislation dividing the lawmakers along north-south lines.
The debates, to continue Wednesday, will allow or deny the voluminous Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, a second reading.
As expected Tuesday, senators from Northern Nigeria rose against the inclusion in the law, of a new 10 per cent development fund for oil communities in the Niger Delta, arguing that more than N11 trillion in oil derivation funds that accrued to the area since 1999, were squandered, making the area undeserving of extra funds.
To stipulate another 10 per cent, directly for the oil producing villages, a provision the new law wants sourced from profits posted by oil companies, will amount to passing the burden of failure in governance on the rest of the country who already received relatively smaller allocations, the northern lawmakers argued.
“It is unconstitutional for anybody or bill drafters to come up with a smuggling idea of providing for any other form of derivation fund for oil producing communities in Nigeria when the need for that had been addressed with the 13% derivation fund as enshrined in the 1999 constitution, apart from other accruing funds to them for the same purpose through the NDDC, the Niger Delta Ministry and even the 2009 amnesty programme which has not ended up till now, all totaling over N11trillion,” Ahmed Lawan, ANPP, Gombe State said.
“For how long shall we continue to fund development not allowed to take place in certain communities just because they happen to be oil producing communities today. It is my submission that the contentious provision of the host Community Fund should be discarded in the bill because other parts of the country are tired of the excessive funding without any corresponding development taking place…,” he added.
That position was also canvassed by other lawmakers from the north who also argued that the proposed national oil exploration frontier provided for in the bill, be made an independent oil organization, and not a unit of one of the National oil Companies.
Senators including Ali Ndume (PDP Borno South), Isah Galandu (PDP Kebbi North), Ibrahim Gobir (PDP Sokoto East), Danladi Sankara (PDP Jigawa North West) backed Mr. Lawan’s arguments.
But southern senators canvassed for support for the passage of the bill, discarding arguments that the new fund will scrap meager allocations to the rest of the country as uncalled for.
For one, they insisted, the 10 per cent are not to be sourced from the federation account as with the existing 13 per cent, instead would be funded directly from the net profits returned by the oil companies.
“On the controversial 10 per cent host community development Fund provided for in this bill, it is very important that we get better information on it. The right information already obtained by me in this regard is that the 10 per cent Development Fund will not be given to the affected communities from the federation account but from the net profits of oil companies operating in such communities, meaning that there was no need for the contentions being displayed on the particular provision,” Ifeanyi Okowa(Delta North) said.
Other southern Senators, including Bassey Out (Cross Rivers) , Nkechi Nwaogu (Abia), Helen Esuene (Akwa Ibom), all backed a second reading for the bill, on the basis of that argument.
Bukola Saraki (Kwara State), was about the only Northern Senator that supported the contentious part.
Mr. Saraki, an unexpected part of the team supporting the bill, advised those kicking against the bill on the grounds of some contentious issues to think Nigeria first.
At the House of Representatives late 2012, the bill stirred same divisions. Lawmakers only found a common point in rallying against the powers granted the minister of petroleum, an office currently held by Diezani Alison-Madueke, in the bill.
Under the new PIB, the minister reserves wide powers over all institutions in the petroleum sector, with powers to approve, revoke and re-award acreages (oil exploration areas).