Saraki counters colleagues, approves NNPC amendment bill for second reading

Chambers of the Nigerian Senate used to illustrate the story.
Chambers of the Nigerian Senate used to illustrate the story.

The Nigerian Senate on Tuesday read for the second time, “a bill for an act to amend the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Act CAP N123 LFN 2004 and for other connected matters therewith, 2017” after a major disagreement among senators which required a strong-arm intervention from the presiding officer.

The bill seeks to make the appointment of the Group Managing Director of the NNPC subject to confirmation by the Senate as well as increase the contract approval limit of the GMD from N5 million to N500 million or its dollar equivalent.

The bill when passed will also make it mandatory for the NNPC to submit its annual report of the audited account of its operations to the senate not later than three months before the end of a financial year.

The second reading of the bill, however, was opposed by many senators who wanted the bill to be stepped down.

Moving for the bill to be stepped down, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said, “I have some concerns, we need to do more consultations regarding this bill.

“Under the procurement act, there are a number of benchmarks for approving authorities and we need to be sure that there is conformity with the procurement act in terms of the amount that the GMD can approve, here it is saying 500 million naira, I think we need to cross check.

“We are dealing with the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) also, so we need to align it as well with the provisions of the PIB.”

His comment was seconded by Ibrahim Gobir (APC, Sokoto) who said that the Senate cannot set a procurement limit for the GMD of the NNPC, noting that such procurements are subject to the approval of the board and the Federal Executive Council, FEC.

Countering his colleagues, Kabir Marafa (APC, Zamfara) noted the concerns expressed by the Deputy Senate President but advocated for the second reading of the bill.

He explained that after it is read for a second time, it will be referred to a committee for further legislative action. He said the committee would address the issues raised by Mr. Ekweremadu.

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in his submission stressed that most of the reservations expressed by senators were trivial. He affirmed that the crux of bill is the provision that makes it mandatory for the NNPC to present its budget before the National Assembly.

“I think that is enough ground for this bill to pass through second reading,” he said.

The bill was then put to a voice vote and despite louder sound of “nay”, the Senate President ruled that “the ayes have it.”

The bill was subsequently read for the second time and referred to the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (upstream, downstream, and gas) to report back in four weeks.

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