Nigeria’s Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, has denied receiving $10 million to manipulate and alter a section of the recently signed Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).
He said neither him, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, nor any other lawmaker received such amount.
He made the comment shortly after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa on Monday.
Mr Lawan was reacting to reports that some lawmakers are angry at the leadership of the National Assembly having been ‘shortchanged’ in the distribution of a $10 million bribe for the passage of the petroleum industry law.
According to the report, the sum was paid to the lawmakers to approve three per cent operating cost for host communities – a provision in the law.
This was one of the controversial parts of the legislation that divided lawmakers during consideration and passage. While some lawmakers suggested five per cent others wanted three. The latter was approved.
Another controversial part of the law include funding mechanism of 30 per cent of NNPC Limited’s profit oil and profit gas in production sharing, profit sharing, and risk service contracts to fund exploration of frontier basins.
But addressing journalists, Mr Lawan described the report as “unwarranted, unproven and false”.
This is even as he warned Nigerians against misusing the freedom of expression provided in the constitution.
“People say anything…about the President, about members of National Assembly, they call us names and this is part of the intangible dividends of democracy,” he said.
“But we are determined to ensure that the space is wide open for everybody to say whatever he wants to say, but I will advise that don’t say things that are bad because people are inhabited…and recently somebody said $10 million was given to the Speaker and the Senate President to give to members of the National Assembly to pass three per cent host community development fund. That is funny, but also very serious.
“I really want to take this opportunity to take exceptions to those kinds of unwarranted, unprovable, false and fake information being fed to the Nigerian public and the danger people will face with this is you cause unnecessary damage to the reputation of people.
“So, the freedom of expression is there, probably more than anywhere in the world, but I want to caution that Nigerians should always think positive about their leaders and their governments and if they have issues they feel very strongly about, let them speak the truth and we are prepared to tell corrections that that we feel should be able to make us do better.”
Mr Lawan also disclosed that the 2022 budget, which was part of the discussion with the president, will make sufficient provisions for security agencies and ‘legacy’ projects – which he hoped will all be completed by next year.
He also lamented that so many agencies of government are not remitting internally generated revenues.
This, he said, needed urgent attention so as to reduce borrowing in the country.
“So, if there are areas that we can now get revenues that will help us reduce the amount of borrowing, then so be it and this is something that we all agree with Mr President that we should continue to look at those areas that we need to improve on revenue generation and collection,” he said.
Despite the mounting killings of Nigerians by armed groups across the nation, he applauded Mr Buhari for “tackling insecurity in the country especially in the North-east and South-south regions”.
“It has been quite a good, successful effort in those two geopolitical zones that we inherited. But we have new challenges in the North-west particularly, and some parts of the North-central where banditry is now a phenomenon that we have to deal with.
“…Mr President has shown willingness and the desire to give more resources to armed forces and other security agencies to continue to fight the banditry, the little bits of the insurgency left and of course, the other security challenges and we’re also fully in support of giving him all the resources that you will require from us in the National Assembly to ensure that lives and property of Nigerians are properly secured.
“And before this administration leaves by the grace of God in 2023, the security situation would have been stabilised, far better than what it is today. That is one in the area of security.”
Subsequent meetings, he said, will be held with the president to discuss new plans and progress made so far.
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