Reps Fail To Pass PIB 156 Days To Tenure End
The House of Representatives has failed to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill over three years after it assured Nigerians that it would give a speedy passage to the piece of legislation.
Findings by The PUNCH on Wednesday showed that the Speaker, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, had inaugurated an Ad hoc Committee on the PIB in November 2012.
However, the 23-member committee, which is headed by the Chip Whip of the House, Mr. Ishaka Bawa, has been unable to produce a report on the bill for consideration by lawmakers.
Incidentally, the tenure of the current House will end on June 5, less than 156 days from today.
Investigations by The PUNCH revealed that though the Bawa committee successfully conducted a series of public hearings on the bill, alleged “political intrigues” had stalled the release of the report of the committee’s findings.
One senior lawmaker, who spoke with our correspondent in Abuja on Wednesday, said, “I recall that it took the committee more than six months to conduct public hearings on the PIB.
“There were hearings in the six geo-political zones and a grand finale in Abuja to seek the views of Nigerians.
“These elaborate hearings, which gulped huge funds, were meant to clear the air on any issues that might delay the bill.
“I am in shock that all the efforts now appear wasted because the PIB has not made progress beyond the committee stage in over three years.”
Our correspondent learnt that the Bawa committee had come under pressure from various interest groups, both within and outside the House, canvassing either the deleting or inclusion of certain clauses in the bill.
Another lawmaker, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, said, “The issues centre on the interests you may call the North-South divide, that is, how this bill will affect access to petroleum revenue in the future.
“You have the oil majors pursuing their own agenda on how the PIB could bring about a higher tax regime.
“There are others asking whether this is not a bill for the Minister of Petroleum Resources. There are awesome powers given to the minister by this bill, suggesting that hardly can anything be done in the oil industry without the endorsement of the minister.”
Some lawmakers fear that there are already signals indicating that the PIB is already on the path of “failure” as it did in the 6th assembly.
It was learnt that during the 6th assembly (2007-2011), the bill was delayed for over three years only for the report to be hurriedly produced a few weeks to the close of the tenure.
A move to hastily pass the bill failed as members were said to have insisted on knowing the details of the legislation before approving it.
Yet another legislator said, “That attempt to stampede members failed and it would appear that it was programmed to go that way because there was truly no intention to pass the bill. We are already taking a similar path. 2014 has ended and tomorrow (today), we will be in 2015.
“From January 1 till June 5 leaves us with about 156 days. In between these 156 days, there are holidays and weekends; so, may be, we have less than 100 days.
“All the promises made to pass the bill each time the House reconvenes from a recess have not been kept.”
In September, Tambuwal gave the Bawa committee a 21-day ultimatum to submit the report on the PIB, but the committee flouted the speaker’s directive.
The speaker had given the ultimatum on September 16, but as of December 17 when the House proceeded on the Christmas and New Year break, the committee had yet to submit the report.
There were no actions taken against the committee and no further directives on the bill were given by the speaker.
Members will remain on break till January 13.
Bawa, a Peoples Democratic Party lawmaker from Taraba State, has kept sealed lips over the fate of the PIB, consistently evading questions on the bill.
The lawmaker neither answered several calls made to his mobile phone on Wednesday nor responded to text messages sent to him on the PIB.
Although House spokesman, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, dismissed fears that the House would not pass the bill, he admitted that the PIB was not going to be passed before the general elections coming up next month.
He said, “It is not true that we will not pass the PIB. Time is still on our side.
“When we resume (January 13), the budget (2015) will be the main focus. We will pass the budget and go for our elections, which you know is February 14.
“After we come back from the elections, we have enough time from March, April till May to pass the bill. So, there is time.”