Onwuka Nzeshi â€¨
Ahead of the debate on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) scheduled to commence this week, opposition political parties in the House of Representatives Monday brainstormed and mapped out strategies on how to approach the bill.
The legislators elected on the platform of political parties other than the ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), held a meeting where they were briefed by a team of consultants on the contents of the bill.
Minority Leader of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, who convened the meeting, said it was designed to equip the lawmakers with the requisite information on the bill to enable them contribute meaningfully to the debate.
President Goodluck Jonathan sent the bill to the National Assembly in July this year, just as the lawmakers were embarking on their annual vacation.
Speaker of the House, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, had on the day the bill was presented for the first time requested the lawmakers to use the opportunity of the long vacation to study the bill and make the necessary consultations with their constituents.
In a chat with journalists, Gbajabiamila said the meeting of the opposition may have come late but it was better than going into the debate without the basic knowledge of the bill.
He debunked insinuations that the meeting was convened to enable the opposition take a common stand against the bill.
“It is better late than never. The debate hasn’t begun. Everything is about timing: the timing has to be convenient for us and the consultant as well.
“I never thought of a unifying stand, the reason why I called this meeting and the consultant is just for us to understand the details of the PIB. You know like they say, the devil is in the detail. Everybody can go away with their position, but you don’t take a position without understanding. Understand it first and take your position individually,” he said.
“There is a good chance that after proper briefing and we have a fuller understanding, there is a good chance that we have a unifying position at least as to majority of the key points,” he said.
Gbajabiamila said the emphasis should not be on a mere quick passage of the PIB but a thorough and meticulous passage of the bill.
“Don’t forget that the petroleum industry is a technical industry, the fact that you are a legislator does not automatically mean you must know everything, that why you have consultants, so there is nothing like quick passage. You pass something quickly, you take a position that was uninformed that is why later on you start having amendments, no, no, no its better we get it right from day one. Like I say its better late than never,” he said.
On the merger of the PIB with the National New Frontier Exploration Agency Bill, the lawmaker said it was done because of the similarity in the subject of the two bills and not necessarily to advance the agenda of a particular region of the country.
“I don’t know what you meant by northern agenda, if the northerners have the possibility of discovering fuel, why must you stop that? If there is oil in the north, open it up and that was what the National New Frontier Exploration Agency is meant to achieve,” he said.