House Orders Probe into Sale of OML 30 Divided over Federal Character Act

30 Jan 2013

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House of Representatives

Onwuka Nzeshi in Abuja

The House of Representatives Tuesday mandated its Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream) to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the sale of Oil Mining Lease (OML) 30 to Heritage Oil, a British firm with Nigerian partners.

Its resolution came on the same day the House failed to agree on an amendment to the Federal Character Commission (Establishment) Act to restrict women to either their state of origin or their husbands’ in the public service or political appointments.

The investigation into the sale of the oil bloc followed a motion of urgent public importance brought to the floor of the House by Hon. Yusuf Tajudeen, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmaker, in which the lawmaker alleged that the transaction fell short of due process.
Yusuf, representing Kabba-Bunu/Ijumu Federal Constituency of Kogi State stated that sometime in November 2012, OML 30 located in the western Niger Delta was sold to Heritage Oil, a company managed by a Briton.

The sale of the said oil bloc, Yusuf further alleged, did not factor in the national interest and the right of Nigerians to know how their commonwealth is being managed.

“The sale of OML 30 to Heritage Oil, a company, whose chief executive’s antecedent is allegedly unsavoury, is highly disturbing.
“The past activities of the British boss of Heritage Oil led to prolonged militia operations and political instability in Angola and Equatorial Guinea,” he said.

The lawmaker expressed dismay that by the transaction, Nigeria was now in bed with a company owned by “an individual whose shadowy business ethics is recognised all over the world.”

According to him, the transaction has raised doubts about Nigeria’s commitment to genuine growth and development as well as transparency in the management of her natural resources.

Yusuf argued that given the alleged mercenary credentials of the owners of Heritage Oil, the transaction could result in security threats in the Niger Delta when the company commences operations.

Speaker of the House, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, who presided over the session, ruled that since the motion was seeking an investigation, it was not proper to allow debates on the veracity of its contents. It was resolved that the issue be investigated by the relevant committees. A report is expected in three weeks.

Also yesterday, the House considered a bill seeking to amend the Federal Character Commission (Establishment) Act. The bill sought to amend Section 2 of the Act to enable women lay claims to either their state of origin or their state of marriage in public service and in the course of their political careers.

Sponsor of the bill, Hon. Bassey Ewa Ekoh (PDP/Cross River stated), said the existing provision in the Federal Character Commission Act was discriminatory and defective because it does not state expressly whether women belonged  to their  state of origin or their husband’s state.

He recalled the recent case of Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofor whose ascension to the Court of Appeal was temporarily scuttled following the controversy that arose over her state of origin.

Marriage, the lawmaker said, should not be a hindrance to women and the pursuit of their chosen careers.
Chairman, House Committee on Diaspora, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, supported the bill and urged the House to allow it scale through the second reading.

Chairman, House Committee on Aviation, Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, also supported the bill, stating that women should not be restricted to a single choice, but should be allowed to enjoy dual citizenship by virtue of their marriage to men from outside their states.
She said any attempt to restrict women to either of the two windows would be discriminatory.

Chairman, House Committee on Public Service Matters, Hon. Andrew Uchendu, disagreed with Onyejeocha and insisted that women should choose one of the options.

Uchendu said women should naturally maintain their state of origin when they are single and adopt the state of their husbands when they get married, adding that there should be no indiscriminate criss-crossing to avoid confusion.

In his own contribution, Hon Kamil Akinlabi observed that there was no need for the amendment as the Federal Character Act and the constitution had already taken care of the issues being canvassed in the bill.

In line with this observation, Minority Whip of the House, Hon. Samson Osagie, argued that the amendment might conflict with Section 42 of the constitution.

On the strength of this point, Tambuwal ruled that the debate on the bill be put on hold to allow for more consultations.
The House Committees on Rules and Business, Judiciary and Justice have been asked to study the bill and advise the chamber on the next line of action.

In a related development, the House rejected a second bill which sought to make exclusive breastfeeding compulsory for employees in the public and private sectors

Although the lawmakers agreed in principle with the bill, they voted against it following the arguments that some of the provisions of the bill might be too difficult to implement.

The lawmakers said the issue of exclusive breastfeeding was better left in the realm of individual discretion and advocacy rather than legislation.

Tags: 30/01/2013 03:52:25, Featured, News, Nigeria, OML 30, PDP

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