After two days of debate and apprehension, the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) Thursday scaled the second reading stage. Its passage through this critical stage of the legislative process was significant as no single legislator stood against the bill when it was put to a voice vote.
This, however, came on a day the House passed a resolution demanding an immediate suspension of the execution of 17 ecological projects worth N3.7 billion.
Also yesterday, the House mandated its Committees on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Finance, and States and Local Governments to conduct an investigation into the implementation of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P).
But, the Speaker of the House, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, who presided at the second day of the debate, described the passage of the bill as remarkable and an indication that the lawmakers understood the importance of the bill to the economy of the country.
According to him, the bill made progress because the lawmakers who contributed to the debates moderated their sentiments and put forward the objectives of the proposed legislation with patriotism.
Following the passage, the House was said to have promptly constituted an Ad hoc Committee to commence further work on the bill in view of the several defects and lapses identified in the course of the debate on its general principles.
Tambuwal named the Chief Whip of the House, Hon. Ishaka Bawa, as chairman, while the Minority Whip as his deputy.
Members of the committee include Chairman, House Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream), Hon. Ajibola Muraina; Chairman House Committee on Petroleum Resources(Downstream), Hon. Dakuku Peterside; Chairman, House Committee on Local Content, Hon. Honourable Asita, and Chairman, House Committee on Environment, Hon. Uche Ekwunife.
The deputy chairmen of the four aforementioned committees were also named as members.
Other members of the committee are the Chairman, House Committee on Inter-Parliamentary Affairs, Hon. Daniel Reyenieju, and Hon. Peter Akpatason, a former trade unionist.
Sequel to a motion debated yesterday, the House ordered a probe into the implementation of the Subsidy Reinvestment Programme.
Advancing reasons for the investigation, Hon. Haruna Manu, who led the debate on the motion recalled that President Goodluck Jonathan in a state broadcast to the nation on New Year day announced the removal of oil subsidy and the setting up of a Subsidy Reinvestment, which led to the appointment of Dr. Christopher Kolade, as the chairman of the board of the programme.
“We are aware that the deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry by the Federal Government was not aimed at causing hardship on Nigerians but opening up the sector for growth and investments in the economy as part of the SURE-P was for the restoration of the railways across the country to provide alternative and affordable means of transportation of goods and services, including the construction of a series of roads, bridges, rail lines, pipelines and more, to be implemented under the SURE-P.
Meanwhile, the House resolution to halt the projects, followed a motion sponsored by Hon. Sokonte Davis (PDP/ Rivers), during which the House learnt that the 17 projects being executed by the Ecological Fund Office has been on the drawing board for several years.
The projects included those located in Akwa Ibom State (N1.31 billion); Zamfara State (N412 million); Lagos State (N258.46 million); Gombe State (N383.75 million); Borno State (N289.76 million); and Delta State (N308.49 million).
Davis said the procurement process for the projects started in 2006 and had remained at the same level till date contrary to provisions of the Procurement Act of 2007.
He lamented that about six years after these projects were advertised, they are still awaiting ministerial approval.
He observed that some of these projects have recently found their way to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and the Minister of Environment for signing preparatory for execution.
Davis argued that if the projects were allowed to commence now, they would be deficient given the extent the ecological problems would have attained over time.
He urged the House to mandate the House Committee on Environment to ensure compliance and evaluate the state of these environmental problems in line with the current realities and report back to the House in four weeks.
He also prayed the House to direct the SGF, Federal Ministry of Environment and the Ecological Fund Office to suspend all action and re-advertise those projects in line with the Procurement Act of 2007. The prayers were granted.
Meanwhile, the House has mandated its Committee on HIV/AIDS and Malaria Control to carry out an indepth study on malaria as the disease has continued to claim lots of lives, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.
It urged the Federal Government to consider the use of effective malaria drugs in the Roll Back Malaria Campaign.
The lawmakers also urged the federal government to intervene in the malaria scourge by subsidising the importation of the genuine drugs to make them affordable to the citizenry.