The House of Representatives Thursday soft-pedalled on its earlier request for President Goodluck Jonathan to brief the lower chamber on the state of insecurity in Nigeria.
This came as the House of Representatives and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) disagreed on the circumstances surrounding the acquisition of an Oil Prospecting Licence 245 (OPL 245) by two multinational oil firms.
Also, the lawmakers yesterday renewed their clamour for the removal of the Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Ms. Arunma Oteh, following its resolutions some months ago that it would not have any further dealings with SEC until Oteh leaves the organisation.
But, at the weekly media briefing yesterday, Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Victor Ogene, told journalists that though the invitation remained valid, President Jonathan was at liberty to honour it any time he deemed fit.
The House had about five months ago, extended the invitation to Jonathan in what appeared like the climax of a frosty relationship and lack of confidence in the Federal Government’s attempt to contain the rising wave of terrorism and general insecurity in the country.
Ogene explained that contrary to the insinuation in some quarters, the House did not ‘summon’ The President but invited him as an avenue for the lawmakers to offer their own suggestions on how government could tackle insecurity across the country.
“On June 19, the House of Representatives unanimously adopted a motion on the security situation and one of the prayers of that motion was to invite, not summon Mr. President and other heads of security agencies to interface with the house in a closed session because security is not what you discuss in the open. Our intention was the security and well being of the Nigerian people.
“We are worried by the mounting security situation. However, if you are in your house and invite a visitor, you cannot complain that the visitor is taking too long because you are in your House. So you keep waiting until the visitor comes.
“But like every other Nigerian, we are worried that the security situation instead of getting better, is worsening. Maybe there is something Mr. President knows that we don’t know, but we feel that as representatives of the people, there are things that each member in the different areas that are embattled would have to say to help the situation.
“Jonathan is President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and until such a time that he deems it necessary to interface with us concerning security, our doors remain open. Don’t forget that the direct supervision of the security apparatus are under Jonathan.
The problem of security lies in the hands of Mr. President. We are only acting as concerned Nigerians on behalf of the Nigerian people to say that we should rub minds on this issue,” he said.
On Oteh’s removal, Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Victor Ogene, hinted that the commission’s 2013 budget proposal might not be approved unless Oteh was removed.
Ogene said the demand was not out of any malice for Oteh but based on findings that she does not have the required 15 years cognate experience in the Capital Market for her to head the organisation.
“We remain resolute that the House of Representatives will have no dealings with the SEC under Arunma Oteh as Director General,” Ogene said.
Meanwhile, the Oil Prospecting Licence 245 (OPL 245) was initially awarded to Malabu Oil and Gas Limited but was later revoked before Shell and Agip took over the oil block.
The Ad hoc Committee of the House probing the transaction, alleged that the Federal Government breached its policy of indigenisation in the award of oil bloc to the multinationals instead of a Nigerian firm.
But, the DPR and the Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO), said neither the government nor the multinationals breached any rule as the bloc was acquired following due process.
Chairman of the Ad hoc Committee and Deputy House Leader, Hon. Leo Ogor, alleged that the transaction failed to take into consideration an existing policy, which allowed for only forty per cent foreign participation in an oil enterprise in Nigeria.
Ogor said allowing Shell and Agip to acquire the oil bloc without any indigenous investor amounted to a breach.
“We suspect that the policy which protect indigenous industries have been breached in this since no indigenous company eventually benefited in the OPL 245 oil deal. It is also a clear breach of the national interest,” he said.
In a presentation made by Mr. Dozie Irrechukwu, an official of the DPR, the lawmakers were given a chronology of the transactions on OPL 245 since it was first awarded to Malabu in 1998.
Irrechukwu said Malabu lost the licence twice due to its inability to meet up with the terms of the award.
He insisted that there was no breach of the indigenisation policy in the transaction as the Federal Government acted based on the circumstances prevalent at the time.
Deputy Manager, Legal Services Department of DPR, Mr. Joseph Tolumnse, also explained that although the original intention of government in awarding the oil bloc to Malabo was to encourage indigenous firms to participate in the oil sector, the breach of that contract by Malabu and the subsequent revocation of the award changed the situation.
He said that as soon as the initial award was revoked, OPL 245 reverted to the basket (general pool) of oil blocs in the kitty of government.