By Kunle Akogun, Chineme Okafor and Onwuka Nzeshi
The two chambers of the National Assembly Thursday acknowledged the receipt of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) from President Goodluck Jonathan.
At the Senate President, Senator David Mark, confirmed that bill had been transmitted to the Upper House.
In the House of Representatives, the Speaker, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal in a letter her read to his colleagues at the commencement of the yesterday’s sitting confirmed the receipt of the bill.
Reading a letter from the President formally introducing the bill to National Assembly, Mark said Jonathan urged the upper chamber to, in its usual disposition, give the proposed law an accelerated consideration.
Mark urged senators to, as a matter of priority, use the period of the long annual vacation, to study the Bill, with a view to making informed and valuable contributions, in the over all interest of the nation.
However, in the lower legislative chamber, the lawmakers received the bill amidst protest over its timeliness, as they kicked against its presentation on a day they were proceeding on their annual vacation.
Minority Leader of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, who voiced out opposition against the bill said his privilege had been breached by the submission of the bill on the same day the House was embarking on its recess.
Gbajabiamila said that the He noted that the language of the letter, asking for expeditious consideration of the bill was a trap laid for the parliament who may not be able to attend to it until after the eight- week recess.
Although, members applauded the protest, Tambuwal, declined to rule in favour of returning the bill to the executive.
Tambuwal explained that a matter of privilege did not require a debate but ordinarily should be referred to the Committee on Ethics and Privileges for investigation.
He however, said the matter under review was not the type to be referred to the Committee on Ethics and Privileges because of its peculiar nature.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, has assured Nigerians that the bill was tamper-proof and safe from undue alteration.
Alison-Madueke, in defence of provisions in the new PIB, stated that hard-line security measures have been devised in securitisation of the bill and that such features were evolved to keep the bill different from other allegedly fake versions.
According a statement from the acting Group General Manager, Public Affairs of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Fidel Pepple Thursday in Abuja, the minister told visiting delegation of the United States of America government which was led by a deputy assistant to the US President and Deputy National Security Adviser for International Affairs, Mr. Michael Froman, that the content of the new bill cannot be tampered with because of the security measures in place.
This came as indications emerged yesterday on plans by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and labour unions to begin lobbying for a swift passage of the bill, following its formal presentation to the National Assembly by the President.
This development formed part of the outcome of a roundtable discussion which bothered on quick legislative processes, which would accelerate the passage of the PIB, as a binding law in the country.