Senator Ike Ekweremadu
By Dele Ogbodo
There was uproar and confusion in the Senate Tuesday when the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, called on the Senate Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, to open the debate on the much-awaited Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) for consideration.
However, immediately this was done, shouts of “no, no, no” rented the air from majority of senators in the chamber.
The confusion eventually led to the temporary suspension of the debate and postponed to another date, which was however not made known to members.
The opposition for the consideration of the bill, THISDAY learnt, came mainly from the northern senators.
When he stood to add his voice to the melee, Deputy Senate Majority Leader, representing Bauchi Central senatorial district, Senator Abdullahi Ningi, said: “Mr. President, I rise to make an intervention in this matter because this is the first allotted day and tomorrow (today) will be Wednesday and if we intend to make any adjustment, we can say the entirety of this subject matter will be discussed tomorrow, (today) while appropriation is Thursday. I’m just speaking from the morale point of view.”
The deputy majority leader went further to push for the debate on the bill to be halted for the mean time.
Also quoting from Order 56 (12D), Senator Ahmed Lawal, representing Yobe North senatorial district, and a member of the Northern Senators Forum (NSF) said: “Mr. President, before I read this section, let me say that the bill requires more than a day for consideration, it is such an important bill that it will require perhaps four day of deliberation so that every senator will contribute.”
He was of the view that the upper legislative chamber should not consider the bill for debate, adding that the mourning mood of the nation and Senate stemming from last Saturday’s air crash in which six prominent Nigerians died, required that the bill be shelved to another date.
“The mood of the Senate after passing the resolution on the recent air disaster requires that the Senate should close for the day,” Lawal stated.
Eventually, when Ndoma-Egba got the floor to speak, he attempted to make a case for consideration of the PIB, saying, “Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, let me say that I am reminded to be guided by the mood of the Senate. But having said so, this bill was on our notice paper, it has been on our notice paper for a very long time.
“Secondly, a number of days have been allotted for consideration of this bill. Thirdly, I was in Washington, when I watched the chairman on Rules and Business, emphatically telling Nigerians that this bill will be taken today (yesterday). Fourthly, the circumstances under which this bill was introduced should not be a loss to us, we shouldn’t forget so soon.
“Remember the bill was introduced a day before we went on our last break, the thinking then was that it was a ploy for us to be held responsible for it not being taken.”
Continuing, Ndoma-Egba said it had become imperative to give a clear background on the issue, adding: “I thought that the least that could happen today (Tuesday) was for me to introduce my own debate and then we can have an adjournment.”
However, owing to the uproar that greeted the introduction of the bill, the Senate unanimously resolved to step down the debate to another date.