By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
LAGOS – Northern energies on tackling perceptions of lopsidedness in the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, is to be addressed at the committee level of the House of Representatives, Vanguard has learnt.
Northern concerns on the contents of the PIB forced the Senate to step down the second reading of the bill last week before the Senate went on Christmas holidays. However, in the House of Representatives, such concern was strategically played down, it was gathered at the weekend.
The PIB is a revolutionary bill that bundles the legal framework governing the oil industry in the country under one law and at the same time addresses the concerns of producing communities.
However, the provision concerning the establishment of a Host Community Fund among others has particularly stirred concern among some in the north who fear that the bill could drain more oil revenue that would otherwise have gone to the north.
“Our concern is that there is the amnesty programme, derivation and other incentives going to the oil producing regions of the south. So, our concern is how are we sure that such provisions that give advantage to those producing oil now would be replicated when oil is found in the north,” a prominent member of the House from the north said, yesterday.
As a bid towards addressing the perception of the lopsidedness, it was learnt that the northern legislators would direct themselves towards engrafting provisions that would benefit the northern region during consideration of the bill at the committee level.
“In the House, we have decided to work behind the scene at the committee level and that is the reason that when the bill came up it was immediately referred to the committees of downstream, upstream and others to work on so that there will be not much controversy,” the lawmaker said.
The situation in the House is different from that in the Senate where when the bill came up for second reading, objection immediately surfaced, forcing the Senate leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba to step down the motion for the reading of the bill.
The opposition by the north was upon the report of a technical committee constituted by the Northern Governors Forum last August on the PIB. The committee allegedly headed by a former executive director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, in its report, argued among others that the PIB in its present form would further impoverish the north.
The committee had claimed the absence of the Oil Exploration Agency, which was in the earlier bill produced under the regime of erstwhile Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dr Rilwanu Lukman. The Oil Exploration Agency was expected to lead the charge in oil exploration in the north.
The new PIB, however, made provision for the The National Frontier Exploration Service; which is expected to now take the charge in oil exploration across the country.