BY HENRY UMORU
It is not difficult to understand the importance of the Senator Emmanuel Paulker led Senate Committee on Upstream Petroleum. After all, the committee is tasked with the general oversight of the upstream sector of the oil industry which is the mainstay of the nation’s economy.
The Vice Chairman of the committee is Senator Kabiru Gaya Marafa, ANPP, Kano South and has Senators Aisha Jummai Alhassan, PDP, Taraba North, Hayatu Bello Gwarzo, PDP, Kano North; Babajide Christopher Omoworare, ACN, Osun East; Simeon Sule Ajibola, Kwara South; Enyinnaya Abaribe, PDP, Abia Central; Bassey Otu, PDP Cross River South; Ganiyu Solomon, ACN, Lagos West and Ehigie Uzamere, ACN, Edo South as members.
As a ranking Senator with understanding of the sector having served as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Downstream Petroluem in the immediate past Senate, there is no doubt that Senator Paulker would not take time to settle into his act.
Expectedly, the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB would be a priority for the new committee.
Petroleum sector reforms as championed in the PIB are not only aimed at streamlining the 18 different oil Acts into one law, but also designed to create very transparent ways and means of doing business in the nation’s oil and gas industry.
Though the immediate past House of Representatives was able to commence work, consideration of the bill, however, soon ran into storm following strong opposition from some members who were of the opinion that the bill was not in the overall interest of the nation. According to them, most aspects of the bill which were germane for the development of the sector have been tinkered by established cartels in the industry who were determined to frustrate the nationalistic thrusts of the bill.
Another major assignment that awaits the Paulker led Committee is the duty of unraveling the the correct version of Petroleum bill that has been forwarded to it by the Senate for consideration. This is against the backdrop of insinuations that adulterated versions of the bill are in circulation in the National Assembly.
One of the tasks awaiting the committee would be an examination of the issue of ghost workers in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC. That is even besides the disturbing matter of the fact that the agency remains largely unaccountable to institutional authority.
The Chairman and members of the Petroleum Upstream must understand that if there must be any meaningful reform that would impact on the wellbeing of the people, the legislative arm must take the reform of the oil sector beyond the passage of the PIB.
The Committee members and the entire Senate must stand their ground to ensure that proposed reforms in the oil sector translate to positive development in other critical sectors of the economy and Nigerians will be happy for it at the end of the day.
Another challenging assignment waiting for Paulker’s Committee and through efficient oversight duties on the NNPC is how to stop what could be described as the mindless hemorrhaging of the nation’s funds.
It would also be recalled that as part of moves to address all these anomalies, the House of Representatives last week mandated its joint Committees on Finance, Petroleum Upstream, Downstream and Gas to carry out an investigation into the activities of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation [NNPC] over what it termed the Corporation’s non_remittance of generated revenue to the federation account.
The step taken by the House was a follow up to the failure of the NNPC to remit N450 billion into the Federation Account which had stalled the monthly meeting of the Federation Account Allocation Committee.