By Emma Amaize, Sam Oyadongha, Egufe Yafugborhi, Emma Una, Harris Emanuel and Chioma Onuegbu
Some Members of the House of Representatives from the South-South region have alleged the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, was sneaked in the Order Paper for deliberation and contrary to the widely held opinion that the House passed it, last Thursday, it had not been passed.
They maintained the House voted five percent, not three percent for Host Communities Trust Fund and Mr. Speaker suspended further deliberation on the matter, last Thursday, following undetermined voice voting and members would resume consideration once more on PIB when they return from vacation in September.
One of the South-South lawmakers informed Vanguard that a ranking Northern representative confessed that the Governor of his state and an Emir threatened him, which ostensibly made him go against the decision of the House.
The lawmakers, who have come under attack for their disappointing representation and defense of the interests of Niger-Delta in the newly ratified PIB, made excuses for their collective role, but a number of them tactically evaded calls and WhatsApp inquiries from Vanguard reporters, at the weekend.
Bill sneaked in ― Hon Asuquo
Hon Daniel Asuquo (Dasuki), representing Akamkpa/Biase Federal Constituency in Cross River state, the only lawmaker that spoke to Vanguard in the state, said: “That Bill was not listed for the day but was smuggled by the Deputy Speaker. I am not part of it, we walked out when we noticed the illegality and we will do everything to resist it.”
“The Bill directly impacts on the Niger Delta, which has suffered and gone through a lot on account of its contribution to the development of this country.
“In lawmaking, there are processes to follow and the so-called passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill did not follow the right process and as such cannot stand. I have reported to my constituents whom I represent and they have also rejected it and, therefore, it cannot stand.
Calls and questionnaires sent via WhatsApp by one of our reporters to Hon Chris Agibe, Ikom Boki Federal Constituency, Hon Mike Etaba, Obubra/Etung, Hon Essien Ekpenyong, Calabar South/Akpabuyo/Bakassi, and Hon Eta Mbora, Calabar Municipality were unreciprocated.
Bill not listed ― Hon Agbedi
Speaking on the contentious PIB, Hon Fred Agbedi, representing Sagbama/Ekeremor Federal Constituency, Bayelsa state, said: “It could not have been passed when it was not listed in the order paper. Speaker and the House resolved on Thursday 15th July that the conference harmonization Committee would meet with the Senate again. So, if they could not achieve a change, it would have come complying with the rules of the House by being listed and report laid.”
“This was not done and, therefore, illegal. Again, it is a vexatious provision and I reject it in its entirety. Definitely, not acceptable to me and the oil-producing communities.
“They used the walkout of bipartisan supporters of E- transmission to smuggle in the supposed 3 percent illegally,” he submitted.
Majority had their way ― Hon Oseki
Deputy Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum (Upstream), Hon Preye Oseki, said Niger-Delta lawmakers did what they had to do, but that the majority had their way.
The federal lawmaker representing Southern Ijaw Federal Constituency, Bayelsa state, asserted: “I was in all the sittings and fought for our region. We fought with our colleagues on the first day. But of course, in parliament, the majority will have their way and the minority will have their say.”
House passed 5%, not 3 % ― Hon Dekor
Chairman, House Committee on Host Communities, Hon Dumnamene Dekor, who hails from Rivers state, said: “I am aware that the bill was passed at 5 percent by the House of Representatives. I stand by the five percent which I voted for. Then they went for a conference, led by the Whip of the House.”
“When they came back, the man who led those who went for the conference, came to the floor of the House to say his Emir and Governor called and threatened him. So he did not toe the position of the House anymore.
“Hon Mohammed Tahir Monguno is from Bornu state, he said his Emir and Governor called to threaten him. I was also a member of the PIB Committee, the Joint Committee of Senate and Representatives also took a joint position of five percent.
“And so to my knowledge, what we passed is five percent. Even on Thursday, last week, as we tried to debate it on the floor of the House, those who stood for five percent voted and it was clear that five per sent won.
“But the Chairman that was assigned was of the opinion that he did not get the position clearly. In any case, whenever there is such a position, you go for a voice vote. That voice vote does not go down well. The belief is that the presiding officer recorded it the way it ought not to be.
“The next thing is for him to divide the House, but the House was not divided. In short, Mr. Speaker had to suspend that aspect. We have to go back to that matter and that would be in September. So you are aware that last Thursday, the issue of PIB was suspended by the Speaker,” he said.
Coup against oil communities
A House of Representatives member from Akwa –Ibom, who preferred anonymity, said: “To me, this is a coup against the minority tribes, especially the oil-producing states of the federation. If you look at the level of degradation and impoverishment in the region, you will agree with me that the Nigerian state is not fair to us.
“The walkout by members of the minority parties is a reflection of the feelings of the people we represent, that we do not agree with the happenings. It will be tantamount to a deliberate act to undermine the people of the Niger Delta if the bill is signed into law.
“So, we call for further harmonization to iron grey and contentious areas to avoid litigations and backlashes from the region”, he said.
However, House members from the state appear to be in a conspiracy of silence on their role in the passage of the PIB. Some of them when contacted refused to respond to calls and texts messages sent to their phones.
Honourable Pat Ifon representing Eket/ Esit Eket, Ibeno, and Onna federal constituency, and Unyime Idem, representing Ukanfun/ Oruk Anam federal constituency defensively refused to comment on the issue.
The duo failed to pick their calls after they gave time convenient for them to talk.
Meanwhile, Hon Onofiok Luke of Etinan/Nsit Ibom/Nsit Ubium federal constituency and Hon Nsikak Ekong of Ikot Ekpene/Obot Akara federal constituency did not respond to text messages and calls made to their phones.
Delta lawmakers also shun inquiry
None of the House of Representatives members from Delta state spoke to our reporters on their role on the PIB.