By Augustine Osayande
A crisis is in the offing between The Senate and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, as the minister has been warned to stop making false claims on the on-going process of passing into law the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
The upper chamber of the National Assembly in a statement by its spokesman, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi said the PIB which has got to the final stage and is scheduled to be passed before the second anniversary of the Eighth Senate is a private member bill and did not emanate from the executive.
“It is funny to read a report that the Minister went to far away Houston to say that there was a disagreement between the Senate and House of Representatives over the PIB which has delayed its passage and that he has been speaking with the House to take the version of the bill being worked on by the Senate. The statement was unfortunate because the Minister was only demonstrating lack of knowledge of how a bicameral legislature functions.
“First, one would have expected that such a critical bill aimed at reforming the oil sector which is the mainstay of the national economy would be a priority of the Minister when he combined the post with that of being Managing Director of the NNPC. The current National Assembly started work on the bill when it waited for so many months without anything coming from the executive branch.
“Again, it is not unusual for there to be differences in the contents of a bill on the same issue being worked on by the two chambers of the National Assembly. There is already an inbuilt legislative processes for reconciling the two versions of a bill through what is called harmonization process by the Conference Committe of both chambers. So, there is no need for a minister to dabble into the process” Abdullahi said.
The lawmaker accused the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources of jumping into the issue at this point because he knew the Senate will in the next few weeks pass the PIB. “We think the remarks he made on the issue was an unnecessary diversion aimed at creating needless controversy. As part of our own Legislative Agenda, we had decided long time ago that after the passage of Budget 2017, our next major assignment is to pass the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill and immediately fast-track the process of passage of the Host Community Bill and the Fiscal Regime Bills which are also related to the reforms of the petroleum sector” Abdullahi added.
The Senate spokesperson further advised the Petroleum Minister to refrain from making statements which may give wrong impression to the international community that the legislature and the executive are not on the same page on critical issues affecting the national economy.