Good News As Reps Plan To Revisit 5% Demand For Host Communities

As the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has presented the Petroleum Industry Act to the National Assembly for amendment, members of the House of Representatives especially from the Niger Delta have expressed readiness to revisit their demand for five per cent royalty to the host communities in the oil sector.

Buhari had sought amendments to the PIA, including the removal of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning from the boards of the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission and the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority.

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan; and Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, read the cover letter attached to the executive bill presented by Buhari on Tuesday.

The proposal includes the appointment of non-executive board members; removal of the ministries from the boards of the two institutions; and appointment of executive directors to the boards.

The lawmakers may be seeking further amendments to those proposed by the President in an executive bill presented to the parliament last week.

Already, Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu, on Thursday, said more amendments could be welcomed while considering Buhari’s proposal.

Kalu was asked if the House would use the opportunity to revisit the issue of the host communities.

He had said, “If the executive has proposed or made a proposal for an adjustment to be made with regards to the issue of non-executive members of the boards, nothing stops the public from pushing in their own amendment proposals.

“Nothing stops the parliament from pushing in its own amendment proposals. If the parliament finds merit in their  (host communities’) propositions, we will consider them alongside the consideration of that from Mr President.”

Lawmakers from the Niger Delta seem to be considering taking the opportunity.

Speaking to our correspondent on Saturday, Ben Igbakpa, a member of the PDP from Delta State,  noted that the amendment exercise was an opportunity to tinker with the PIA.

“It is an opportunity. The President brought the governance structure (of the sector) to tune with the Federal Character Act so that all geopolitical zones would be carried along in the membership of the Commission.

“It is an opportunity to look at it (royalty) but we will have to consult widely before we look at it. But it is something that is worth looking at.

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“The President has only brought a proposal; this is a proposal. It is not the President’s prerogative or constitutional responsibility to make laws. He has brought a proposal to the National Assembly. It is left for the National Assembly to process his proposal and add or remove whatever it wants in the interest of the people, once it is good for the country.”

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Another PDP member from Akwa Ibom State, Unyime Idem, noted that more consultation should be made with lawmakers in the Senate where the royalty was reduced from five per cent to three per cent.

Idem said, “This is a good opportunity for members to also tinker with and amend the PIA – the percentage- to up it to five per cent as earlier proposed.

“For us in the House, we actually passed five per cent; that was the position of the House. The issue of three per cent emanated from the Senate, not the House. What we need to do at this point is for us to lobby our counterparts in the Senate, for us to make them see reason, to see how they can support the position of the House.

“I won’t say that we should go back and discuss with our colleagues when we have already agreed that we were going to pass five per cent. Rather, we should go to the Senate and lobby our colleagues, to see how they can also support the position of the House.”

Another PDP member from Rivers State, who spoke on condition of anonymity, however, decried that members of the House voted on the Petroleum Industry Bill along party lines, including those from the South-South.

Then lawmaker said the fresh move might be frustrated by members of the ruling All Progressives Congress from the geopolitical zone.

He said, “I don’t grandstand. My people know my position (on the matter); they saw my efforts at the last time. They also know those from the Niger Delta who also betrayed and frustrated the efforts; they know them (lawmakers) who voted across party lines. Speaking to it will not change anything.

“The thing that we should expect is action on the floor. If members from our area propose further amendments (to the PIA), it is well and good. That is what we should look out for. It is not when somebody talks but when it comes to the floor, they run away.”

The National Assembly passed the Petroleum Industry Bill while the president signed it into law recently.

The passage was followed by protests as members of the National Assembly especially from the Niger Delta in the House protested against the reduction of the royalty.

While the PIB originally proposed five per cent, the Senate cut it to three per cent. While the House earlier agreed to five per cent, it eventually adopted Senate’s three per cent proposal.

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