With the inauguration of the 10th Session of the National Assembly by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the expectations of Nigerians, based on the perceived disappointment of the 9th Session, was that of legislative vibrancy and independent action, a law-making body that would enact laws with far-reaching benefits to the generality of the people.
After the election of the principal officers that produced Senator Godwill Akpabio as Senate President, and Rt. Ron Tajudeen Abbas as Speaker, respectively, and as was to be expected, they came with promises of the independence of the legislative arm of government and their willingness to enact laws for good governance while at the same time checkmating the excesses of the executive arm of government.
The Senate started on what we might consider a bumpy note with the continuation of the take- a- bow syndrome at the screening exercise for ministerial nominees. However, from the recent outing of the House of Representatives, there is an indication that there would be no sacred cows as far as government business was concerned.
The House has already launched probes into several sectors, and the revelations are mind-boggling. For example, the probe to investigate all funds received from international organizations and donor agencies since 2015 for the Great Green Wall project is, in our opinion, commendable. The preliminary findings have revealed some infractions in procurement processes, the suitability or otherwise of projects embarked upon, and the justification of the monies claimed to have been expended on those projects.
Similarly, it has launched a probe of operations in the oil and gas sector. The reason that undergirds this legislative decision, in our opinion, is the realization that the nation’s major revenue source is crude oil. There is, therefore, a compelling need to sanitize the sector so that the country can derive the utmost benefit from it.
So far, the probes are muti-sectoral in nature even as apprehensions are beginning to emerge about the likelihood of vested interests attempting to hijack the process. This explains why we are against the preference for standing committees to handle the probes. It is important to state, though, that the eyes of Nigerians are on the legislative arm of government to unearth the criminalities that have continued to hold the nation down.
We are enamoured by the deliberations of the Adhoc Committee Investigating Crude Oil Theft and Loss of Revenue from Oil and Gas Companies. Chaired by Hon Kabiru Alhassan Usman Rurum, it has unraveled massive oil theft, suggesting a trend of collusion involving regulatory agencies and their collaborators in the sector.
From the discovery so far, the allegation that most of the Marginal Field Operators are aiding oil stealing to complement shortfalls in their production is beginning to prove true. It is expedient, in our view, that the committee extends its searchlight farther afield especially to Marginal Fields, 14 Production Sharing Contract operators and 57 Joint Venture operators.
Surprisingly, there is a clamour for the suspension of the probes pending the constitution of the standing committees. As a newspaper, we view this push as corruption fighting back and the handiwork of operators who have continued to fleece the country. The danger of succumbing to the pressure is that Nigeria would never get to the root of the matter regarding its inability to curb oil theft which has made it difficult for the nation to meet its production quota with the attendant loss of the much-needed foreign exchange from the sale of crude oil.
Before this probe by the House, there were reports that vessels operated by oil thieves arrested by security agencies were inexplicably released without thorough investigation and prosecution. Based on this perceived anomaly, the committee is also looking into circumstances surrounding such releases. We consider this interference condemnable and, to that extent, urge the Adhoc Committee not to relent in its investigation of Crude Oil Theft and Loss of Revenue from Oil and Gas Companies.
We are not unaware of pressures from those oil thieves intended to compromise key players in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector. However, it is pertinent to note that there have been similar experiences in the past. We are, based on this realization, compelled to charge the committee members to put the country’s interest first and above personal interest. The committee must also dig deep into the mess and spare no individual or organization, no matter how influential or highly placed.
This newspaper is convinced that Nigerians are keenly interested in the outcome of these probes instituted by the House of Representatives. Anything short of a clean job would not be accepted. We, therefore, task the leadership of the lower house to rise to the occasion that has presented itself and write their names in gold as having played a key role in the extirpation of crime and criminality particularly in the oil and gas sector.