BY BODE GBADEBO, Abuja
The Senate yesterday denied ever dumping the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), saying it is committed to expeditious passage of the Bill and the N13.08 trillion 2021 budget estimates.
Senate spokesman and chairman of its Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru (APC, Osun Central) made this known at a press briefing shortly after the presentation of the 2021 Appropriation Bill by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Basiru was reacting to media reports that the upper legislative chamber had suspended consideration of the PIB till next year because of the 2021 budget, to which he said “this is not true.”
“This is not true because the Bill is central even to the realisation of revenue and putting our oil in competitive international market.
“On October 20, the Bill will be listed for second reading after which it will be sent to the relevant committees of the Senate. That is committees on petroleum upstream and downstream sector. So, that the work being done on the 2021 appropriation will be done at the same time on the PIB,” he said.
On the 2021 Appropriation Bill, Basiru said “we will make sure that copies of the presented budget are made available to Senators latest by Monday. So, on Tuesday, the Senators will take turns to discuss the general principle of the budget and make their views and comments known publicly before it is sent to the relevant committees under the coordination of Appropriation Committee.”
LEADERSHIP Friday reports that earlier in the day before adjourning plenary, the Senate President Ahmad Lawan had announced that the PIB will be debated on Tuesday, October 20, 2020.
According to Lawan, early debate on the Bill is expected to avert any delay in consideration, resulting from the upper chamber’s decision to suspend plenary for one month to enable Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government defend their respective budgets for the year 2021.
Lawan added that the critical piece of legislation, after the debate on the floor by lawmakers, would then pass for second reading and be referred to the Joint Committees on Petroleum; and Gas for further legislative work.
“For the PIB, we need to get the document to our Joint Committee before we suspend plenary, otherwise, the document will remain unattended to throughout the time that we would be handling the budget; and that means we can only come back to it around November or December, and that would be late.
“Everybody is waiting for the PIB to be attended to, but we will take sufficient time to work on it because it is a very sensitive document.
“Nevertheless, we should take the debate and Second Reading of the PIB by the upper week, Tuesday 20th, 2020, and refer the document to our Joint Committees on Petroleum (Upstream and Downstream); and Gas.
“So, while we are working on the budget, they can keep work on the PIB warm. We are not going to rush on it since we have the budget before us.
“Our Joint Committee must do everything possible for us to have a document or report that we would work with in the Senate and something that Nigerians and investors will be happy with,” the Senate President said.