Nigerians who think last month’s passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021 will pave the way for new laws will have to wait much longer as the two bills are still at the National Assembly.
LEADERSHIP reports that the bills still have a lot of work to be done on them and it is unlikely the bills will be sent to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent this month.
The passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill on July 1, 2021 after 14 years of its sojourn in the National Assembly raised fresh controversy concerning the provision of three per cent for the host communities from the actual annual expenditure of proceeding year of the oil company to be paid directly to the host community development trust fund.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives committees had proposed five per cent of the actual annual operating expenditure of the preceding financial year in the upstream petroleum operations for the host communities as against a request of 10 per cent by the host communities.
President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who first introduced the PIB proposed 10 per cent for the host communities. When the Buhari administration was introducing the bill in the 8th Assembly, five per cent was proposed for the host communities. The percentage was later reduced to 2.5 for the host communities.
While the Senate passed three per cent, the House of Representatives passed five per cent but the conference committee of the National
Assembly settled for three per cent.
Leaders from the Niger Delta region have been calling for a review of the three per cent to five.
Former governor of Bayelsa State and Senator representing Bayelsa West
at the National Assembly, Seriake Dickson said if the host communities are not happy, the oil companies might not be safe to do business in the area.
Dickson called on President Muhammadu Buhari not to sign the bill until more consultations are made.
But LEADERSHIP findings on the PIB show that despite the passage of the bill on 1 July, 2021, the National Assembly bureaucracy is still working on the document.
Worried by the long delay in transmitting the bills, the Senior Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters in the House of Representatives, Umar el-Yakub, said Buhari is waiting for the PIB as well as the Electoral Act Amendment bill.
According to el-Yakub, Buhari will sign the bills as soon as they are transmitted to him.
But speaking on why the bills have not been transmitted to President Buhari for assent, one of the officials at the National Assembly
bureaucracy said the PIB is undergoing a clean-up, adding that legislative work has also not been completed on the Electoral Act Amendment bill.
“For the PIB, it is undergoing a clean-up by the National Assembly Bureaucracy. The bill is over 300 clauses. We need to take time to go through these clauses one after the other to ensure that the clauses truly reflect the position of the National Assembly.
“So, after the clean-up, it will now go for authentication and the Clerk will sign it and take it to Mr President for his assent,” the source said, adding that there is no date yet for transmission since the clean-up process will take time.
“For the Electoral Act, there is supposed to be a conference committee when the lawmakers return from recess in September.
“They will set up the conference committee during plenary. Usually, when the two chambers have different positions on any bill, there will be a conference committee comprise of members from both chambers. So, they will meet when they come back,” he said.
LEADERSHIP reports that the clean-up on the PIB, if a thorough job must be done, because of the National Assembly bureaucracy, it will take time and it is unlikely the two bills would be signed this month.
The passage of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021, with a condition on the electronic transmission of results, had angered Nigerians against the members of the National Assembly with the Inter-party Advisory Council (IPAC) and some other Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) condemning the action.
They have called on President Buhari not to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill until the proper thing is done.
Nigerians have earlier called for electronic voting and electronic transmission of election results in order to cub electoral malpractices.
But when the members of the National Assembly voted on the bill, Clause 52 (3) was amended in the red chamber to allow the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to decide where and when electronic voting and electronic transmission of results should take place.
The contentious clause 52 has angered Nigerians who are now calling on President Muhammadu Buhari not to sign the bill.
The Inter-party Advisory Council (IPAC), an umbrella body of all political parties in Nigeria has said that they are meeting this week to take a stand on the bill adding that the action of the lawmakers have taken the country back to the dark days.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP, IPAC spokesman, Major Agbo said the political parties are not happy with the voting of the members of the National Assembly, adding that the outcome did not reflect the proposals they made to the lawmakers.
On her part, the director, CDD, Idayat Hassan said many Nigerians are not happy with the outcome of the voting, adding that they will mobilise themselves for a better engagement.
“For us at the CDD, we are very unhappy especially with the exclusion of the electronic transmission of results,because we feel that process will improve the credibility of elections and take away all the human interference that is often encountered in our elections.
“I think it is high time Nigeria mobilised against it (electoral bill)
because the National Assembly is actually representing Nigerians not otherwise. In few days, the civil society will be unveiling what their plans will be in terms of this electoral act. If it means engaging them at their Constituency level, I am sure that Nigerians will not rest until the right thing is done, ” Idayat said.
Also, the executive director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Awwal Musa Rafsanjani said it is surprising the lawmakers removed that part.
According to CISLAC, the action of the lawmakers shows they don’t want to end electoral violence in Nigeria.
“When they submit the bill, the president should carefully study it and toe the line with the popular aspirations of Nigerians which is about improving the electoral process in Nigeria and make it free from manipulation,” Rafsanjani added.
Ijaw Elders Ask Jonathan To Meet PMB On PIB, Others
Ijaw elders from the nine states of the Niger Delta region have asked former President Goodluck Jonathan to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari on the review of some bills passed by the National Assembly.
Top in their request is the provision of three per cent for oil-producing communities in the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
The elders of the Ijaw nation, who were represented by the national executive members of the Ijaw National Congress (INC) and Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide, made the demand during a meeting with Jonathan in his office in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital.
They also listed the Water Resources Bill and other laws, which they claimed, infringed on their human, material resources and environmental rights of the people of the region.
The leader of the delegation and national president of the INC, Prof Benjamin Okaba, said though his executive had commenced the process of building better relationship and mutual cooperation with other ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta and other minority groups within and outside the country, there was need for the former president to liaise with the presidency to have a rethink on PIB and the Water Resources Bill.
He also urged Jonathan to strengthen Ijaw advocacy at national and international circles on resource justice, restructuring and the creation of at least two additional states and more local government areas to address their challenges of balkanisation.