One year after mandating the Joint Committee on Petroleum (Upstream, Downstream) and Gas to carry out further legislation on the controversial Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), the Senate yesterday ordered the committees to henceforth conclude work on the bill and return it to the chamber for prompt passage.
Senate President, David Mark while giving the marching order yesterday also asked the Joint Committee on Finance and Upstream Petroleum which had been mandated to investigate the Malabu Oil deal since July last year to expedite action and report findings to the chamber for prompt consideration.
Mark’s order yesterday followed a point of order raised by Senator Olubunmi Adetumbi (Ekiti North) who drew the attention of the parliament to a recent attack on the chamber by unnamed groups of professionals. According to him, the groups accused the Senate of lack of commitment to issues of national importance at a function.
Recalling that PIB was committed to the committee since March 7 last year, Adetumbi who said he was put on the spot at the function, being the only senator in attendance, told his colleagues that Senate was accused of toying with critical issues affecting the economy such as the PIB and the Malabu debacle.
According to him, the group blamed the Senate for various unethical practices currently rocking the oil industry with insinuations that if the National Assembly had passed the PIB, the nation would have been spared the protracted rots in the industry.
On the Malabu oil deal, Adetumbi who recalled how an international extractive group had written an advocacy letter to two European parliaments as well as European Union (EU), asking them to commence investigation into the Malabu oil deal, regretted that whereas the parliament is already rounding off its investigation, there has been a lull on similar investigations from the Nigerian parliament.
While challenging his colleagues to be alive to their responsibilities especially when such issues affect the economy, Adetumbi noted that as senators, they were duty bound to understand the volume of privileges and responsibilities placed on their shoulders adding that parliamentarians were expected to be sensitive to issues affecting the economy. He added that failure to conclude assignments on PIB and Malabu oil deal was embarrassing to Senate’s reputation.
He said: “I was at a public event a week ago. I was the only senator in the midst of many professionals including other professionals from the international community.
I came under severe attacks of intense questioning about some unfinished businesses in the chamber that they believe are affecting the economy. In particular, I was put on a spot to explain to the gentlemen why the PIB is not attended to in the Senate and how the non-passage of that bill is responsible for many of the terrible things that are happening in this very important sector.
“The issue of Malabu oil was also raised at that gathering. Upon coming back, I had to check my proceedings and l found that PIB after debate was committed to the appropriate committee in this chamber on March 7, 2013. It will be exactly one year next month.
Up till now, there seems to be nothing going on. The Malabu oil was committed to a committee in this Senate in July. It will interest this Senate that an international extractive advocacy group in Europe did a letter dated July 5, 2013 to Italian and Netherlands governments requesting for public investigation of the roles of companies from their countries and to the European Union (EU).
“As l speak, the Italian and Netherlands governments and the EU parliaments are about concluding public investigations that would be made public very soon.
I feel as a senator, we should know what is going on so that the reputation of this parliament as an institution is not called to question. I feel a situation where the report of EU parliament on issues that affect our economy is made public and our own apex parliament is not seemed to be doing what it should do one year after, will affect all of us collectively.
That is why as a senator l need to receive explanation from this Senate so that if l find myself in the public, l should be able to speak intelligently so that l will not be embarrassed,” Adetumbi said.
Mark while upholding Adetumbi’s point of order, asked the committee to hasten action on their assignments and report back without further delay.
While the PIB is aimed at salvaging the oil sector, Malabu oil deal involved $1.092 billion money laundering between Royal Dutch oil giant, Shell and Italy’s oil major, ENI. Consequently both companies are being investigated by British government.
Also yesterday, the Senate resolved to debate a motion bordering on the controversy surrounding kerosene subsidy. The decision was sequel to a point of order raised by Senator Babajide Omoworare (Osun East).
According to Omoworare, the alleged illegal kerosene subsidy spent by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was a very serious issue which the Senate could not afford to overlook as he described the situation as worrisome.
By Omololu Ogunmade