From Fred Itua, Abuja
Senate, yesterday, warned Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, to stop making what it described as false claims on the on-going process of passing into law, the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
In a statement by its spokesman, Abdullahi Sabi, Senate said the PIB, which has gotten to the final stage and is scheduled to be passed before the second anniversary of the Eighth Senate, is a Private Member Bill which did not emanate from the Executive.
Kachikwu had reportedly said in the United States of America that Senate and the House of Representatives were at war over the contents of the new PIB. He also allegedly claimed that the disagreement led to the non-passage of the bill.
But, Senate, dismissed any allegation of in-fighting on the bill.
“It is funny to read a report that the minister went to Houston (US), to say that there was disagreement between Senate and the House over PIB, which has delayed its passage and that he has been speaking with the House to take the version of the bill being worked on by the Senate.
“The statement was unfortunate because the minister only demonstratedlack of knowledge of how a bicameral legislature functions.
“First, one would have expected that such a critical bill, aimed at reforming the oil sector, which is the mainstay of the national economy, would be a priority of the minister when he combined the post with that NNPC Group Managing Director.
“The present National Assembly started work on the bill after it waited for so many months without anything coming from the Executive branch.
“Again, it is not unusual for there to be differences in the contents of a bill on the same issue being worked on by the two chambers of the National Assembly.
“There is already inbuilt legislative processes for reconciling two versions of a bill through what is called the Harmonisation process, by the Conference Committe of both chambers. So, there was no need for a minister to dabble into the process.
“Kachikwu is just jumping into the issue at this point because he knows we will, in the next few weeks, pass the PIB and we think the remarks he made on the issue was an unnecessary diversion aimed at creating needless controversy.
“As part of our own legislative agenda, we had decided, long time ago, that, after passage of the 2017 budget, our next major assignment is to pass the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill and immediately, fast-track the process of passage of the Host Community Bill and the Fiscal Regime Bills which are also related to the reforms of the petroleum sector,” said Abdullahi.
The Senate spokesperson further advised the petroleum minister to refrain from making statements which may convey wrong impression to the international community that the Legislature and the Executive are not on the same page on critical issues affecting the country’s economy.