OrderPaperToday – The House of Representatives last Wednesday named the seven ‘wise’ men Conference Committee on Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) that will meet with its counterpart in the Senate to harmonize certain clauses in the PIB which was recently passed by both chambers.
The Committee is to be headed by Mohammed Monguno (APC, Borno) and comprises six others, namely: Victor Nwokolo (PDP, Delta), Ademorin Kuye (APC, Lagos), Kingsley Uju (APC, Imo) Tijjani Yusuf (APC, Kogi), Ibahim Hamza (APC, Kaduna) and Mansur Soro (APC, Bauchi).
However, the battle ahead is whether the seven ‘wise men’ of the House of Representatives would be able to stand ground and retain the controversial 5% host community fund approved by the green chamber.
This would be the bull’s eye of the joint harmonization committee as the Senate had pegged the fund at 3% drawing severe backlash from sections of the public.
Pressure and prejudice…
It may not be surprising if the House delegation finally buckles to the Senate stand on host community funding. Reps spokesman, Mr. Benjamin Kalu, appeared to have prejudiced the work of the joint panel by pleading the cause of International Oil Companies (IOCs) who actually want the funding proposition deleted from the PIB. Speaking to the media last Thursday, he said: “On the issue of the percentage, if we burden the IOCs we would not be attractive for their investment because no bank in Nigeria has the capacity to fund the exploration and production of oil and gas. So we must look at what is competitive in view of the facts there are other nations around us who have found oil. 10 percent is good, 20 percent is good, but who pays? Who spends the money? If you put so much burden on them (IOCs) and the tax regime and the financial burden in the neighboring States are better, they will remove their investment and go there and we would sit with our oil. One percent of valuable item is better than 100 percent of a thing of no value. If we struggle that we want 100 percent, and at the end of the day our oil becomes worthless.”
On the other hand, a member of the House ad-hoc committee which worked on the PIB all along, Mr. Kingsley Uju (APC, Imo), told journalists that the PIB would create effective production, proper management, transparency and good governance in the oil and gas sector. He expressed his views the day the bill was passed, saying: “The greatest achievement of the 9th House of the National Assembly is the passage of the PIB. If you recall you will agree with me that this bill has been in the cooler for over a decade and what it means is that there may have been issues of disagreements, grey areas, areas that are not actually agreeable by all the stakeholders.
“It got to a point where too many people actually invested so much; either regional, political, religious or even economic interest in the course of trying to adduce their reason for not actually passing the bill. But yesterday the bill was given the greatest ovation anybody can think of in the National Assembly. Overwhelming 99.9 percent of the members on the floor, if not 100 percent agreed with the content of the bill as actually recommended by the PIB committee.
“That is to say that the 9th Assembly, under the leadership of Rt. Hon Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, has actually given flesh and life to the corporate governance of our oil sector. What I mean by this is today we are talking about an oil sector with a very organized governance policy. The policy that would actually entrench profitability and viability of the oil and gas sector in this country. If you watch over the years, we have been talking about oil companies, we have been talking about derivatives from oil explorations in this country.”
He pointed out further that the bill will make the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) accountable to Nigerians as well as make more income and give powers to host communities, adding: “Section 240 is talking about the host communities and these host communities today are singing music of joy because we have given impetus and powers and provided an enabling environment for you to participate in your own resources. What this means is that five percent of operational cost by oil companies have been exclusively reserved for the host communities and by host communities. The five percent would no longer be sent in proxy.
“These monies would be sent directly to a fund which would be established by the same host communities and which would be managed by the same host communities. So we would not have a situation where the host communities would say that they did not get their due share from oil exploration. So this fund would be sent to the host communities, deductible from source. What it means is that you do not need to go begging for the money to be released to you.
“It is a happy mood for any person from the oil producing area and I can assure you that this is one of the best incentives and motivation and opportunity provided for the people of the Niger Delta to be part and parcel of the operations of oil and gas in their region.”
Will Mr. Uju’s excitement on the host community provision be sustained after the harmonization? This is the big question on the lips of many as Nigerians anxiously await the decision of the conference committee which is expected to turn in a report this week.
It is also crucial because the inputs of these seven ‘wise’ men will determine, to a large extent, whether the demons of the PIB have been defeated as exultantly stated by Senate President Ahmed Lawan.
But who are these seven ‘wise’ men from the Reps?
Mohammed Monguno: Monguno is currently the Chief Whip of the 9th House. He represents Marte-Monguno-Nganzai federal constituency of Borno State. He is a lawyer by profession and a grassroots politician who is highly respected amongst his colleagues and other leaders of parliament. He was first elected in the Fourth Republic federal House in 2007 and this makes it his third term as a member. He had been elected into the botched Third Republic House of Representatives in 1992. He is thus a legislative warhorse and tactical negotiator. Will he bring these skills to bear on members of the Senate and secure the 5% funding for host communities?
Victor Nwokolo: Victor is a lawyer and had worked with the State Security Services (SSS) before joining politics and was elected into the House in 2011 to represent Ika federal constituency. He has served in the following House Committees; Police Affairs, Interior, Federal Character, Aviation, Public Procurement (Vice-Chairman) and Housing. He was re-elected in 2015 and also got reelected in 2019 and currently serves as the Chairman of the Banking and Currency Committee of the House. His service in the PIB ad-hoc committee of the current and previous assemblies recommends him for the role as one of the seven ‘wise; men. Sources say he stood firm on the host community funding during heated deliberations at the joint committee. Will he stay firm or cage in to pressure from those opposed to 5% funding?
Ademorin Kuye: Mr. Kuye is a first term member of the House. He is a lawyer and former council official in Lagos. He is known to regularly contribute at legislative sessions either during plenary or committee activities. He is now expected to raise his game at the conference committee.
Mansur Soro: Mansur Soro is from Bauchi State representing Darazo/Ganjuwa federal constituency of Bauchi State. He is the Vice Chairman Maritime Safety, Education and Administration Committee of the House and a first timer too. He has a background in the petroleum industry which is believed may have qualified him for inclusion as one of the seven ‘wise’ men but will he deliver for the Reps?
Kingsley Uju: He is representing Ohaji/Egbema, Oguta and Oru West federal constituency, an oil-bearing region of Imo. He is the Vice Chairman House Committee on Procurement. He got elected in 2019 on the platform of AAA but in 2020 decamped to the ruling APC shortly after Hope Uzodima was announced the right winner of Imo gubernatorial election. He is a lawyer and perceived to be a vibrant lawmaker.
Tijjani Yusuf: Yusuf is a member of the All Progressives Congress from Kogi State. He represents Okene/Ogori Magogo federal constituency. Yusuf is a grassroots politician but perceived to know his ways around the power corridors of the House.
Ibrahim Hamza: The seventh lawmaker on the PIB Conference Committee is Ibrahim Hamza from Kaduna State. He was former Director-General of the Kaduna State Facility Management Agency (KADFAMA) and was also appointed Commissioner, Water Resources in 2018. He is a first time lawmaker on the platform of APC. This is an opportunity for him to leave a footprint in the House. Will he use it wisely?
All but one members of the House Conference Committee on the PIB are of the ruling APC. Six of the members represent a geo-political zone each while the chairman is from the North-east, meaning two slots for that region. Another observation is 90% of the members are lawyers. But will these attributes make the seven ‘wise’ men deliver a just, fair and equity PIB?