Attempts to open debate on the new Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) in the Senate failed on Tuesday, April 26, 2016 as most Senators kicked against its second reading on the grounds that copies of the bill were not made available to them.
They lamented that the usual procedure where copies of bills meant to be presented for debate on the Senate floor, were always circulated to members ahead of time, was not adhered to.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki had already given the floor to the sponsor of the bill, Senator Omotayo Alasoadura (Ondo Central) to lead the debate before opposition mounted as the lawmakers shouted that they were yet to receive copies of the bill.
Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who led the protest, said copies of the bill should have been circulated to all senators ahead of formal debate to enable them make useful contributions.
Akpabio insisted that the bill entitled, “A Bill for an Act to Provide for Governance and Institutional Framework for the Petroleum Industry and for other Matters Connected therewith, 2016” should not be treated with levity.
He noted that since oil and gas has remained the life wire of the country’s economy since independence, any bill aimed at revitalising the sector should be given the importance it deserved.
Akpabio said: “Mr. President, I believe that we are discussing about the economy of Nigeria since 1960. The main stay of the economy of this country has been crude oil and therefore, the Petroleum Industry Bill is such an important bill that will affect people suffering in this country.
“It will also affect the budget of the Federal Government that we are doing today.
“It is not the kind of bill that we can stay here and gloss over and then allow somebody to do a lead debate without senators having the bill in their hands.
“It is something we must study, come and make our own inputs, because we have to make sure that if that bill is properly done and then the President signs it into law, then it will help the economy of this country and it will also help to generate more income and enhance the living standards of Nigerians.
“I think it is an exercise in futility for my brother to do a lead debate when the bill is not circulated to senators.”
Though Saraki said the bill was circulated last Thursday, he however ruled that the debate be stood down till today to allow for the circulation of copies of the proposed legislation.
He asked Alasoadura to ensure that copies of the bill were circulated.
Senator Kabiru Marafa (Zamfara Central) criticised the Senate for taking credit for the sponsorship of the bill.
Marafa who raised Point of Order, noted that the bill was an Executive Bill. He insisted that it was wrong for the Senate to present itself as the sponsor of the bill
Marafa said: “I come under Order 76, which reads ‘there shall be three classes of bills, namely, Executive Bill, Members Bill and Private Bill.’
“As far as I can remember, the PIB was an Executive Bill, submitted to this chamber as an Executive Bill, it was submitted wholly as one bill to be considered equally and thoroughly.
“To my greatest surprise, the presenter here is telling us that he has separated the bill into parts and pieces to be considered and I don’t know where he drew that authority from, because the executive has already submitted one bill and not part and pieces.
“So, I want to suggest that the presenter brings the bill as presented by the executive arm of government.”
Saraki told Marafa that so far, there was no bill on PIB from the executive before the Senate.