Again, Senate postpones public hearing on petroleum bill

Senate-Chamber08 October 2013, Abuja – For the second time in two weeks, the Senate on Monday postponed the much-publicised public hearing on the controversial Petroleum Industry Bill.

The event was scheduled for Wednesday last week but was postponed to Wednesday, October 9 (tomorrow) because the senators went on recess to enable them to participate in the nation’s 53rd Independence Anniversary celebration.

However, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum, (Upstream) Senator Emmanuel Paulker, told journalists in Abuja on  Monday that the event had been postponed again because some of his colleagues were currently observing hajj in Saudi Arabia.

Paulker, ruled out insinuations from stakeholders and members of the public that the senate was employing tactics to frustrate the passage of the bill.

Rather, he said, “the forced postponement of the public hearing  was due to circumstances beyond our control.”

Paulker added that national interest would prevail at the end of the day and that the PIB would be discussed and invariably passed by the National Assembly.

He said, “There is no cause for alarm. Every thing humanly possible will be done to see the PIB through this time around. Contrary to insinuations, opposition against the bill is only against some clauses in the bill.”

He clarified that international oil companies were opposing the fiscal regime of the bill while some northern governors were opposed to the 10 per cent equity participation of the host communities.

He, however, said  stakeholders in the oil and gas industry had agreed that the laws regulating  the sector were obsolete and needed to be reviewed.

Paulker added, “The PIB has no problem. Our first outing for the public hearing slated for two days in May this year, was inconclusive because we lost a colleague on the second day of the two-day event.

“The first day of the hearing we started but the second day was the burial of Senator Pius Ewherido. I cannot sit in the Senate for a public hearing when a colleague was being buried.

Commenting on the controversies trailing the bill, Paulker said that the PIB was important to every Nigerian and to all the sectors of the economy.

He said, “Oil is the mainstay of our economy. We are looking forward to a day that the economy would be diversified. There is so much reliance on oil.

“As long as the economy rests on oil and there is an Act that is coming to repeal all laws surrounding this single all-important commodity, every serious- minded Nigerian would be interested.

“I have continued to receive calls from my colleagues and other stakeholders that if we hold the public hearing on October 9, it will not be possible for them to participate in the exercise.

“One thing I will assure Nigerians is that everything humanly possible will be done to ensure that the PIB will see the light of the day. As soon as we have this last outing of the public hearing we will retreat to our committee level.

“We can decide to lock up ourselves for a week or two weeks to filter the bill so that we can forward it to plenary.”

– The Punch

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