18 October 2013, Lagos – THE Senate at the peak of the crisis in Rivers State House of Assembly passed a resolution directing the Inspector-General of Police, Abubakar Mohammed, to transfer the state Commissioner of Police, Mbu Joseph Mbu to another state following his alleged role in the crisis. However, about two months after the resolution was passed, nothing has changed. In an interview with Vanguard, Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Ita Enang , said that the Senate has not received a formal information on compliance with the directive. He also spoke on other issues including the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
The Senate recently took over the Rivers State House of Assembly due to the crisis there. How far has the upper chamber gone with legislation in that state?
Legislation in respect of Rivers State would only arise if, one, there is a matter in that state requiring legislation. Two, the three legislators representing Rivers State have become the legislators for the state and we have become the legislature for the state. If there is any matter rising from there, they will draw our attention. Secondly, if the governor of the state has a matter in which he needs legislative backing, he will write to us. But as at now, we have not received any measure seeking either a budgetary approval or an amendment to any law or a bill seeking to amend the law or a bill seeking to appoint a commissioner or any other bill.
Amendment of any law
So, if you do not send a bill seeking to approve the appointment of a commissioner, we cannot consider such a commissioner. If there is no bill seeking for a budget to be passed, we cannot pass it. If you have not sent a bill that is requiring the amendment of any law, we cannot originate it because we have not found anything wrong in the way you run the administration of the state to which we are the legislature.
Do you have a time frame as the legislature in that state?
We have a time frame under the constitution. When it is over, it will be over. The constitution says six months in the first instance.
What is the National Assembly doing to ensure that what led to its taking over the Rivers State House of Assembly did not recur?
I think we will ensure that, that does not happen and of course, we gave the Senate President the mandate to interface and I believe he may be interfacing at that level with the governor and the political party to bring about peace.
At the height of the Rivers’ crisis, the Senate came up with a resolution mandating the Inspector General of Police to transfer the state Commissioner of Police, Mr Joseph Mbu but the man is still there …
By our regulations, we made a resolution and we asked somebody to do something. We are not yet aware because nothing has been reported to us that it has been effected or not effected. We are yet to have a formal situation but when we have a formal situation, we will be able to speak and act on it.
Does that mean that you don’t follow up on your resolutions?
When we pass a resolution, we communicate to the executive. It is for the executive to react and when we have heard about the reaction, we follow up; it is not all resolutions that are implemented.
Is the National Assembly not worried about the situation in the Kaduna State House of Assembly where the Speaker was impeached by 18 out of 33 lawmakers?
At that stage, it still remains the internal affairs of the Kaduna State House of Assembly and it has not come to us yet and so, we cannot speak on it.
What do you think should be done to restore sanity in the aviation sector?
We need a complete overhaul of the aviation sector by asking for a technical audit of each of the airlines and aircraft by foreign experts, to ascertain the state of the aircraft, independent of what agent we would employ as the certifying body because I have a problem believing that they are being honest about the actual state of most of the air crafts that are flying in our airspace.
On what is happening to the PIB after being passed in the Senate
I think you know that the bill has been passed on the floor of the Senate and you saw that we held a public hearing on the bill. We are now at the stage of considering the report on the hearing and the chairman of the committee on the bill, Senator Emmanuel Paulker, is of the opinion that we should call and discuss with more persons. We have met with the Minister of Petroleum Resources; we have met the management of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and other interest groups. They made their submissions and having made the submissions to us, we will be considering them.
On allegations that some interests are not allowing the bill to see the light of the day…
It has seen the light of the day by passing through the second reading. What we are doing right now is to bring out and look at the reports of the committees immediately we resume from the Sallah vacation.
And that was one of the reasons that we adjourned, seeing that there are many reports pending in some committees and the number of people required in those committees, sometimes we cannot form quorum on the floor and in those committees.
Interest of Nigerians
Like the PIB, there are four committees involved; one committee on petroleum upstream, petroleum downstream, committee on judiciary and committee on gas. I chair one of these committees but I cannot be absent from the floor of the Senate. Therefore, that is why we have adjourned and concluded that we should go and sit and tidy the reports.
What about the areas of contention in the bill?
That is why the committees meet; that is why the committee is asking, what do members say about this provision? Of course, given what we have and the reality of the law and the interests of Nigerians, what should we do? That is the essence of the committee. We are taking it clause by clause now to say no to some of them and we are going to see a tidy bill that will be acceptable to Nigerians.
How soon do you envisage that to be?
I am believing that as soon as we resume from the Sallah vacation. Our Muslim brothers that will be proceeding on Hajj will be back by between 15th and 16th and by 18th, the Sallah celebrations will be over. By 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st, the committees will be meeting and then by the 22nd, the report will be ready and they will lay it before us.
Let Nigerians not be worried about the PIB because it is not as if there is no law to regulate the oil sector. It is only that we just want to put all the laws together in one instrument so that it will be easy to pick up one volume of law containing everything about the petroleum industry; about gas, the upstream, the downstream, the service companies, the IOCs, marketing, subsidy, the Petroleum Technology Development Fund, etc,, you will see one law in one instrument and in one document.
On when Senate committees undertaking oversight functions will submit their reports?
If you see the Order Paper and the Notice that I published two weeks ago, I gave the list of the committees and the days they will lay the situational reports on the floor. For a committee to be able to lay a situational report before the Senate, it has to go on oversight to see what is happening in the respective ministries. It is to comply with the situational report, that is why they have to go on oversight to see the projects on ground, see the contractors, see the ministries, find out how much money has been released for each of the projects, find out how much is remaining for that project and find out whether it needs more money in next year’s budget. Therefore, it is necessary for them to do the oversight now and part of why we adjourned is to give these committees enough time because most of them that want to write reports must see what is on ground before writing their reports.
*Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Joseph Erunke, Vanguard