petroleum-industry-billThe House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on the Petroleum Industry Bill has failed to produce a report on the controversial bill, one year after it was appointed.

Findings by our correspondent on Monday showed that the pieces of information that the panel gathered remained in scattered form, while panellists were bogged down by arguments over content.

The 23-member committee headed by the Chief Whip of the House, Mr. Ishaka Bawa, a Peoples Democratic Party lawmaker from Taraba State, was appointed in November 2012.

A source told our correspondent in Abuja on Sunday, “This committee concluded its public hearing on the PIB since June; that was six months ago. The committee first held zonal hearings in the six geopolitical zones and rounded off with a grand finale in Abuja.

“But, here we are; there is no report and there is no concrete explanation on what is holding the panel down on such an important legislation.”

There were indications in July that three factors had tied down the committee’s work.

One was the alleged pressure mounted by the oil majors that wanted some provisions of the bill on royalties, taxes and investment costs scaled down.

A second factor was said to be the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, who was said to have moved to block attempts by the lawmakers to whittle down the “awesome powers” the PIB conferred on the minister to decide oil and gas industry matters in a deregulated environment.

The PUNCH also gathered that the committee lacked adequate funding to hire consultants to interpret the highly technical proposals in the bill.

However, Bawa had denied all the allegations in an earlier interview with The PUNCH.

He claimed that the committee would never succumb to pressure to do any bidding other than “the interest of the generality of Nigerians.”

Bawa also denied that funding was a problem to the committee, adding that “all we have to do now is to put our findings together and lay the report before the House.”

That was in August; but three months on, there is no report.

Our correspondent learnt that members of the panel had been unable to meet regularly to agree on the content of the report.

When contacted, a member of the committee, Mr. Bassey Ewa, said the panel was still meeting to fine-tune the findings of the investigation.

Ewa, who is the Chairman, House Committee on Gas Resources, stated that he believed the committee would write the report because “the PIB is a very important bill we cannot afford to toy with.”

Asked why the report was not ready one year after the inauguration of the committee, he simply replied, “We are still meeting; we met last week and we are meeting this week again.”

Ewa said although he was a member of the panel, the buck stopped on the desk of the chairman (Bawa), who must have the final say on any matter relating to the bill.

Bawa did not respond to inquiries on the PIB when our correspondent contacted him on Sunday.

Unlike in previous encounters when he answered questions via text messages, picked his calls and responded to emails, the chairman has failed to reply to any enquiry through these means in the last two weeks.

Our correspondent bumped into him on the corridor of the House of Representatives last week, but Bawa quickly said, “I will talk, I will talk, I saw your mails,” and hurried off.

The Chairman, House Committee on Rules and Business, Mr. Albert Sam-Tsokwa, confirmed that the report of the panel had not reached his table.

 

Information from Punch was used in this report.

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