Passage of the bill for third reading by the upper legislative chamber was sequel to consideration of the 318 – clause report submitted to that effect by its joint Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), Petroleum (Upstream) and Gas.
Moment of tension
There was however an uproar among senators from the North and Oil Producing States when the consideration process got to clause 240 which deals with percentage share for oil producing communities.
The joint committee had in the 540-page report, recommended 3% for Host Communities Development Trust Fund which the Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege in his earlier remarks, commended and thanked the Senate leadership for.
The position of the Senate on the Host Communities Development Fund however changed after about one hour closed door session with the Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari.
During the clause consideration, Senator Ahmed Babba Kaita (APC Katsina North), moved for amendment of 5% proposed in the clause to 3% as suggested by the NNPC GMD during the closed session which was put to voice votes with lawmakers in support having it.
Saddened with the development, Deputy Senate President Omo-Agege quickly rose to his feet by suggesting for a caveat in the amendment which according to him, should put responsibility of security of oil facilities in the affected communities on the federal government if it is 3% and on the host communities if it is 5%.
But the suggested caveat by Omo-Agege was thrown out when put to voice votes with the nays having it.
Dissatisfied with the ruling of the Senate President Ahmad Lawan on Omo- Agege’ s suggested caveat , Senator George Thompson Sekibo ( PDP Rivers East) angrily raised a point of order anchored on Order 73 of the Senate’s standing rules to call for division.
But in a trouble shooting effort, Senate Leader Yahaya Abdullahi quickly rose to appeal to Sekibo for withdrawal of the point of order.
He said: “With all sense of responsibility, my heart bleeds. The Senate has come a long way. We have never treated ourselves in the way that distinguished senator wants us to do today.
“We are embarking on a very dangerous journey that will hurt the unity that we have cherished, the unity on the basis of which we have moved this Senate and moved this nation to come to this point, the unity that we have worked in this Senate to the envy of all our traducers, to the envy of those people who don’t wish this nation well. They will now start embarking or dividing ourselves along certain fault lines that could cause division and disunity for this country.
“I think that is a path to Armageddon. So I appeal to my brother and friend, Senator Sekibo to please withdraw this point of order.”
Making similar appeal, Senate President Lawan said: “It is the right of every senator here to call for division, it’s your right. But I want to appeal that what we have been educated by the GMD gave us better ideas.
“This 3 per cent I know will not be exactly what some of our colleagues want. But what is of consolidation is that movement. At least, the Senate did not pass 2.5 per cent proposed by the executive. We have passed something slightly higher than 2.5 per cent. But that is the reality and we are stuck with that.
“I want to appeal to Senator Sekibo as earlier done by the leader to withdraw his point of order.”
Apparently overwhelmed with the appeals, Sekibo reluctantly withdrew the motion but still pleaded for upward review of the 3%.
He said: “As the Senate President, if you appeal to me on something that is personal and I did not take it, you will not be delighted, but no I will say something.”
Reiterating the need to further jack up the equity share, Sekibo said: “What I’m asking for is not for me as a person but it is for the interest of the nation. Because when we pass a good law, we must also have a good environment to implement the law.
“If the environment is not conducive for implementation, we all come back to redress. My appeal to you is that you increase the number a little bit. I have withdrawn the motion while appealing to you.”
Though the heated debates on the percentage share for Host Communities continued with Senators like Albert Bassey Akpan and Bala Ibn Na’ Allah among others arguing for upward review or against , but the 3% was not changed.
Aside the 3% approved as Host Communities Development Trust Fund as against 5% earlier recommended by the Senate Joint Committee, other recommendations made in the report were adopted without any form of amendments.
One of such recommendations was the 30% proposed for Frontier Basins.
The 30%, as stated in the report, is to be taken from NNPC Limited’s profit from oil and gas.
Relevant section of the bill on unbundling of NNPC states: “The bill when passed into law, will strengthen the accountability and transparency of NNPC Limited as a full – fledged CAMA company under statutory / regulatory oversight with better returns to its shareholders – the Nigerian People.”
In divesting NNPC of its regulatory powers, the bill created three different bodies, namely; Nigeria Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, Nigeria Upstream Regulatory Commission and Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited.