The National Assembly has asked critics of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) recently passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives to wait till after the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), possibly signs it into law before seeking amendments.
Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu, who noted that no man-made law is imperfect, said the passed PIB is far better than the archaic law presently guiding the petroleum sector.
Some clauses in the PIB, which the Senate and the House separately passed on Thursday last week, have generated criticisms.
The Southern Governors’ Forum, Southern Caucus and the Peoples Democratic Party Caucus in the National Assembly as well as several regional and zonal socio-political and cultural groups had faulted clauses relating to Frontier Basins and Host Communities in the PIB.
In a piece sent to our correspondent explaining the clauses in the PIB, Kalu described those claiming that the bill is discriminatory as propagandists.
On the possibility of amending the PIB, the House’ spokesman said, “Many have questioned even the laws divinely legislated by God, picking holes why in their analysis it is either incomplete or lopsided to feed their justification for non-compliance.
“If the laws of God are questioned by man, it is not surprising that legislation of mere mortals will be dealt a harder blow by fellow men depending on who is analysing. While divine laws are not amendable, Acts (laws) of men are subject to amendments to reflect the realities of the dynamics of our society, after all, unlike God, the legislators are not omniscient.
“Truly, there is no perfect legislation anywhere in the world. The PIB will embrace a series of amendments after the assent of Mr. President, just like any other law. To delay this bill in the bid to completely satisfy all and sundry, when time is of the essence amounts, to an exercise in futility and should be discouraged.
“What has been legislated for the sector remains the best compared to the archaic Petroleum Act of the 27th November, 1969.”
Kalu added, “Don’t buy the propagandist theories that this was designed in a discriminatory manner against the entire South, treat it as the voice of the naysayers while remaining proud of the government for pulling this all-important bill out without affection or ill will but in the spirit of nation-building.
“The partnership of the executives and the legislature must be commended with specific mention of the leadership of the national assembly especially The president of Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the leadership of the Ad Hoc Committee on the PIB, the members of the committee and the Minister of State for Petroleum with the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, among others, for their dedication in walking the talk. Indeed, the 9th National Assembly broke the jinx with the passage of this bill.”
While the Senate and the House have set up conference committees to harmonise the differences in the versions of the PIB passed by both chambers, a member of the House committee had on Wednesday told our correspondent that it is out of the mandate of the panel to amend provisions already passed by the chambers.
The lawmaker, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak for the committee, stated that the assignment would be limited to the areas of differences.
The lawmaker stated that the panel might only harmonise the percentage.
He said, “Conference committees are meant to harmonise differences reached by the two chambers. So, if this (disparity in the percentage of royalty to host communities) is the only difference, that is it.”