Wednesday, March 6, 2013 saw the second reading of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) on the floor of the Senate enter into its second day. (Reported here and here).
Deliberations once again centered on the controversial 10 per cent allotted for the Petroleum Host Community Fund (PHCF).
Senate Committee Head on Rules and Business, Ita Enang (Akwa Ibom North East) in refuting the collective opposition by Northern Senators to further funding of oil producing regions through the PHCF, introduced another dimension to the debate by alleging that over 83 per cent of the indigenous acreage allotted in the Niger Delta were given to individuals from the North-East and North-West geo-political zones while the rest were distributed amongst individuals from the South-East and South-West which effectively returned most of the proceeds on investment in the Niger Delta to the North. He then called for the revocation and reallocation of oil blocks in line with the federal character principle. Adding his support to Enang’s view, Senator James Manager (Delta South), warned against withdrawing the Fund as it may breed the return of militants to the creeks, whilst Senator George Thompson Sekibo (Rivers) maintained that the money from the fund was not meant for the South-South region alone.
Senator Abdulahi Adamu (Nasarawa West) while accepting the spirit behind the reforms in the oil and gas sector asked that caution be exercised in the moves to privatise the National Oil Company as a lack of transparency and accountability could jeopardize the process.
Senator Olufemi Lanlehin (Oyo South) voiced concerns about Section 191 of the Bill which gave the President discretionary powers to grant licenses. He expressed worry that the Bill did not place any limitations on this discretionary power by the President.
An area that garnered support from Senators from both Northern and Southern divides was the need to provide adequate funding and support frontier exploration. Senator Manager was of the view that oil exploration in other states would contain the bickering over the PHCF incentives.