The Senior Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Ita Enang, has asked the Southern Governors Forum (SGF) and members of the National Assembly to take advantage of the proposed amendment to the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) to change the Act on controversial issues of host communities development fund and the frontier basins exploration trust fund.
Mr Enang, a former senator, said members could propose amendments that could be consolidated with those proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He stated this while appearing on “Politics Today” a programme on Channels TV, on Tuesday.
Mr Buhari had written the National Assembly on Tuesday seeking an amendment to the PIA on the administrative part of the law.
The letter dated September 16 was read by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives during plenary sessions on Tuesday.
The PIA, which was assented to by the president on August 16, was passed by the National Assembly under controversial circumstances in both chambers of the National Assembly in July.
The issues of the host community development fund and the frontier basins exploration trust fund almost derailed the passage of the bill.
The amendment sought by the president seeks to increase the number of non-executive board members of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority and the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory commission from two to six, to ensure representation of all geopolitical zones.
The Nigerian Governors Forum had in a communique after its 35th teleconference meeting in July expressed dissatisfaction with the ownership of the NNPC Limited and the issues of host communities and the frontier exploration trust fund.
The NGF recommended that given that the corporation is owned by the three tiers of government, the newly incorporated entity (NNPC Limited) should be owned by a vehicle that “holds the interest of the three tiers of government” – the institution that is currently positioned to carry out this mandate is the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).
The governors, in the communique, said they will address the issues using appropriate channels including the National Economic Council and the National Assembly.
However, despite the concerns, the executive has commenced the implementation of the Act.
Mr Buhari on Sunday directed the incorporation of the NNPC Limited and appointed Ifeanyi Ararume, a former senator, as chairman of the Board.
The president also nominated the executive board of the Commission and the Authority for confirmation by the Senate.
Mr Enang said people dissatisfied with the Act could seek the amendment using the window provided by the amendment proposed by the president.
“There may be issues that members or some sections of the public may have about the fiscal, may have about the—other areas, they can also through their members introduce it and (get it) consolidated and taken together,” the presidential aide said.
“There have been contentious issues on the fiscal component, particularly the matter relating to host communities, particularly the 5 per cent to 3 per cent, and the other is 30 per cent oil profit for the frontier exploration.
“I am glad that the governors’ forum—the governors have raised issues, that if you use 30 per cent of the profit of the NNPC frontier exploration, how much of it remains, will go to the federation account. These are issues that I believe that members that are concerned about may raise amendments on the floor.
“Mr President has not asked for amendment into those sections, but legislators have a right on their own, by themselves to independently or jointly sponsor amendment on these issues. It is at the discretion of the speaker or president of the senate
“If the entire governors’ forum has concerns about the 30 per cent profit oil and profit gas of NNPC and southern governors met last week, and they are also saying look– they may take a position, they will discuss with their members, and coordinated amendments on other areas of concerns can be brought and addressed once and for all.”
Blame National Assembly, not Buhari
Mr Enang however said the National Assembly should be blamed for the controversial frontier basin exploration fund, not the president.
According to him, the president proposed 10 per cent of mining licence and mining lease for the frontier basin exploration funds but the National Assembly members decided to use the oil profit of the NNPC Limited.
“Any blame or issues arising out of the public dissatisfaction on the 30 per cent should not at all be visited on the desk of Mr President or the executive, but it should rather….it is the legislators who were all present,” he said.
Mr Enang, while appealing to members of the National Assembly to expeditiously pass the bill, claimed that the nominations into the authority and commission by Mr Buhari were done in anticipation of the amendment by the lawmakers.
However, the president nominated executive board members, while the amendment bill before the National Assembly is for the non-executive board members.
“Let me say this, I will urge the National Assembly to expeditiously consider and pass this amendment. Because if they don’t expeditiously pass it, we are going to have some legal issues. The legal issue is that the six persons appointed were appointed in anticipation that the Act will be passed, because when you look at the Act, what the Act has provided, the appointments have now exceeded it.
“It is anticipated that it will be quickly passed so that these persons will be inaugurated, and if inaugurated, their actions will be legal,” he said.