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Nat Confab: Delegates reject call to patronise illegal refineries

By The Citizen
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The National Conference yesterday rejected a proposal by the Committee on Science and Technology which had in its report urged government to understudy and further develop the technology being used by illegal crude refineries in the Niger Delta.

According to the committee, “government should assist the illegal crude refiners in order to help develop locally made refining technology. It said government must deliberately harness the potentials being used by the illegal oil refinery operators and by so doing increase our local refining capacity.'

However, delegates were jolted when a prominent Niger Delta traditional ruler, the Amanyanabo of Nembe, in Bayelsa State, Edmud Dakoru in his effort to justify his opposition to the existence of illegal crude refineries, told the conference that the operators of illicit businesses are “his boys”.

He defended the position taken by delegates to discourage illegal refineries operation in the country, saying even though some of the persons engaged in the illegal oil refining are his kindreds; their operations are not only very crude and damaging but is against the national interest.

He said both the bye-product and mechanism adopted are economically not feasible. “Even though the perpetrators of the illegal refining are my boys, national interest should be paramount and I support the rejection of illegal refineries, ” he said.

Addressing the delegates on a matter of concern, the Chairman of the conference, Justice Idris Kutigi said it had become very necessary that something must be done to adopt a new procedure for passing recommendations in other to move proceedings faster. Kutigi said in the view of the fact that the conference have only five weeks to conduct its business, it behooves on delegates to change the present practice where almost everybody that has indicated interest to speak on recommendations to do so.

He said there was need to adopt new measures to save up time by limiting debates and discussions on recommendations of committees to only persons allowed to move motions for amendments.

“We are proposing an amendment to rule six which we hope you will help us to uphold. There will be no more debates on committee reports as the conference was running out of time. Henceforth once a committee chairman reads out his report, if any delegate has any amendment, it should be written and submitted to the secretariat, ” he said.

He said instead of allowing every member to speak, only those have submitted amendments should be called up to present it and votes will be taken.

According to Kutigi, copies of the proposed amendments will be circulated to delegates a day before the plenary. He said debates would only be taken on the recommendations contained in the reports.

Akinyemi intervened in response to one of the delegate's allegation that the secretariat may be seeking to gag people’s contributions to the committee reports containing contentious issues.

He told the delegates how the leadership had led a delegation to government to ask for an extension.

“We practically knelt down begging for the extension of time to six weeks but government refused and granted only four weeks. The initiative we are introducing was meant to manage our time, ” he said.

During the plenary yesterday, many recommendations of the committee were defeated when voting started. They turned down a proposal for a ban on export of raw materials and that government should ensure 50 per cent value added to any raw material before export.

Bolaji Akinyemi explained that the idea behind the recommendation is to try to improve on the crude technology being employed. Rejected. Dakoru supported the rejection of the proposal saying the method being used by the illegal refineries is too crude.

In the same vein, delegates voted against another amendment brought before them by a delegate and proprietor of a private broadcasting outfit, Chief Raymond Dokpesi to drastically reduce public funding of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and Federal Radio Corporation (FRCN) if they are to continue as a commercial entities. The conference, while debating the report of the Committee on Science and Technology called on the government to consider as an initiative to boost local refining capacity a proposal to develop the technology used by illegal oil refinery operators in the Niger Delta area.

An amendment proposed by the owner of DAAR Communications Plc, delegates rejected Dokpesi's proposal for a reduction in public funding of NTA and FRCN. Presently, public electronic media now get subventions but still operate as commercial while the private media does not get support and operates only on commercial basis.

But the Emir of Askira, Mai Abdullahi Ibn Muhammadu, informed the conference that the federal government reforms contained in Oronsaye committee report has recommended that subventions to NTA and FRCN will be stopped, adding that if it is implemented, NTA will have no order alternative than go full commercial. Another proposal that government should enforce a policy that television decoders be produced in the country was rejected.

Also delegates accepted that a viable military industrial complex should be set up and encouraged. Delegates further approved recommendations to set up a National Science Technology and Innovation Fund (NSTIF) and to make it mandatory for science based companies and multinational companies to pay two percent of their gross earnings to the fund.

The conference also approved that the fund when established should be jointly managed by the Academy of Science, Academy of Engineers, Academy of education and Manufacturers Association of Nigeria. It suggested that disbursement of the NSTIF should be based on the projects proposed/recommended by relevant professional bodies.

It is also to approve the establishment of a Presidential Council on Science Technology and Innovation whose membership should include the academia.

Other approved recommendations include, that government should facilitate the amendment of the Biotechnology and Biosafety Agency Bills to have strict liability provisions, ensure compulsory computer education and provision of science equipment at the primary level in all schools, enhance broadband high speed Internet access with priority given to primary and secondary schools.

Senator Ibrahim Ida moved a motion for the adoption of the report by the committee of science and technology as amended while Azu Agboti from Ebonyi seconded the motion. The conference agreed to commence deliberations on the reports of committees on agriculture, trade and economy today.