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NIGERIA'S NATIONAL ASSEMBLY AND THE PROBLEMS WITH NNPC

Source: thewillnigeria.com
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The release of the PWC Forensic Report into NNPC has raised serious questions even while it gave some serious answers. We now know that the $20 Billion is not actually missing. More than anything, the PWC report shows that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) ought to have been passed into law long ago, and would have since brought some sanity to the NNPC and its subsidiaries.

The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) as introduced by the now outgoing Jonathan Administration over two years ago, is the first of its kind in the history of Nigeria to propose such comprehensive breakup and reorganisation of the petroleum Industry. The PIB had already proposed the removal of the Minister and the Government from day-to-day running of NNPC and other parastatals, introducing new models and institutions and also turning NNPC into a self-financing commercial company. The PIB proposed an increased role for indigenous Nigerian Companies and a whole new era of transparency and accountability in the petroleum industry.

So what went wrong? The blame for the problems at the NNPC lie squarely with the National Assembly (the Nigerian Parliament). The Petroleum Industry Bill guided by the Minister for Petroleum and laid before the Nigerian National Assembly, is still strangely awaiting approval by the legislators after two years. The PIB clearly separates policy, regulation and commercial activities that are currently bundled in NNPC, but the Legislators refused to pass it. Nigeria needs to know why.

If the PIB had been implemented by the NAS, many of the issues raised by the PWC report would have been taken care of years ago. The PIB may not be perfect. Legislation rarely is. But the PIB is much better than anything the Petroleum Industry in Nigeria has ever had.

Rather than pass the PIB, the National Assembly specialised in calling the Minister of Petroleum and other colleagues to testify before them on everything under the sun. But they sat firmly on the PIB until the recent election. The reluctance of the legislators to pass the PIB has led to much speculation among many Nigerians that they may have their own reasons for not doing so. Is it possible that they there is a powerful “lobby group” that has influenced the National Assembly not to pass the PIB? Nigerians will want to know the truth. Why does it take PWC to come at tell Nigeria what could have been done years ago?

According to their website ( http://www.nassnig.org/ )

The National Assembly is Nigeria's bicameral legislature and the highest elective law-making body of the country. It consists of the 109-member Senate and the 360-member House of Representatives. The term of the National Assembly is 4-years from the date of its first sitting after the general elections.

The current 7th National Assembly (2011-2015) was inaugurated on 6th June, 2011. Out of the 109 Senators of the Senate, 36 were re-elected while 73 were elected for the first time. Out of the 360 members of the House of Representatives, 100 were re-elected while 260 were elected for the first time.

The 409 Representatives and Senators in the Nigerian National Assembly, have been unable to pass this PIB legislation for more than two years. Yet they have always been able to pass bills that increase their own salaries and allowances. According to the Vanguard Newspaper of 25th August 2013, Nigerian Legislators are the highest paid in the entire world!

The Vanguard said: “A senator in Nigeria earns 240 million naira (about 1.7 million US dollars) in salaries and allowances and a member of the House of Representatives earns 204 million naira (about 1.45million US dollars) per annum. It definitely rubs insult to injury for the average Civil servant who earns about 46 to 120 US dollars per month”.

The incoming administration needs to ask questions as to why the PIB has sat in the National Assembly for over two years. Any money lost to Nigeria through the Petroleum Industry during that time, is the direct fault of the Nigerian Legislators. The PWC report on NNPC is a direct and damning indictment of the Nigerian National Assembly. The members of the NASS should please explain themselves to the nation.

Written by Austin Ibekwe

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