23 December 2012

Nigeria: When PIB, Anti-Terror Bill Suffer Setback in Senate

The controversial Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), the anti-terrorism bill and the Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Dr Harold Demuren were at the receiving end of the parliamentarians in the preceding week. But those who want accumulate more foreign debts for Nigeria got a field day.

Senate proceedings on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and the anti-terrorism bill were stalled in the week as the issue of helicopter crash took centre stage.

On Tuesday, when Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba rose for his lead debate on the PIB, the chamber turned rowdy as majority of the senators insisted that the debate be postponed indefinitely.

Efforts by Ndoma-Egba to convince his colleagues on the need to start the debate were unsuccessful as they maintained that it should be suspended in view of the mood of the nation regarding the Navy helicopter crash.

Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu urged Ndoma-Egba to step down the debate to another legislative day.

Also, the proceedings of the Senate on the anti-terrorism bill were stalled on Wednesday as questions were raised over the legality of conferring on the National Security Adviser (NSA) the power to coordinate security agencies' activities in the fight against terrorism.

The report stated that the conference committee adopted the House of Representatives' version on the NSA's role in the fight against terrorism.

Specifically, the committee recommends that the office of the National Security Adviser shall be the coordinating body for all security and enforcement agencies and shall provide support to all relevant security, intelligence, law enforcement agencies and military services to prevent and combat acts of terrorism in Nigeria and ensure the effective formulation and implementation of a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy for Nigeria.

But the chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Ita Enang rejected the recommendation, arguing that in the first place, the NSA office does not exist in law, and therefore, it will be improper for the National Assembly to confer any responsibility on such an office which, according to him, is a mere advisory office to the president.

Senate President David Mark first noted that the Senate could not amend the report because it was prepared by the conference committee of both chambers. He said: "Our committee went there and agreed that the House of Representatives' version on the issue be adopted."

The session became rowdy when Mark twice put the question for the adoption of the report as the voice vote sounded equal between the 'ayes' and the 'nays'.

Apparently confused, Mark called for the suspension of the debate, saying: "The way we normally express our views is either yes or no. But since this is too close to each other, I will call on the Senate leader to move a motion for me to suspend the debate on it".

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