This Day (Lagos)

29 April 2014

Nigeria: Senate Inches Towards Passage of PIB

In a matter of weeks, the Senate will conclude legislation on the much-awaited Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), THISDAY learnt Monday.

In this regard, the Joint Committee on Petroleum (Downstream, Upstream and Gas) on PIB has constituted a conference to harmonise issues on the bill with a view to putting paid to legislation on the bill at the committee level.

Making this disclosure to THISDAY on the phone Monday, the Senate Committee Chairman on Rules and Business, Senator Ita Enang, said the conference of the three committees was working assiduously to conclude its assignment and submit its report to the entire Senate for the final passage.

Enang, who said contrary to the general opinion that the lawmakers were not committed to the passage of the bill, disclosed that as a member of the committee, he could confidently confirm that legislation on the bill was currently in a top gear and would end very soon.

"The conference of the three committees on PIB is working hard. It is a major priority on our list. That is why work on the bill has been intensified. As a member of the committee, I can authoritatively confirm to you that the PIB is one of our prioritised bills. It passed the second reading and we are working towards submitting our report for the third reading and final consideration of the Senate," he said.

To buttress the Senate's commitment to the passage of the bill, Enang said the leadership of the chamber had resolved to ensure that all critical bills such as the PIB, amendment of the Electoral Act, constitution amendment and some other executive bills are promptly passed when the parliament resumes from its two weeks Easter break today.

According to him, some sections of pending bills bordering on the conduct of elections in both the constitution and Electoral Act amendments would be given the deserved attention, noting that all requisite legal framework must be ready at least six months before elections.

The senator also said the chamber would prioritise work on the amendment to the 1999 Constitution, noting that whereas both the Senate and the House of Representatives had passed separate versions of the amendment, the two chambers must eventually produce a single document for onward transmission to the state legislatures before returning it to the National Assembly.

He also spoke on the Senate's preparedness to conclude amendment to the Electoral Act well ahead of party nominations in October or November this year so that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the courts and relevant stakeholders are well guided.

"We have the first presentation by the Independent National Electoral Commission on the proposed amendments. So it becomes necessary to give urgent attention to the Electoral Act in view of the expected preparations that INEC is supposed to make for the 2015 general election.

"This is so because a few of the amendments may touch on matters relating to the powers of INEC on nominations and the nominations are expected this year and so reasonably, it is expected that we should be able to pass amendment to the Act so that INEC would know which of their submissions that we have accepted and those that have been rejected and those which have become law which they had to abide by.

"We have to look at whether it is reasonable to amend those provisions to untie the hands of the court so that in the course of INEC and Nigerians preparing for the election, the contestants will know for certain, the laws under which they will be contesting the elections," Enang said.

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