NNPC contracts bill splits Senate

OrderPaperToday – A bill for an act to amend the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Act CAP N123 LFN 2004 and for other connected matters therewith, 2017 was today read for the second time.

But this was not after it caused a major disagreement among senators which required a strong-arm intervention from the presiding officer.

The amendment applies to sections 3, 6, 7 and 19 of the principal act.

The bill seeks to make the appointment of the Group Managing Director of the NNPC subject to confirmation by the Senate. It will also increase the contract approval limit of the GMD of the NNPC from 5 million naira to 500 million naira or its dollar equivalent.

Furthermore, it makes it mandatory for the NNPC to submit annual report of the audited account of its operations to the Senate not later than three months before the end of a financial year.

The second reading of the amendment bill however encountered significant opposition among Senators who wanted the bill to be stepped down, and it took a unique intervention of the Senate President for it to scale through.

Moving for the bill to be stepped down, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu said: “I have some concerns, we need to do more consultations regarding this bill.

“Under the procurement act, there are a number of benchmarks for approving authorities and we need to be sure that there is conformity with the procurement act in terms of the amount that the GMD can approve, here it is saying 500 million naira, I think we need to cross check.”

He added that “we are dealing with the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) also, so we need to align it as well with the provisions of the PIB.”

The Deputy Senate President was seconded by Senator Ibrahim Gobir (APC, Sokoto) who declared that the Senate cannot set a procurement limit for the GMD of the NNPC, noting that such procurements are subject to the approval of the board and the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

Speaking on the matter, Senator Kabir Marafa (APC, Zamfara) acknowledged the concerns expressed by the Deputy Senate President but advocated for the second reading of the bill.

He explained that after it is read for a second time, it will be referred to a Committee for further legislative action that would address the issues raised by Senator Ike Ekweremadu.

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki in his submission opined that most of the reservations expressed by Senators were trivial. He affirmed that the crux of bill is the provision that makes it mandatory for the NNPC to present its budget before the National Assembly.

“I think that is enough ground for this bill to pass through second reading,” he said.

The bill was then put to a voice vote and despite a seemingly louder sound of “nay”, the Senate President ruled that “the ayes have it” and the bill was subsequently read for the second time and referred to the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (upstream, downstream, and gas)to report back in four weeks.

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