PIB passage, kerosene subsidy report suffer setback

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The defection of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party to All Progressive Congress, and the subsequent adjournment of sitting of the lower house to December 3, may be a major setback to the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill and the presentation of the kerosene subsidy report.

The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), Mr. Dakuku Peterside, told our correspondent that the kerosene subsidy report had been prepared, and would have been presented this week but for the adjournment.

In an interview on Tuesday this week, he also disclosed that the PIB had been harmonised, and would likely scale through before the end of the year.

However, talking to our correspondent, Peterside, who did not expect the house adjournment, expressed surprise.

Prior to the adjournment, Peterside had in Lagos said, “We are working on the bill and we are conscious of the fact that it is very critical to the economy of Nigeria, and so we are not taking it lightly. I want to reassure you again that we are taking the PIB very seriously and I am very optimistic that the bill would be passed before 2015.”

According to him, the PIB is critical to the survival and growth of the oil and gas sector and by extension the economy.

On the kerosene subsidy report, the legislator had told our correspondent last week that members of the House of Representatives would this week know the extent of malpractices in the kerosene subsidy scheme.

The probe of the kerosene subsidy scam by the legislators, our correspondent learnt, became necessary due to the irregularities that had been discovered in the scheme, where the government had continued to pay subsidy on the product without Nigerians benefiting from the arrangement.

Under the subsidy arrangement, Nigerians are meant to pay N50 per litre for the product; but that has not been the case as people are buying the product for N120 and above in filling stations nationwide.

Another legislator from the South-East geo-political zone told our correspondent in confidence that placing a December date for the passage of the PIB was becoming more unrealisable given the level of distraction in the polity and the abrupt adjournment of sittings.

He said it was very likely that campaigning among candidates could steal the show when the house finally would reconvene in December.

He also described the situation as unfortunate, saying it would take extra commitment on the side of the legislators to address pressing issues like the PIB and kerosene report holistically before the end of the current National Assembly.

The PIB has been in the works for the past six years. It first found its way into the legislature in 2008 when the administration forwarded the PIB 2008 to the sixth National Assembly. After making some progress, the bill suffered setbacks in 2011.

In 2012, the technical committee and a special task force on the PIB were set up by the new administration. The committee was to harmonise the various versions of the draft bill, while the task force was saddled with the responsibility of incorporating all changes made by the committee, among other things.

The process which culminated in the PIB 2012 was sent to the current National Assembly.

In February this year, Tambuwal said that available records indicated that the Federal Government spent over N1tn on kerosene subsidy between 2010 and 2013.

Tambuwal said in spite of the expenditure not having the approval of the National Assembly, the product was not available for Nigerians to buy.

“Curiously, since there were no budgetary provisions for subsidy on kerosene, the people of Nigeria would obviously be interested in knowing the source of funding of kerosene subsidy and on whose authority such money was appropriated,” the Speaker had said.

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