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Money Sharing Tears Reps Apart

How Money Accruing To The Federation From The Sale Of Crude Oil And Gas Would Be Shared As Captured In The Petroleum Industry Bill Is Now A Bone Of Contention At The House Of Representatives

Dyepkazah Shibayan, Abuja

House of Representatives was divided yesterday over how much should accrue to the country from exploratory licences issued to prospective companies in the Petroleum industry. The legislators, who resumed consideration of the report of the ad-hoc committee on Petroleum Industry Bill yesterday following suspension of the exercise in honour of the late Senator Ahmed Zana from Bornu State, were locked in disagreement over the provision of clause 209 of the Bill.

Kyari Gujbahu from Borno State had raised observation on the clause which deals with holders of exploratory licence to prospective operators in the industry and the monetary benefit therein. He argued that in the draft report of the committee, revenue from activities of oil companies to be used for the take off of River Basins exploratory activities was pegged at $4 per barrel of gas and 20 cents for a barrel of crude. However, when the clause came up for consideration, the said provision was nowhere to be seen, prompting agitation and counter-agitation from lawmakers from the South- South and their counterparts from the North.

He said: “in the draft report which was referred for final compilation by committee, the sharing formula between government and oil companies for the development of River Basins across the country was $4 per barrel. “I now wonder why that has disappeared from this clause as contained in this report,” he said. Abdurahman Terab, also from Borno State, added his voice, saying that “this suggestion is not a new thing in countries where there is oil. It has been in use in Chad, Niger and even Ghana. “This fund is not meant to develop the areas where the Basins are located but meant to develop the Basins for the purpose of exploration of resources therein in furtherance of the nation’s economic growth.” Sokonte Davies from Rivers State however disagreed.

He said there was no way the amount could have been pegged at $4 per barrel which he said was too much a sum to be used as takeoff fund. “Even the 20 cent per barrel is a lot of money that can be used to kick-start any exploration activity anywhere. If we must do it, let’s leave it at 20 cents per barrel of gas and 2 cents per barrel of crude”, he submitted. At this point, a member of the committee, Hon. Ali Ahmad from Kwara State moved for an amendment, saying that the 20 cents be substituted for $2 per barrel which amounts to $1.2billion per annum. He said the conversion should be increased from 20 cents to $2 for gas, and from 2 cents to 20 cents for crude lifting as overall reduction from the initial $4 per barrel proposed.

Given the disagreement, Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, who chaired the plenary, intervened urging members to sheathe their swords and allow the committee to go back and take a second look at the clause and report back. “Whatever interest you have can’t be more than the national interest that this parliament and this House in particular has”, he stressed. Before adjourning consideration of the report till Tuesday next week, the House referred clauses 347 to 410 back to the adhoc committee for more legislative action.

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