The speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari as the petroleum minister to as a matter of urgency transmit the controversial Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to the 8th National Assembly for a record third time.
The immediate past 7th National Assembly failed to pass the PIB, a recurring development that has greeted past assemblies which have failed to pass the bill since its introduction in 2008. Although the 7th House passed the Bill without the Senate’s concurrence, the passage was of no effect.
Dogara made the call yesterday at the opening ceremony of the National Assembly Dialogue on Security and Development facilitated by the National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS) in Abuja.
The speaker said Nigeria cannot have a “meaningful” discussion on the improvement of the national economy without discussing priority legislation such as the PIB.
Dogara said: “Undoubtedly, one of the most important pieces of legislation is the Petroleum Industry Bill. This is necessary because Oil and Gas still accounts for over 70% of our foreign exchange earnings in spite of the rapid fall in oil prices.
“We, therefore, cannot afford not to organise the sector in such a manner as to benefit the nation. In this regard, may I call on the president as the minister of petroleum to as a matter of urgency transmit a Bill to the National Assembly on how his administration intends to reorganise the Petroleum Sector.”
The speaker recalled the “checkered history” of the PIB which has stalled investments in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector.
“It (PIB) was introduced late in the life of the 6th Assembly and was not passed. In the 7th Assembly, a private Members Bill was introduced in the first month of that Assembly, based on the experience of the 6th Assembly. However, the last administration informally indicated that it would prefer an Executive Bill on the matter, which took over two years to materialise. It was passed only by the House of Representatives very late in its tenure without the Senate concurring.
“Investment decisions in this field cannot continue to wait. Clarity on the legal framework for Oil and Gas in Nigeria is crucial to our economy. Contrary to the assertion that the size of the Bill is the problem, the fact is that an early introduction will lead to an early passage.”
Dogara Warns Against Selective 2016 Budget Implementation
Dogara stated at the dialogue that the 8th House has committed itself in specific terms to a review of the budgetary process which in part will see the 8th House take “legislative measures” to ensure that the President Buhari-led Executive does not choose which aspects of the national budget it implements.
As contained in the adopted legislative agenda of the 8th House, Dogara called for the cooperation of the Executive to develop and enforce a Needs Based Budgeting System rather than an ‘Envelop’ Based Budgeting System.
The speaker stated that the House will revisit the constitution amendment passed by the 7th House mandating the president to submit his Budget proposals at least 3 months before the end of a fiscal year (September), instead of “at any time” before the end of a fiscal year currently in the Constitution.
“This is critical in passing annual Appropriation Bill”, Dogara said.
In other areas, Dogara said the 8th House will promote an inclusive budgetary process that seeks the cooperation of the Executive in institutionalising pre-budget interface and consultations as well as strict compliance with the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) 2007.
He called for prioritisation of budget expenditure that reflects approved budget lines and effective monitoring and evaluation of expenditure and of outcomes achieved – value for money.
Dogara disclosed that the 8th House will amend Section 82 of the Constitution to reduce the period of 6 months that the president is allowed to spend without appropriation. According to Dogara, this provision severely distorts the appropriation process.
“The 8th House will enforce a zero tolerance for non-implementation of capital projects as approved in annual Budgets,” he warned.
He said the 8th House will also insist on timely release of appropriated funds and general implementation of the budget, adding that “the Nigerian people are entitled to feel the impact of governance through the appropriation mechanism and process”.
Dogara cautioned that the enduring fight against corruption must be waged through the instrumentality of law and legislation.
“People can only be accountable when the law is clear and when it is enforced fairly and firmly. While we await the decision of Mr. President on whether to merge EFCC and ICPC, the urgent legislative undertaking now is to strengthen the independence and impartiality of the heads of these agencies by requiring the consent of the Senate to their appointment and removal from office. This will ensure that they are not whimsically removed when they disagree with a sitting president,” Dogara said.
The speaker urged President Buhari to follow up the implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) with another “bold and courageous move” to capture all expenditure by all the MDAs in one single National Budget.
“No longer should the income and expenditure of some revenue earning agencies be an ‘Attachment’ to the National Budget but should be an integral part of it. It should be part of the aggregate figures that make up the Budget. Such agencies should include the NNPC, NPA, NIMASA, Customs and Excise, NCC, etc.,” the speaker said.
Dogara urged stakeholders at the National Assembly to dialogue to consider whether it is appropriate to continue to maintain January to December as the financial year.
In the alternative, the speaker said the National Assembly may prescribe the financial year to be 12 months from the date of the signing of the Appropriation Bill.
“This is because the only way a Budget would have any realistic chance of full implementation is if it is operated for 12 calendar months as the spirit of Section 318 of the Constitution seems to suggest,” he said.
Dogara called on stakeholders to “think outside the box” and explore legislative solutions to the country’s security problems.
He called for the decentralisation of the police as well as powers for the Senate in the appointment and removal of the Inspector General of Police.
“It seems to me that the time has come for us to re-examine the legal and constitutional framework for policing in Nigeria. A decentralised police force may be more effective as Nigerians in their communities are better placed to detect criminals in their midst. We look forward to further guidance by experts in this regard and for your recommendations.
“Furthermore, it has become necessary, in my view, for the appointment and removal of the Inspector General of Police to receive the blessing, of at least, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This will also ensure some measure of operational independence and command integrity. Policing, however, must exist side by side with economic empowerment of the people for it is said that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop,” Dogara said.