The 36 state governments will today (Thursday) at the Federation Account and Allocation Committee meeting review the Petroleum Industry Bill, which was signed into law on Monday by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), The PUNCH has learnt.
A top official of the Federal Ministry of Finance, who confided in one of our correspondents on Wednesday, said the state governments had put the ministry on notice that they would state their grievances with the Petroleum Industry Act at the FAAC meeting.
Ahead of the FAAC meeting, the Nigerian Bar Association advised the state governors to challenge the Act in court.
The FAAC consists of the Minister of Finance as chairman, all state commissioners of Finance, state accountants-general, Accountant-General of the Federation and the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Finance, who is the secretary.
It meets monthly to share revenues among the federal, state and local governments.
There was a report on Wednesday that before the President signed the PIB, state governors had on August 10 written to ask him to withhold his assent.
According to the report, the governors argued that the Petroleum Industry Act would deny the states their fair share from the Federation Account because it favoured the Federal Government and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, which would transform into a limited liability company.
On Wednesday, a state official, who spoke to one of our correspondents, stated, “The governors have directed their commissioners for finance to get a copy of the Act signed by the President. Obviously, the law will top the agenda of the FAAC meeting on Thursday (today).
“State commissioners will raise the misgiving the states have about the law at the FAAC meeting and take a common position.”
When contacted, the Chairman, Forum of Commissioners of Finance, David Olofu, said members would meet and review the PIA.
Olofu, who is Benue State’s Commissioner for Finance, who spoke to one of our correspondents in Makurdi on the phone, confirmed that the FAAC meeting would be held today (Thursday).
He stated, “I am still trying to get to the crux of the Act so that I can review it; it is after I review it that I can make a statement. We are having the FAAC meeting tomorrow (Thursday); we will get the law and review it and then get back to you.”
Challenge PIA in court, NBA advises govs
The Publicity Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association, Rapulu Nduka, in an interview with The PUNCH, noted that people in different parts of the country had been making comments on the provisions of the PIA, adding that some of them were feeling short-changed.
He stated, “Lawmaking is one of the responsibilities of the legislature and since there are legislators from all states of the federation, then there should be proper representation.
“The purpose of having legislators from all states is that they should be able to debate laws before they are passed in order to ensure that those laws are made in the interest of every region.
“If the governors believe that some parts of the Act are unconstitutional, then by all means, let them approach the courts. They should go to court to challenge the aspects, which they believe are unconstitutional.”
Also, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Babatunde Ogala, stated, “This is a law that has been in the works for a very long time. We are not oblivious to the reservations of different commentators and groups, especially in the South-South.“I believe it is a step in the right direction since we now have three per cent, where we once had nothing. However, the Act can still be amended if it proves to be unsatisfactory.”
Ozekhome urges states to approach Supreme Court
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome, on Wednesday, called on state attorneys general to challenge the Federal Government on the PIA.
Ozekhome, in an interview with The PUNCH, faulted the decision of the President to sign the law and called on state attorneys general to challenge the Federal Government at the Supreme Court.
He said, “The entire Act is a mere ruse in monstrosity, artifice and design, carefully crafted, incubated and delivered to actually do irretrievable violence to the principles of federalism and the doctrine of separation of powers ably propounded in 1748 by Baron de Montesquieu, a great French philosopher.
“The Act seeks to frontally attack Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution, which provides that all revenues accruing to the federation shall be paid into a Federation Account from which sharing shall be made among the three tiers of government.
“This is unconstitutional and it must be struck down in accordance with Section 1(3) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria. In a sane clime, the cash cow, the NNPC, ought to be unbundled to make it more productive, transparent and accountable to the Nigerian people.
“But most curiously, the Act has strengthened its hand of non-accountability and non-responsibility.
“How can the Federal Government alone have shares in the only viable cash cow of Nigeria to the total exclusion of the other three tiers of government, major stakeholders, oil-bearing communities and the long-suffering people of the Niger Delta?
“How can an Act of Parliament, rather than assuage and ameliorate the sufferings of a beleaguered people, further compound them by reaffirming the people’s perilous status as slavish hewers of wood, drawers of water, masseurs of ego and side-line onlookers in the exploitation and use of their God-given wealth through their natural resources?
“The 36 state attorneys general should immediately approach the Supreme Court and challenge the Federal Government’s impunity and the act of exclusive lawlessness and legislative rascality by invoking the original jurisdiction under Section 233 (1) of the 1999 Constitution.”
How 9th N’Assembly passed PIB – Lawan
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, on Wednesday, gave an insight into what the National Assembly did to get the PIB.
Lawan disclosed the strategy adopted by the 9th National Assembly while answering questions from journalists shortly after a brief ceremony at the Presidential Villa.
The Senate President said, “Everyone knows that the Petroleum Industry Bill suffered a lot of hiccups in the National Assembly previously but when we came in 2019, both chambers identified the passage of the PIB as one very strong, fundamental, critical and strategic bill that we must pass within the life cycle of this 9th National Assembly.
“And by the Grace of God, we redefined the way to go about it because we would have learnt from the mistakes of the past on the issue. And what we emphasised and that worked for us to achieve what we did was to ensure that we work very closely with the executive arm of government right from the conception of the bill itself.”