For the second time within a week, a principal officer of the National Assembly, indeed its Chairman, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, has promised the passage of the decades old Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) before the end of next year.
Successive National Assembly sessions have failed in this venture, and last week, another veteran of the Assembly and its Deputy Chairman, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, promised its passage.
A complex admixture of political and petroleum industry intrigues and players have frustrated past efforts to pass this all-important bill to deregulate and better manage the sector.
On Wednesday, Lawan said: “Our petroleum industry is almost stagnant and for long needing profound reform. Our oil and gas related committees, are therefore expected to work hard to take the lead in our determination to reform this vital sector. It is the desire, indeed the design of this Senate, that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is passed before the end of 2020.
Dr. Lawan spoke as the Senate received the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) from President Muhammadu Buhari.
In an accompanying letter, President Buhari commended the effort of the lawmakers towards ensuring a cordial working relationship between the legislature and executive arms of government.
The letter reads: “It is with pleasure that I hereby submit the 2020 – 2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP) to the Senate.
“Let me use this medium to express my gratitude for the much improved partnership between the legislative and the executive arms of the Federal government in our goal of making the budget process deliver better outcomes for the Nigerian people in particular.
“I note with further appreciation, the commitment and support that Distinguished Senators have continued to demonstrate. Pursuant to the provision of the fiscal responsibility Act 2007, the preparation towards the submission of the 2020 budget to the National Assembly is progressing well.”
The President stated that key developments of the global and domestic environments were taken into consideration in the preparation of the MTEF/FSP.
He added that the Government strived to ensure that forecasted revenues were not only realistic, but also reasonably challenging in the face of its significantly constrained fiscal space.
“Planned spending has been set at prudent and sustainable levels consistent with governments overall developmental objectives as set out in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
“Given our shared objective of returning the budget to a predictable January – December fiscal year, with effect from 2020, I hereby forward the 2020/2022 FSP to the Distinguished Senate and trust that it would be extensively considered in order to facilitate the 2020 MTEF budget preparation,” the President said.
Meanwhile, President of the Senate, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, charged newly inaugurated standing committees to ensure the discharge of their duties with a view to addressing major challenges facing the nation.
He said, “Our country is facing the challenges of insecurity, while our largely youthful population is affected by unemployment, among other problems. Fortunately, we are also blessed with abundant agricultural land.
“We are similarly endowed with abundant solid minerals in all parts of our country. The oil and gas resources have remained our major source of revenue. Our challenges can be appropriately addressed with our rich endowments. What we require therefore is the strategic deployment of those resources.
“We can plan and use our agricultural potentials to achieve not only national food security, but also process for exports. Again, our solid minerals sector is largely untapped and we can exploit those resources through the right policies and supportive legislations.”
He, therefore, called on relevant standing committees to look into the challenges such as insecurity and unemployment, as well as ensure reforms in the petroleum and agricultural sectors of the economy with a view to addressing them through the instrument of legislation.
“The security architecture of our country has not achieved the desired results of providing the needed security to our citizens. Our security agencies need better funding and other resources for better performance.
“As security is a fundamental responsibility of government, no amount of investment is too much. Our security related committees are therefore challenged to assess and review both the architecture and structure of our security agencies towards improved efficiency.”
He urged Ministers and Heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to cooperate with the newly inaugurated committees where necessary, so as to deliver on the agenda of the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration.
“As we set to start our committee activities, the Senate expects the total cooperation of the executive arm of government. The Senate expects the Honourable Ministers and head of agencies of government to be forthcoming and responsive to the engagement requests of our committees.
“Our committees will undertake regular oversights with a view to ensuring that government programmes and projects are properly executed for the benefit of our citizens.
“As the committees are the engine rooms of the legislature, so are the MDAs to the executive. This is why there is the need for cooperation, consultation, partnership and synergy between the two arms of government.
“The Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are hereby called upon to harness the opportunity of the existence of the committees in the execution of their mandates. We must have a unity of purpose.”