Senate will begin final push for PIB passage next week

The National Assembly will debate the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) on Tuesday, Senate President Ahmad Lawan told State House reporters yesterday after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

He also said that a supplementary budget request by the Executive and the Electoral Act Amendment Bill will also be prioritised.

Lawan said the National Assembly, under his watch, will not entertain frivolous loan requests from the executive arm of government.

He said: “At the moment, we are dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s on the Petroleum Industry Bill, and by the grace of God, our committees, the joint committees, will finish their work on it by the end of the week, hopefully.

“The reports would be laid on Tuesday in both chambers. This is what we have planned and this is what we’re working towards.

“The executive arm of government had submitted a supplementary budget request. In the Senate, we had the second reading yesterday (Wednesday) and we have given the appropriations committee, particularly to deal with it with the relevant committees.

“For COVID-19 vaccines that we have to procure, we need the Health Committee and, of course, the Primary Healthcare Committee as well to work on the supplementary budget request of Mr. President.”

According to Lawan, significant progress will be made on major pending bills before the annual summer recess begins on July 15.

“So, before we go on summer recess, we should be able to pass the Electoral Act (amendment) Bill.

“We also have outstanding confirmation requests for National Commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). We’ll consider those confirmation requests from Mr President before we go,” he said.

Berating some members of the executive arm of spurning National Assembly invitations, he said: “Just like I said in plenary, there are chief executives of ministries, departments and agencies (MDA’s) who have refused to appear before our Public Accounts Committee.

“I’ve advised the Public Accounts Committee to write to remind them. If they fail, give us a list of all of them; we’ll publish the names and we’ll insist that they are brought to the National Assembly under a warrant of arrest.

“But we want something smooth; we want to have a relationship that is decent, that is cordial for the benefit of people of Nigeria.”

On loans, Lawan said lawmakers would only approve loans for critical projects, saying the country cannot fund all of its projects without loans.

The Senate president said: “What I want to assure Nigerians here is that we are not going to be frivolously supporting or approving loans for the executive arm of government.

“Whenever we have to approve any loan, we have to insist on the details of what projects will be funded by those by those loans.

“We’ll have to look at the conditions that are attached to the loans; they must be favourable conditions before we approve and we will be up to date with our oversight to ensure that what we have approved is directly deployed and on those projects that we have also approved for implementation.

“So, we will not be frivolous and will not take it lightly to just approve any loan. Our options are very limited as a country.”

Justified the need for the loans, Lawan said: “First, we don’t have the necessary revenues; Nigeria is poor, and we shouldn’t deceive ourselves. Nigeria is not rich, given the circumstances we live in, given the challenges we have.

“Our resources are so low, our revenues are so low and therefore the option of not doing anything, just to sit because we have no money, we shouldn’t go for infrastructure development is not even an option worthy of consideration. You cannot keep the economy stagnant.

“Second, you cannot, in my view and judgment, tax Nigerians further for you to raise the money for infrastructure development.

“Other countries do that, but we have serious situation across the country, so you cannot put taxes on people.

“The other option is the public-private partnership. You need to create the environment to attract investors to come into our country because of the security challenges we face today.

“Not many investors would like to come to Nigeria; even those here may not like to invest properly in infrastructure development.

“So, the only option left is for us to borrow responsibly, utilise prudently and economically, ensure that the projects are self-sustaining, that they can pay back the loans, and that the economy will benefit from the implementation of such infrastructure development.

“So, that is the only option we have and I believe that Nigerians will understand. Of course, it’s not desirable; it’s not something that we like too.

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