By Samson Atekojo Usman
The Amendment of a bill to include Kogi, Lagos, Anambra, Gombe and others among the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) scaled second reading at the Senate on Wednesday.
The bill titled: “A bill for an Act to amend the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Act No 6, 2000 and for other related matters connected therewith, 2021”, was sponsored by Senator Adeola Solomon Olamilekan representing Lagos West Senatorial district.
Olamilekan in his lead debate submitted that the NDDC Act was activated over 21 years ago and since then, oil and gas have been discovered in Lagos, Kogi, Anambra, Gombe, Bauchi and other States, hence, the amendment would offer an opportunity for the Act to capture peculiarities of the new oil states.
In his contribution, Senator Ahmad Baba Kaita representing Katsina North Senatorial district, having supported the amendment proposal, recalled how a former GMD of NNPC told Senators previously that Nigeria would become one of the largest oil producers in the world if oil discoveries in the country are harnessed.
He said: “Thank you Mr President I remain Senator Ahmad Baba Kaita, Katsina North Senatorial district. Regarding the motion on the oil-producing States, I think what is good for the goose is good for the gander. In a state like Borno, where oil has been discovered, I remember the former Group Managing Director of NNPC arguing here that with such states coming on board, Nigeria will be one of the largest oil producers if we harness our resources.
“In this case, it is only fair for us to consider those states that produce oil because the exploration is going to affect the environment. The idea behind that motion is consequences of oil exploration.”
However, Senator George Thompson Sekibo urged Senators to treat the amendment with caution.
He advised lawmakers to find out if those states have started contributing to the Federation account through their oil, adding that exploration of oil in commercial quantity was precedent since the derivation sharing was based on the quantity of oil produced
“Mr President, I congratulate these States where they said they have discovered oil. What I want to know is whether they are of commercial quantity and whether there are being drilled out now and the money is going into the Federal government Account.
“We have not confirmed that one yet but as oil has been discovered there, we want the oil to come out of every soil in Nigeria. Are they exploring the oil? Are they refining oil there and has oil caused devastation in those States.
“Mr President, the purpose of the Niger Delta Development Commission Act is not because they found oil there but because the oil has caused so much devastation and there was a need to remedy the place.”
Senator Mathew Uroghide representing Edo North Senatorial district disagreed with the proposed amendment completely, stating that the NDDC Act was specifically meant to address environmental degradation of the Niger Delta region.
According to him, the inclusion of some northern oil states in the Act will defeat the original intention of the Act.
He said: “Thank you Mr. President. I am Senator Mathew Uroghide representing Edo South Senatorial district. I consider it a privilege to contribute to a bill being sponsored by Senator Solomon Adeola Olamilekan. I am not particularly against the sponsor of the bill, but I feel the bill must be properly presented.
“Let’s start with the name, “Niger Delta Development Commission”, NDDC. Today the area that is referred to as Niger Delta is very clear. The States that make up the Niger Delta region that the Commission is serving is very clear.
“Senator George Thompson Sekibo just mentioned the 13% derivation which each oil-producing States get which is a function of oil production.
“Oil production in Gombe and Bauchi and other northern States are already coming to a reality, but to take these States as the Niger Delta States is not right.
“But if there is any percentage for States that produce oil, be it Sokoto, be in Borno, of course, they should benefit, but that does not make them part of Niger Delta. To say other Sates are part of the Niger Delta makes a mockery of the original idea of the NDDC Act.
“The NDDC was created as an interventionist to media mediate in degradation of the environment due to oil exploration.”
After further contributions by lawmakers, Senate President, Dr Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan put the bill to voice votes and it scaled second reading.
A public hearing was expected to be conducted for a wider consultation preparatory for its final passage into law.