The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) on Monday called on federal lawmakers from the North to be on alert as various stakeholders have expressed their readiness to endorse restructuring once it is passed by the National Assembly.
Chief Audu Ogbeh, the Chairman of the ACF, stated this when top northern leaders including the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha; Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, Simon Lalong; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Governor of Nasarawa State, Abdullahi Sule; the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mohammed Bello and others met in Abuja at a retreat held at the Zuma Resort.
The leaders made various observations and contributions while speaking at a day retreat organised by the Northern Caucus of the House of Representatives themed, ‘Petroleum Industry Bill and the Future of Nigeria.’
Cheif Ogbeh warned that the North was lagging behind in industrialisation and jobs creation due to lack of planning and determination by its leaders to invest in the region.
He further warned northern lawmakers to be diligent as many issues regarding the PIB and others would have positive and negative effects on the North.
“A lot has been said about the Petroleum Industry Bill but I will not duel on that. There is something that will come before you (lawmakers) very soon.
“The last time Mr President (Major General Muhammadu Buhari, retd.) met with a delegation from the South-South, he made a statement; he said that if a bill is presented before the National Assembly on the question of restructuring and the Assembly passes it, he will have no objection than to sign it. It then means that the matter may not be too far away.
“At our last (ACF) meeting in Kaduna, we extended an invitation to Ohanaeze, Afenifere and the South-South Peoples’ Congress, that we wanted to engage them and have a conversation on the subject.
“We believe that there is no reason for undue warfare and that we all need to have a conversation across tables to solve the problem.
“However, I will like you, as legislators, to take note of this. Many of the people who are clamouring for restructuring are referring to the 1963 Constitution. Somehow, they believe that the Constitution gives to every part of Nigeria whatever resource they have.
“We are trying to get copies to send to all of you legislators to see: Item 25, Part 1 of Section 69 of the First Schedule says that mines, minerals, including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas are on the Exclusive List.
“The 1963 Constitution, an exact copy of the 1960 Constitution and a copy of the 1999 Constitution, which has now been made to look as if it was written by the government itself; take out these constitutions and read them well.
“We will meet, discuss and something will be presented to you. It will be up to you to make it work after which, Mr. President will be ready to sign it.”
In his own statement, the SGF Mustapha, said that the petroleum bill had been a major part of Nigeria’s history because it provided much of the needed resources for governance and other operations.
“It is therefore not surprising that issues relating to exploitation, exploration, consumption and export would be of interest to all Nigerians, including the average man who uses it and some of its derivatives for daily living.
“In line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s desire to leave a lasting legacy by building a sustainable foundation for Nigeria’s growth, Mr President forwarded a revised petroleum industry bill to the National Assembly.
“This is with a major aim of safeguarding the long-term macroeconomic stability of our economy.
“The direct connection to the above is the need to reform the oil and gas sector by providing better clarity for all stakeholders; entrenching a domestic gas to power market, increasing oil and gas production while protecting the environment, supporting the economic diversification agenda of the government and improve regulation guiding production sharing contracts.
“I am happy to note that the 9th National Assembly has taken up the challenge of bequeathing to Nigerians the petroleum industry bill after more than a decade as this journey started from 2008, when the bill was first introduced as a result of a presidential committee set up in 2007,” he said.
Also at the event, the Sultan of Sokoto in his speech spoke against tribal politicians who were bent on tearing the fabric of the nation apart.
“As patriotic and peace-loving Nigerians, we should not fold our arms and watch them destroy our unity. I, therefore, urge you, as grassroots politicians, to continue to support government efforts in restoring peace and stability across the country as no nation can prosper under chaos.
“All Nigerians must enjoy equal freedom and equal rights to live peacefully and pursue their legitimate businesses in any part of the country they so choose, be it in the market or in the forest.
The Sultan, who was represented by Danmadamin Sokoto, Faruk Ahmed, added, “We must reject all ill-conceived schemes that are divisive, schemes that are setting Nigerians against fellow Nigerians.
“We must abhor laws that are capable of causing inter-tribal or inter-regional disharmony. All men are created equal and the unity of Nigeria is sacrosanct.”
“I am confident that the outcome of this retreat will be positive and in the interest of the stability and prosperity of our great nation.
“As we all know, our country is passing through multiple challenges and this government is doing the best it can to improve the situation.
“But, at the back of every effort we make, we must underscore the need to strengthen our national unity, boost our economy to provide employment to our growing youth population.
“Our economy has for more than five decades remained dependent on oil, but today the world is moving away from oil to clean energy. Therefore, it is of great importance for the 9th Assembly to treat the PIB as a priority before it is too late.
“The passage of the PIB will enable Nigeria to commercialise these huge hydrocarbon reserves to get more funds to develop other sectors of the economy such as education, health, agriculture, solid minerals technology and innovation, manufacturing and infrastructure before the end of oil economy,” he said.
“I urge you to sustain similar periodic engagement with your members as well as northern technocrats, intellectuals, traditional institutions and religious leaders as a way of equipping yourselves to confront national issues,” he said.
Speaker Gbajabiamila who was represented by the House Leader, Alhassan Ado Doguwa, noted that it was time for the lawmakers to take action.
“The PIB is one of the most topical piece of legislation before the National Assembly and I know that every one of you would want to be part of this important history.
“So, let us create a legislative framework that creates a system that is not only globally recognized, but timely and apt in other to promote our economic engagements within and outside the country Nigeria.
“It is my belief that when passed into law, this bill will come up with a framework that will encourage our economic engagements as well as promote the oil and gas sector.
“The only legislation on ground now that regulate the oil and gas sector in Nigeria is the old 1959 petroleum bill. In a nation that is so developed on the African continent.
“And the global business we operate in the 21st century, piece of legislation that took effect as far back as 1959 is not only obsolete but a complete trash that cannot be practicable to develop our economy with.
“Of course, it may not be possible to avoid sentiments, but it is the belief of the leadership of the 9th House of Representatives that our sentiments must be tied to the mutual co-existence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he said.
Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa said insecurity had forced many oil companies to go offshore and suggested that the issue should be discussed at the national level.
“And the reason why I am taking time to speak about it is that a lot of people who are in decision making may leave. And it is very important for us to understand that this particular issue is a national issue, it is not a northern issue,” he said.
Ogbodo ThankGod is currently the Managing Director/CEO/Group Chief Editor at Naija Buzz News Network. He was the Chief Editor at NaijaBuzz.News before his new top leadership role. Ogbodo has years of experience in the Nigeria Media Industry and has co-founded some media companies. He is the founder of Ogbodo Solution Nigeria and 1Push.Ng. He loves playing football and is a strong supporter of Lionel Messi who he describes as the greatest footballer of all time.