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Senators divided over amendment to NDDC Act



There was a sharp division among Senators during Wednesday’s plenary over amendment of a bill which seeks to include Kogi, Lagos, Anambra, Gombe and others among the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC scaled second reading.

Some lawmakers from the Niger Delta region at the plenary kicked against the amendment, saying it would defeat the purpose for which the NDDC Act was established.

The bill titled: “A bill for an Act to amend the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Act No 6, 2000 and for the inclusion of new oil producing areas and states and for other matters connected therewith 2019”, was sponsored by Senator Solomon Adeola representing Lagos West Senatorial District.

Leading debate on the bill, he said the piece of legislation, which was first read on Tuesday, December 17, 2019, seeks to amend the NDDC Act 2000 to include states that have attained the status of oil producing states with similar circumstances as those listed in the Act when it was passed.

“In this era of change where government is desirous of raising revenues for development the discovery of crude oil in new states in the country can only amount to additional revenue for the government.

“Following the discovery of oil in Bauchi, Lagos and Ogun, these states have officially joined the League of Oil Producing States in Nigeria following the discovery of crude oil in Alkaleri Local Government, Bauchi; Badagry, Lagos, and Ipokia, Ogun state. By virtue of this, the states are entitled to the 13 percent derivation that is due to oil producing states according to the provision of Section 162 Sub-Section 2 of the Nigeria Constitution,” Senator Adeola stressed.

Supporting the amendment to the bill, Senator Ahmad Baba Kaita (APC Katsina North), recalled how a former GMD of NNPC told Senators previously that Nigeria would become one of the largest oil producer in the world, if oil discoveries in the country are harnessed.

He said: “Regarding the motion on the oil producing states, I think what is good for the goose is good for the gander. In the 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 producer if we harness our resources.

“In this case, it is only fair for us to consider those states that produce oil, because the consequences of exploration is going to affect the environment. The idea behind that motion is consequences of oil exploration.”

However, Senator George Thompson Sekibo (PDP Rivers East) urged his colleagues to treat the amendment with caution.

He specifically advised the upper legislative chamber 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 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 confirm that one yet, but as oil has been discovered there, we want 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 Niger Delta Development Commission Act is not because they found oil there, but because the oil has caused so much devastation and there was need to remedy the place,” Senator Sekibo explained.

Also, Senator Mathew Urhoghide (PDP Edo South), 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: “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 made up of Niger Delta region that the commission is serving is very clear.

“Senator George Thompson Sekibo just mentioned the 13% derivation whixheach 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 Niger Delta states is not right.

“But if there is any percentage for states that produce oil, be it Sokoto, be it Borno, of course, they should benefit, but that does not make them to be part of Niger Delta. To say other states are part of the region, it makes mockery of the original idea of 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.

Public hearing was expected to be conducted for a wider consultation preparatory for it’s final passage into law.

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