Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, has castigated the Senate, saying its members are only concerned with the sharing of the national cake.
He said this on Tuesday during a debate on a bill for an Act seeking the establishment of the National Frontiers Basins Exploration Agency.
The bill, which scaled through second reading and was sponsored by Senator Smart Adeyemi, sought to “execute, promote and oversee exploration activities in the inland sedimentary basins and for other related matters.”
Ekweremadu said, “You know most times, we spend our time thinking of how to share the national cake and we don’t bother ourselves about how to bake more cakes.”
He, however, commended Senator Adeyemi for sponsoring the bill and his colleagues for their support, saying, “I think this is the smartest thing he has done in this Senate.
“So today, I think we have spent very qualitative time dealing with how we can ensure that we have more cakes for sharing purposes.
“This is very commendable. And, as usual, you have shown commitment to Project Nigeria. People from different parts of the country are speaking in support of this bill.”
In his lead debate, Senator Adeyemi noted that the bill was first read on the floor of the Senate on April 16, 2013.
He said the essence of the bill was to establish the National Frontiers Basins Exploration Agency to execute, promote and oversee exploration activities in the inland sedimentary basins and for other related matters.
He said it was imperative to continue to search for more oil and gas to add to the national reserves, petroleum being the mainstay of the economy and accounting for about 90 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings.
“The bill has, as part of its objective, the promotion of efficient, sustainable exploration of hydrocarbons in the frontiers basins of Nigeria.
“The evaluation of all unassigned concessions in Nigeria and to undertake activities that will stimulate exploration interest of local and international oil companies towards increasing the country’s oil and gas reserves...
“Some have entertained the fear that Nigeria has to avert the financial challenges that may arise for its economy, as more and more wells in the Niger Delta begin to record a consistent decline in their outputs,” he said.
He said the idea was to look beyond the Niger Delta Basin, assuring that the venture would give equal opportunity to all parts of the country to contribute to the national coffers through the instrument of oil revenue.
Most of the lawmakers who spoke in support of the bill said it would create an avenue for the opening up of new oil frontiers across the country and increase the oil-based revenue of the country.
Contributing, Senator Barnabas Gemade said it would be wise to pass the bill so that an agency would be made responsible for the handling of funds meant for oil exploration in the frontier basins.
For Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba, “perhaps, we have not been zealous enough in our exploration of oil in the contiguous geological basin.
“We need to legislate an agency that will force the hands of the operators of the oil sector to explore for oil in the frontiers basins.”
Also speaking, Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi said, “this bill has helped call attention to the PIB which has remained pending.
“The issue of frontier exploration is a component of the Mother PIB. But here we are giving attention to it. We should extend the same action to PIB by getting the government to hasten all the processes to fast-track it.”
Senator Magnus Abe said enough had not been done in the exploration of oil in other parts of the country, adding that the people of the Niger Delta area would be happy to have oil exploration in other parts.
“It is not just an economic issue but, in fact, it is very political. We must shun the politics of this programme and focus on the benefits Nigerians stands to gain,” he said.
Senator George Akume was of the view that every effort to ensure expansion of revenue should be encouraged in every way possible.
“Any investment in more exploration will not amount to a waste. The earlier we passed it, the better so that it will be incorporated into the 2014 budget,” he added.
Senator Ita Enang said if the committee handling the PIB had worked on time, there would not have been any necessity for the oil frontiers agency bill, being an aspect of the former.
He said so much had been invested into oil exploration in the inland basins but the results were not well managed.
He, however, acknowledged that oil is virtually in all parts of the country, adding that every part of the country would be the eventual beneficiary if oil is found in other parts of the country.