AN ADDRESS DELIVERED BY DISTINGUISHED SENATOR BASSEY ALBERT AKPAN; CHAIRMAN, SENATE COMMITTEE ON GAS, AT THE INAUGURAL SESSION HELD IN THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY COMPLEX ON TUESDAY, 24TH NOVEMBER, 2015
I want to, personally, and on behalf of all distinguished members of this Committee, thank the leadership of the Senate for finding us worthy to serve in the present capacity. Although, all Committees of the Senate are equal in every respect, the Senate Committee on Gas is however distinct in a way. It is special not for any other reason than for the nature of its critical responsibility to our country’s energy formation.
As a Committee of the 8th Assembly, our mandate and related activities are derived from Rule 98(29) of the Senate Standing Orders 2015 (As Amended) pursuant to Section 62(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Specifically, we are bound to legislate and oversight on exploration and exploitation of gas; pricing and marketing of gas; liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects; and, annual budget estimates of the gas sector. We are vividly empowered, to at any time, consider investigations and studies as may be necessary or appropriate in the exercise of our oversight responsibilities.
May l seize this opportunity to commend the past Chairman Senator Nkechi Nwogu and other members of the Committee on gas of the 7th Assembly for their laudable achievements in overseeing the gas sector. To this end, we must therefore, set achievable targets and goals for ourselves to surpass our predecessors before the end of this dispensation.
As we perform these responsibilities, we shall not negate our obligations to carry out full oversight on the main ministry, its departments, agencies and other relevant players in the sector. Subsequently, we shall compare notes with Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) reports and other pro-transparency institutions to ensure that monies appropriated for the growth and development of the sector are appropriately applied.
My dear colleagues, the present circumstance and situation of our country needs men and women who are passionate and patriotic to rescue it out of its economic dungeon. Accordingly, our interactive sessions and oversight visits will be robust, systematic and extensive asking the WHY, WHEN, WHICH and HOW questions.
Despite the various policies regulating the sector, routine gas flaring still continues; companies are even more satisfied paying penalties and the mechanisms available to government to curb these irregularities are not fully utilized due to excessive ministerial permissions, limited legislation; and the incontrovertible position of NNPC in the Joint Ventures.
This Committee must critically look into the economic, health and environmental degradation of the oil bearing communities caused by the continuous gas flaring. Strong and effective legal framework must be put in place and sanction enforced against erring multinational companies to act as deterrence. The time to act is now.
A recent report has shown that there is an increase of about 36.8% of cooking gas usage in Nigeria in the past 3 years, while over 80% of Nigerian household still rely on Kerosene, firewood and other dangerous energy sources. The Committee will ensure that the Federal Government agenda of encouraging more Nigerians to embrace the usage of LPG which is clean, safe and affordable is achieved.
It is on this note that we intend to:
Explore legal/institutional frameworks for oil and gas operations in Nigeria towards devising a strategic document that will complement the existing Gas Policies and dynamic implementation of the Gas Master Plan;
Seek a restart of the Petroleum Industry Bill and ensure its smooth passage when referred to the Committee;
Avail the gas sector with more budgetary allocations to enhance optimum output especially in the areas of critical gas infrastructures;
Help boost Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and Gas-To-Liquid (GTL) capacities by formatting legal frameworks for integrating regional gas networks between Nigeria and some other West African countries;
Explore how best Natural Gas can be supplied locally and how Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG-Cooking Gas) can be made available to the populace in line with the National Gas Supply and Pricing Act, 2008;
Design regulatory regimes that attract investments as the enabling procedures would be made to harmonize with local, socio-cultural and ecologic sensibilities, to enhance optimum development of the sector; and
When necessary, convene Gas Conference and Sectorial Reviews towards re-concretizing the nature, scope and structure of the Nigeria’s gas industry in a unified manner.
Finally, Distinguished Colleagues, l am aware that most of you are chairmen, deputy chairmen as well as members of other Committees. l urge you to find time to attend our meetings, interactive sessions and oversight visits of this committee, as your input, suggestions and contributions would be of immense value to the success of this Committee.
Once again, l thank you all for your presence at this inaugural meeting of the Senate Committee on Gas. It is my belief and prayers that together we would make meaningful impact that would transform the oil and gas sector of this great nation.
Thank you for your attention and God bless us all.