By Victor Effik
On Friday, June 11, 2021, Distinguished Senator Bassey Albert Akpan (OBA), senator representing Akwa Ibom North East (Uyo) Senatorial District will be marking his second year of his second term in office as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, making it a total of six years since he was elected into the upper chamber of the Nigeria’s National Assembly.
Unarguably, he has discharged his legislative role in the Senate with an incomparable grit, distinction and elan that even those who had cause to doubt his legislative capacity six years ago are now falling in love with his immense capacity to deliver public service in such a scale that is uncommon in our clime.
In his first term as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he warmed himself into the heart of the leadership of the 8th Senate for his sterling performance and also ended up courageously as a lone redemptive voice of the Akwa Ibom people in the 8th Senate at a time other senators from the state decided to play the ostrich.
HIS LEGACIES IN THE 8TH ASSEMBLY
Senator Albert demonstrated immense capacity in his first four years in the Senate both in terms of legislative accomplishments and human capital development of his constituents .
An overview of his legislative accomplishments in the 8th Senate
He had six motions to his credit all geared towards addressing the dire economic straits and infrastructural decay into which the country had been dragged, namely, 1. Motion on the urgent need to halt the dilapidated and disintegrated state of Ikot Ekpene-Itu-Calabar Federal Highway; 2. Motion on the need to curb the soaring rate of unemployment in Nigeria; 3. Motion on urgent need for effective implementation of the Joint Venture Cash Calls obligations by NNPC; 4. Motion on the need to address the present economic state of the nation; 5. Motion on urgent need to investigate the granting of concession of the Western and Eastern rail lines to General Electric of USA; and 6. Motion on the need to save the 215 megawatt Kaduna Power Plant. He also co-sponsored no fewer than six motions.
These motions led to far reaching resolutions taken by the Senate to re-engineer our national economy. For instance, it was his motion on the need to address the present economic state of the nation that raised the first alarm that Nigeria had irredeemably sunk into economic recession in 2016. The motion led to the summoning of the Minister of Finance and the Central Bank Governor by the Senate who both admitted that the country was truly on the precipice of recession.
He also sponsored four Bills, namely:1. the National Youth Employment and Development Bill, 2. the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan Bill, 3. Petroleum Industry Administration Bill, and 4. The Gas Flaring Prohibition and Punishment Bill, which is the first legislative attempt since Nigeria’s independence to holistically seek an end to Gas Flaring in Nigeria through legislation.
Out of his seven petitions presented on the floor of the 8th Senate, two of the petitions led to the reinstatement of two federal public servants from Akwa Ibom State whose appointments were wrongfully terminated. Recall that a police officer from Ini Local Government, Celestine Obot Williams, who was wrongfully dismissed for a period of 21 years was re-instated following a petition presented to the Senate by Senator Bassey Albert in 2016. The Senate recommended his re-instatement; however, Mr. Williams was re-instated in May 2017 but not at his due rank. It was not until the second term of Senator Albert that Mr. Williams was restored to his due rank following Senator Albert’s further intervention.
Another Akwa Ibom indigene, Mr. Ntia Thompson, an Assistant Director and Head of SERVICOM Unit in the Directorate of Technical Cooperation in Africa (DCTA), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who was also prematurely retired for exposing corruption was re-instated following a petition presented on his behalf to the Senate by Senator Albert.
Besides his legislative accomplishments in his first four years in the Senate, his constituency empowerment and human development programme have given succour to over 2,000 indigenes.
His ongoing scholarship programme has so far benefitted over 381 students of Akwa Ibom State origin.
His constituency projects on provision of solar powered water to rural communities, road construction and donation of life enhancing drugs to health centers across Uyo Senatorial District were part of his stewardship in his first term. Given such awesome record, it was no surprise that his re-election into the 9th Senate was a fait accompli.
HIS SCORE CARD IN HIS SECOND TERM
The stellar performance of Senator Bassey Albert as the Chairman, Senate Committee on Gas in his first term made a strong impression on the leadership of the 9th Senate under the leadership of Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan. Given his in-depth knowledge of the oil and gas sector and the reforms he brought to bear on the gas sector, the leadership of the 9th Senate found him worthy to be appointed Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources Upstream.
REFORMS OF PETROLEUM SECTOR
At the inauguration of the Senate Committee Petroleum Resources Upstream on Wednesday, October 9, 2019, Senator Albert rolled out the agenda of the committee to reposition the country’s petroleum sector. In an address delivered at the meeting, Senator Albert, while regretting that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) has lingered over the years without passage into law, assured industry stakeholders that the 9th Senate will ensure an accelerated passage of the Bill.
He also assured stakeholders of the determination of the Senate to conclude the process for the amendment of the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts Act, CAP D3 LFN 2004 to drive the country’s oil and gas sector, a promise he kept when he not only sponsored a Bill for the amendment of the Act but also spearheaded the conclusion of the legislative process on the bill leading to its signing into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
AMENDMENT OF THE DEEP OFFSHORE AND INLAND BASIN PSC ACT
When the Senate passed its fastest ever Bill in the history of legislation in Nigeria on Tuesday, 15 October 2019, Senator Albert, who was the sponsor of the Bill, played a leading role in the passage of that Bill. The Bill titled, a Bill to Amend the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts Act D3 LFN 2004, was read the first time in the Senate on Thursday, October 3, 2019. The intendment of the Bill was the need to review and recover additional revenue accruable to the government of the Federation from the Production Sharing Contracts pursuant to the Act of 2004.
Leading the debate on the second reading of the Bill to Amend the Act on the floor of the Senate on October 8, 2019, Senator Albert informed his colleagues that the said Act did not provide any mechanism or sanction for the implementation or otherwise of the provisions regarding the statutory periodic review in Section 16. To this end, he said the Bill seeks to amend the Act to make provisions for periodic review of royalty payable in respect of Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts (PSC) as well as offenses and penalty for non-compliance.
The extant Act had, in section 16, provided that where the price of crude oil exceeds US$20 per barrel, the PSC Act will be reviewed to ensure that the share of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) in the additional revenue is adjusted to the extent that the PSCs shall be economically beneficial to the FGN, and that in any event, the PSC Act shall be liable to be reviewed after 15 years from its commencement in 1993 and every 5 years thereafter. Senator Albert informed his colleagues that the new sections 17 and 18 have placed a responsibility and subsequent consequences for non-compliance to section 16.
The Bill was subsequently referred to the Joint Senate Committees on Petroleum Upstream, Gas, Finance, Judiciary and Human Rights chaired by Senator Albert for further legislative work. On Monday, Oct 14, 2019, the Joint Committee held a one-day consultative meeting/public hearing with stakeholders on the Bill to Amend the Act. Declaring the meeting open, the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan said there was need to amend the Act to maintain a competitive environment for the oil and gas sector to thrive. He disclosed that the National Assembly is determined to pass the bill as a precursor to passing the Petroleum Industry Bill.
On Tuesday October 15, 2019, Senator Albert presented the report of the Senate Joint Committee, which was adopted before the Senate resolved into the Committee of the Whole to consider the Bill clause by clause. The Bill was subsequently read the third time and passed. It received the concurrence of the House of Representatives and was eventually signed into law by the President.
With the signing of the Bill into law, it is estimated that Nigeria reaped about $1.5billion to fund the 2020 Budget. Other features of the legislation include an exponential increase of fine from N50 million or an option of one year imprisonment to N500 million or option of 5 years imprisonment as penalty for violation of the provisions. Also, the Bill provides for royalty payable to the Federal Government to be reviewed after eight years instead of 15 years.
SECOND PHASE OF HIS SCHOLARSHIP SCHEME
The first phase of Senator Bassey Albert (OBA) Scholarship Scheme had over 180 students mostly drawn from all the nine local government areas of Uyo Senatorial District as beneficiaries with some beneficiaries drawn from local government areas from other Senatorial Districts
However, during the second phase of the scholarship scheme, Senator Albert magnanimously extended his benevolence to students from the 31 local government areas of the state. A total of 1449 students applied for the scholarship out of which 1150 students wete shortlisted for the qualifying examination for the second phase of scheme. After a rigorous screening exercise, 189 students (136 male and 53 female) were successful, bringing the total number of students that have so far benefitted from the programme to 381.
Impressed with his philanthropic gesture, the Governing Council of the College of Education, Afaha Nsit, had at its 7th combined convocation, conferred on Senator Albert an Educational and Philanthropic Award in recognition of his contributions to the development of the state’s educational sector.
MOTION ON THE $9.6 BILLION JUDGEMENT DEBT AGAINST NIGERIA
When the Senate resumed from its eight weeks recess on Tuesday, September 24, 2019, a motion was raised by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele on the controversial $9.6 billion judgement debt delivered against Nigeria by a British Court purportedly after a failed Gas supply and processing agreement (GSPA) between the Federal Government of Nigeria and Process and Industrial Development (P& ID) Limited.
Speaking in support of the motion, Senator Albert, a trained economist, noted that procedures as stipulated under the National Gas Supply and Pricing Regulations, 2008, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (Establishment) Act 2005 as well as the key strategies of the National Gas Master Plan, 2008 for gas supply and processing agreements of this nature, were not duly followed from the period of conception to the execution stage of the Gas Supply and Processing Agreement (GSPA) with P & ID. He further observed that there is no tangible evidence of equipment and/or any other elementary infrastructure procured by P & ID in readiness for the gas processing take off as claimed. He also expressed concern that the consequential arbitration, court proceedings and the award against Nigeria has been concealed from the National Assembly.
It was such brilliant presentation that triggered off the resolution by the Senate to invite the Minister for Petroleum, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, officials of the ministry of petroleum, agencies, lawyers, consultants who represented the country during the conception stage of the GSPA, arbitration and court proceedings to appear before the Senate to brief it on steps taken in a the interest of Nigeria.
BILL TO END GAS FLARING IN NIGERIA
A Bill to end gas flaring in Nigeria sponsored by Senator Albert was passed by the 8th Senate but could not receive the concurrence of the House of Representatives because it was passed by the Senate towards the end of its tenure. Senator Albert has represented the Bill, which has already passed through second reading.
HISTORIC RESOLUTION OF THE NNPC/CHEVRON ESCRAVOS GAS TO LIQUID DEAL
One of the signature achievements of Senator Albert in the Senate is the pivotal role he played in the resolution of cost dispute between NNPC and Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) which had lingered on for over a decade and defied solution by previous sessions of the Senate. The intervention of the Senate Committee on Gas chaired by Senator Albert in the 8th Senate, and later Committee on Petroleum Resources Upstream in the 9th Senate also chaired by him led to the historic resolution of the long disputed NNPC/Chevron Escravos Gas to Liquid deal in favour of Nigeria. The deal raked in several billions of dollars into the country’s economy.
BILL TO AMEND THE NIGERIAN SOVEREIGN INVESTMENT ACT
Senator Albert is also sponsoring a Bill to Amend the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (Establishment) Act, CAP N166 LFN 2004. The bill seeks to amend the principal Act to provide for additional funding of the Sovereign Wealth Fund through a statutory allocation of funds from the monthly revenue accruing to the Federation Account. The Bill has passed second reading.
PETITION ON PERCEIVED MARGINALIZATION OF AKWA IBOM IN FEDERAL APPOINTMENTS
Senator Bassey on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 presented a petition on behalf of Akwa Ibom State Caucus in the Senate alleging marginilization of Akwa Ibom State in terms of Federal appointments.The petition was referred to the Committee on rules and ethics for legislative action
REOPENING OF IBOM AIRPORT
Senator Albert on Tuesday, June 8, 2020 drew the attention of Senate on the need to include Ibom Airport on the list of airports in the country to be reopened. Consequently, the Senate directed the Chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation to liaise with the Aviation authorities to ensure that Ibom Airport was among the airports to be reopened.
DONATIONS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
In his characteristic benevolence, Senator Albert made available palliatives in cash and kind to several indigenes of the state and organisations from across the state to cushion the effect of economic challenges occasioned by the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.
Senator Albert also donated Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to several groups and organisations in the state including the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Akwa Ibom State Council to assist in the fight against the pandemic.
BILL FOR AN ACT TO AMEND THE PUBLIC COMPLAINTS COMMISSION ACT
Senator Albert is also sponsoring a Bill for an Act to amend the Public Complaints Commission Act of 1975 to amongst others, provide additional powers for the commission to ensure compliance with the commission’s recommendation by respondents, create adequate awareness as well precision on the commission’s functions. The Bill, which was read the first time on April 20, 2021 has passed through the second reading.
PROMOTION OF RECALLED POLICE OFFICER
History was made on February 16, 2021 when a police officer from Ini Local Government, Celestine Obot Williams, who was wrongfully dismissed for a period of 21 years and was later re-instated was promoted to the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) effective June 11, 2020. The story of his re-instatement/restoration began in 2016 when Senator Albert submitted a petition in the Senate requesting for his re-instatement. Though the Senate recommended his re-instatement and promotion to the rank at par with his mates, he was merely re-instated in May 2017 but not at his due rank.
On Tuesday, April 27, 2021, Senator Albert presented a petition from his constituent, Mr. Ignatius Udom against the Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC) over unlawful termination of his appointment
In summary, his record of stewardship to his senatorial district in particular, and Akwa Ibom State in general is a reflection of his uncommon commitment and passion to public service.