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Nigeria's Oil-Producing Senators Rebuff Petroleum Industry Bill

Senators from Nigeria's six oil-producing states Wednesday rejected a proposed oil and gas sector reform bill.

The Petroleum Industry Bill is currently being debated both in parliament and at public hearings.

Senator George Sekibo of Rivers State, one of the objecting lawmakers, said the bill does not adequately address the core concerns of the Niger Delta region.

“This Petroleum Industry Bill is supposed to be a reform bill on the petroleum sector. Unfortunately, the proposal is focusing only on the production aspect and the commercial aspect without considering the environment where this being explored and also carrying along the local people,” he said.

Sekibo said he and other senators opposed to the bill are asking Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to withdraw the bill.

“Yes, it is too drastic, but you see we need to protect our people; we need to protect our future. And what is happening now is like the Niger Delta has no future. Our future is more important than any drastic decision one can take now,” Sekibo said.

He also defended the objecting lawmakers’ request for President Yar’Adua to dismiss Oil Minister Rilwanu Lukman.

“We want him to be replaced because his attitude, his utterances are not utterances that can bring peace in the Niger Delta we think that we need a better person, a de-tribalized Nigerian who can see the suffering of the people, and if he is making recommendations have them in mind,” he said.

The main militant group in the Niger Delta, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said its struggle is about the equitable distribution of oil revenues.

Sekibo said the senator’s rejection of the Petroleum Industry Bill does not further inflame the crisis in the Niger Delta.

“The area is already inflamed; it’s already burning. I don’t think it will burn more than it is already burning. We believe that Mr. President may have good thinking for the people of the region. But perhaps those who coming between him and administrative process may be doing the wrong thing,” he said.

Senator Sekibo said it does not make sense for President Yar’Adua to offer amnesty to militants without what he called a backup plan.