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QUICK TAKE: To use the PIB to allocate funds belonging to the Federation to the “Frontline States” is unconstitutional

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By Charles Ike-Okoh

MON 05 JULY, 2021-theGBJournal- The Nigerian Senate and the House of Representatives Thursday passed the much awaited Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) after considering and adopting the Bill’s 318 clauses. The Passed Bill was earlier sent to both Chambers last September by President Muhammad Buhari for consideration and passage.

The passage of the Bill was without consensus and some gray areas remain including the disagreement between the Nigerian Senate and Federal House of Representatives on what should be allocated to the ‘’Host Communities.’’ The Senate agrees 3% while the House of Representatives agrees 5%. However, there are ongoing talks in the National Assembly to harmonise and agree a percentage before the Bill is sent to President Muhammadu Buhari for his final stamp.

The thorniest of the gray areas is the definition of a ‘’Frontier State’’ included in the Bill and the funding of the ‘’Frontier State’’.

In the PIB, the Nigerian Senate approved a funding mechanism of 30% of NNPC’s profit from oil and gas to Frontier basins or States. The term ‘’Frontier Basins’’ were not defined. But it is understood to include the Ultra Deep Water Niger Delta Area, the Calabar Embankment, the Anambra Platform, the Dahomey Basin (an amalgamation of inland/coastal/offshore basin that expanses from southeastern Ghana through Togo and the Republic of Benin to southwestern Nigeria), the Bida Basin, Chad Basin, Benue and Sokoto Basins.

But here is our take.

The attempt to use the PIB to allocate funds belonging to the Federation to the “Frontline States” however defined is not only immoral but unconstitutional.

In the 2002 Supreme Court ruling on the Resource Control suit, it was held that deductions of funds by NNPC as first line charge on their revenue was unconstitutional and a clear breach of S.162 of the 1999 Constitution.

All revenues accruing to the Federation goes into the Federation Account. The National Assembly and the President have no powers under the Constitution to allocate funds from the Federation Account. Passing a Bill to do so will not change the fact.

If the President gives assent to a bill with such unconstitutional provisions, the Niger Delta States must challenge it in Court to overturn it.

The fact that that bill passed in the National Assembly is a clear signal to  Southern Nigeria that it is a colony of the North which has been bequeathed a controlling veto power on law making for the Federation through the military inspired Constituency delineations that gives the North West higher National Assembly seats based on fudged population census figures.

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