The House of Representatives has inaugurated an ad-hoc committee to conduct a public hearing on the award of all oil prospecting licences (OPLs) and oil mining leases (OMLs) by the past administration.
Yakubu Dogara, speaker of the House, while inaugurating the committee on Thursday assured that the lawmakers would always do the right thing.
The speaker explained that objective of the investigative public hearing is to expose some unpatriotic and unscrupulous elements within the country who with active connivance of some desperate expatriates undermine due process and guidelines for the acquisition of oil blocs’ licences.
Dogara who was represented by Leo Ogor (PDP-Delta) said the committee would find out “how many companies followed due process and the modalities of the due process.”
The speaker mandated the ad-hoc committee to invoke all relevant provisions of the law on any individual or organisation who may want to prove difficult in the cause of the investigation.
Gideon Gwani, chairman of the ad-hoc committee, explained that the initiative was in line with ongoing reforms in the petroleum sector and would reinvigorate government’s effort by unraveling the problems bedeviling the sector and in the process come up with workable solutions that would open up a new vista for the sector and the country at large.
Gwani, who expressed displeasure over what he described as unhealthy development in the sector, said that the House resolution was timely and desirous as it is also in line with the reform exercise currently taking place in the petroleum sector.
He hailed President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration for initiating the ongoing reforms in the petroleum sector and the resolution of the House to stop and bring the perpetrators of the illicit act to book.
The committee chairman said the probe would reveal abundant opportunities and make the sector very attractive for investors.
He revealed that some unpatriotic and unscrupulous elements within the country with the active connivance of some desperate expatriates were undermining such efforts by flouting the due process and guidelines for acquisition of OPLs and OMLs.
He added that the unhealthy development was a tragedy that must be stopped and perpetrators brought to book if the very sector is to be made attractive so as to compete favourably with the rest of the world.
Among those to appear for the public hearing are past Ministers of Petroleum Resources; Dr. Ibe Kachukwu, the incumbent Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC); management team of Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), and chairmen as well as chief executive officers of oil majors.
Gwani said that the lawmakers having been vested with the responsibility of making laws for the common man cannot fold their arms and watch the evil to continue to be perpetrated especially with the current fall in the prices of crude oil in the international market and the negative effects on the Nigerian economy.
He said no country can sit and watch that kind of unhealthy situation to continue without taking a deliberate measure to stop the menace.
The committee chairman said that one of the measures is to get the accurate records and data of all the companies or individuals that have been granted OPLs or OMLs for the exploration of petroleum with a view to finding out if they are operating within the ambit of the law and set guidelines.
He then assured that the committee would leave no stone unturned to get to the root cause of the problem, warning that no amount of intimidation and frustration would debar them from doing the needful.