By HENRY UMORU JOSEPH ERUNKE
ABUJA—Senate, yesterday, said it was prepared to back capital punishment for oil thieves and those engaged in bunkering if it would solve the problem of pipeline vandalism.
Inaugurating the Senate Joint Committee on Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, at the Senate Conference Room, Senate President David Mark, said that there was no bigger punishment that could be meted out to oil thieves in Nigeria than capital punishment.
Mark said he would not hesitate to append his signature to any law that could recommend death penalty for oil bunkerers as he regretted that Nigeria had lost so much revenue in recent times due largely to illegal oil bunkering, adding “oil theft deserves capital punishment.”
While charging the committee to recommend ways of curbing oil bunkering, Mark insisted that “the law must have a huge punishment on those that steal our oil to serve as a deterrent to other people who plan on stealing our oil.
“The Bill must also ensure that the current rate of oil theft in the country is minimised to the barest minimum.
“It seems we are having a bad name internationally because of the rate of oil theft in the country. Oil theft deserves capital punishment.
“If it is the public wish, I will endorse a death penalty for oil thieves, if it will stop oil theft and bunkering. It is an unusual situation so it deserves an unusual remedy and drastic punishment.”
Senator Mark assured that the Senate would do everything possible to ensure the PIB was given serious and accelerated attention.
He said: “We are taking this bill seriously. The world is changing so fast. So is the petroleum industry. This is not a new bill but a review of the bill to meet with international best practices.
“Nigerians are patriotic enough to know that what we are doing is in the best interest of all Nigerians. We have to update the bill so that we can encourage investors. The bill is a win-win situation for all the parties involved.”
Mark appealed to Nigerians to cooperate with the committee by coming forward with ways on how to reposition the country’s oil sector, adding that members of the four joint- committees were not only men of proven integrity, but with the interest of Nigeria at heart.
He said, “We are aware of the competition involved in the oil industry in the world. I want to assure you that all the members of this committee are patriotic Nigerians and the report of this committee will be true reflections of the public views. No member of the committee has a fixed position, this is the first time we are putting four committees together and make the bill that all Nigerians will be happy with.
“This bill must show transparency in the oil industry so that investors will come and get a return on their investment”, adding: “We also want to explore oil in some other parts of the country and not only in the Niger Delta as we are doing now.
“There is no reason why we can’t find oil in the northern part of the country. The PIB bill is a bill to unite the country and not divide it. It will open up the industry so that we can attract new investors.’’
In his vote of thanks, Co-chairman of the Senate Joint Committee on PIB, Senator Umaru Dahiru, PDP, Sokoto South, assured that members of the committee were dedicated and would do a thorough job that will be appreciated by all.
He said the members will not only work as a team but take the interest of all Nigerians at heart while carrying out the public hearing on the PIB.
He appealed to Nigerians to come forward and give useful advice to the committee so that it could give recommendations that will reposition the country’s oil sector.
It will be recalled that the Senate had referred the bill to the Senate Committees on Petroleum Resources (Upstream and Downstream); Gas; Legal and Judicial Matters and Human Rights for detailed legislative action including a public hearing.
The joint committees are expected to report back to Senate at plenary in six weeks. Chairman, Senate Committee Petroleum Resources (Upstream), Senator Emmanuel Paulker is the co- chair of the joint committees.