The Senate yesterday passed a new bill, which provided for penalty against gas flaring and other malpractices in the oil and gas sector.The last legislation on gas flare, the Associated Gas Re-injection Act of 1979, came into force 40 years ago, and since then there has been no review or amendment of the Act despite its devastating effect on the host communities.
One of the highlights of the new Bill is that any licensee who supplies inaccurate data to the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) or to any other lawful authority will be liable, upon conviction to a fine of N10 million or be committed to prison for a term of six months or both.
Other objectives of the Bill include ensuring that natural gas is not flared or vented in any oil and gas production operation, block or field, onshore or offshore, or any gas facility, which shall commence operations after the commencement of the Act.
The Bill also seeks to ensure that no operator establishes an Oil and Gas facility in the country without first obtaining authorisation from the Minister for the design, commissioning and production phases.The Bill comprises 22 sections including sections on punishment for supply of inaccurate data, gas flaring penalty fee, powers of the minister to make regulations, as well as a repeal of the Associated Gas Re-injection Act 1979.
Sponsor of the Bill, Senator Bassey Albert said: "The approval of the long awaited legislation on gas flaring after 40 years is one of the best parting gifts the 8th Senate could possibly offer Nigerians at this time".Besides, a former General Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Frank Kokori, has lamented the sudden change as Chairman of Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).
Speaking in Abuja yesterday after the inauguration was cancelled, Kokori blamed Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, for his travails. He said President Buhari had assured him during the celebration of the 2018 edition of June 12 that he would not be replaced as NSITF Chairman.
But Ngige insisted that President Buhari indeed approved the deployment of Kokori to Ilorin, Kwara State, adding that he (Kokori) was expected to report at the Michael Imodu National Institute of Labour Studies, Ilorin, where his experience was more relevant.
The minister, however, noted that Austin Enejamo-Isere qualifies to head the NSITF and would bring his wealth of experience to bear in running the affairs of the fund.
But in a swift reaction, the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) vowed to resist Kokori's removal as Chairman of NSITF board. Speaking after the botched inauguration, NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to probe the activities of Ngige, who has been the Sole Administrator of NSITF for three and a half years.
Speaking, President of NUPENG, William Akporeha, said the union would mobilise workers to ensure that Kokori was inaugurated as Chairman of NSITF, saying Kokori was not an orphan and would not be abandoned by organised labour.