The Senate on Thursday, set machinery in motion for the diversification of the nation’s economy through massive Bitumen production.
The legislation to that effect passed first reading at plenary on Thursday.
The bill was sponsored by Senator Jimoh Ibrahim (APC – Ondo South).
It sought the establishment of the Bitumen Development Commission for official regulation of Bitumen exploration, development and exportation.
The sponsor of the bill, posited that the proposed legislation was to make Bitumen, an alternative revenue spinning product in Nigeria being the second highest deposit in the world after Canada.
He proposed that the commission should be sited in any of the three towns with high deposit of Bitumen in Ondo State which are Ode – Irele, Agbabu and Igbotako.
As proposed in the bill, Bitumen Development Commission when established, would also facilitate execution of road infrastructure across the country and also create jobs for Nigerians, particularly Geologists whose expertise would be needed in its exploration.
In a brief chat with journalists after plenary, Ibrahim, said details of intendment of the proposed Commission, would be made in his lead debate for second reading.
He said, “If the proposed legislation scales through in both the Senate and the House of Representatives with attendant establishment of Bitumen Development Commission after presidential assent.
“It would be the first law on exploration, development and possibly exportation of Bitumen in Nigeria.”
Meanwhile, the Senate on Thursday, urged the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) and other stakeholders in the power sector to negotiate and engage the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) with a view to accessing a consortium of loan facilities for local metre manufacturers in Nigeria.
The Senate resolution followed a motion by Senator Victor Umeh, titled, “Urgent Need to Protect Local Meter Manufacturers in the ongoing National Mass Metering Programme (NMMP) of the federal government.”
The Red Chamber also urged the federal government to urgently suspend TCN Tender for World Bank-funded NMMP Phase two.
It explained that the action became necessary in order to undertake a comprehensive review of the procurement criteria to prioritise local manufacturing and assembling of prepaid meters.
It said the call for an alternative loan for the local meter manufacturers was because the World Bank loans come with unfavourable conditions.
The Senate therefore enjoined the TCN to access CBN’s intervention funds instead of relying on foreign loans for the NNMP.
Umeh in his lead debate, urged the Senate to note that the industry procurement regulators had critical roles to play in every developing economy.
He said, “First and foremost, it is to protect its local manufacturers and would only try to augment importation of goods and services where there is a clear-cut gap between local production and consumption.”
Umeh, insisted that members of Association of Meter Manufacturers of Nigeria (AMMON) were capable of producing world standard smart meters.
“The TCN and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) under Phase 1 of the Mass Metering Programme of the federal government, issued the Association, after a competitive Bidding Process a ‘Letter of No Objection’ to award four million meters in 2022.
“Central Bank of Nigeria in 2020 undertook to fund the NMMP Phase 1, but after eight months of awards to local manufacturers, withdrew funding, which affected the workability of the programme.
“The World Bank has approved a loan of $155,000,000.00 for the NMMP. Worried that the Ongoing World Bank funded NMMP Phase 2 seeks to promote foreign companies’ participation against competent and prequalified local meter manufacturers will ultimately result in the loss of jobs and revenue.
“A deliberate policy to prioritise local manufacturing will catalyse job creation and economic growth.”
Senators in their contributions supported the motion and approved that the prayers be adopted by the Senate when they were put to voice vote by Senate President Godswill Akpabio.