Senator Bassey Albert: Celebrating Another Hero of Democracy
As Distinguished Senator Bassey Albert Akpan (OBA), senator representing Akwa Ibom North East (Uyo) Senatorial District steps out today, Wednesday, October 14, 2020 at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja to receive the prestigious Heroes of Democracy Award of the Most Outstanding Senator in Nigeria, there are enough justifications to roll out the drums in celebration of a lawmaker whose noble stewardship in the Upper Chamber of Nigeria’s legislature has brought unquantifiable gain to his country.
The organizers of the award, Face of Democracy Nigeria (FDN) Projects and Nigerians who voted Senator Albert for the award can hardly be faulted for their decision given his rising profile as the latest doyen of Nigerian Senate.
Senator Albert has discharged his triple role in the 9th Senate with such elan, gusto and grit. He not only represents Akwa Ibom North East (Uyo) Senatorial District, he also doubles as Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources Upstream as well as Chairman, Akwa Ibom State Caucus in the 9th National Assembly. He must be a rare breed to be able to discharge these responsibilities creditably.
In his first term as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he did not only warm himself into the heart of the leadership of the 8th Senate, he ended up the lone redemptive voice of the Akwa Ibom people in the 8th Senate at a time other senators from the state decided to play the ostrich.
By the time the 8th Senate wound up on 6th June 2019, Senator Albert had written his name in gold prompting journalists covering the Senate to honour him with an Award of the South South Senator of the Year for his outstanding legislative accomplishments.
A FLASHBACK TO THE 8TH ASSEMBLY
His profile in the 8th Senate was an inspiring one. He had six motions to his credit all geared towards addressing the dire economic straits and infrastructural decay into which the country had been dragged, namely, motion on the urgent need to halt the dilapidated and disintegrated state of Ikot Ekpene-Itu-Calabar Federal Highway; motion on the need to curb the soaring rate of unemployment in Nigeria; motion on urgent need for effective implementation of the Joint Venture Cash Calls obligations by NNPC; motion on the need to address the present economic state of the nation; motion on urgent need to investigate the granting of concession of the Western and Eastern rail lines to General Electric of USA; and motion on the need to save the 215 megawatt Kaduna Power Plant. He also co-sponsored no fewer than six motions.
These motions led to far reaching resolutions by the Senate that was aimed at re-engineering our national economy. For instance, it was his motion on the need to address the present economic state of the nation that raised the first alarm that Nigeria had irredeemably sunk into economic recession in 2016. The motion led to the summoning of the Minister of Finance and the Central Bank Governor by the Senate who both admitted that the country was truly on the precipice of recession.
He also sponsored four Bills, namely the National Youth Employment and Development Bill, the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan Bill, Petroleum Industry Administration Bill, and most importantly the Gas Flaring Prohibition and Punishment Bill, which is the first legislative attempt since Nigeria’s independence to holistically seek an end to Gas Flaring in Nigeria through legislation.
Out of his seven petitions presented on the floor of the 8th Senate, two of the petitions led to the reinstatement of two federal public servants from Akwa Ibom State whose appointments were wrongfully terminated.
Besides his legislative accomplishments, his constituency empowerment and human development programme gave succour to over 2,000 indigenes, while his ongoing scholarship programme has benefitted over 381 students of Akwa Ibom State origin. His constituency projects on provision of solar powered water to rural communities, road construction and donation of life enhancing drugs to nine health centers in Uyo Senatorial District were part of his stewardship in his first term. Given such awesome record, it was no surprise that his re-election into the 9th Senate was a fait accompli.
The organizers of today’s prestigious event scheduled to hold at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja point to the fact that Senator Albert’s contributions in the Senate leading to enormous economic benefits to Nigeria was the major motivating factor for the conferment of the award of the Most Outstanding Senator in Nigeria on him. A glance at his score card in the 9th Senate so far clearly shows that Senator Bassey Albert deserves the award.
HIS SCORE CARD IN HIS SECOND TERM SO FAR
The stellar performance of Senator Bassey Albert as the Chairman, Senate Committee on Gas in the 8th Senate made a strong impression on the leadership of the 9th Senate under the leadership of Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan. Given his in-depth knowledge of the oil and gas sector and the reforms he brought to bear on the gas sector, the leadership of the 9th Senate found him worthy to be appointed Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources Upstream.
Senator Albert has not disappointed the Senate leadership for the confidence reposed in him given his contributions in the last 16 months.
UNFOLDING AN AGENDA FOR PETROLEUM SECTOR REFORMS
At the inauguration of the Committee on Wednesday, October 9, 2019, Senator Albert rolled out the agenda of the committee to reposition the country’s petroleum sector. In an address delivered at the meeting, Senator Albert, while regretting that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) has lingered over the years without passage into law, assured industry stakeholders that the 9th Senate is currently engaging the Executive on the final touches of the bill, which was eventually transmitted to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari towards the end of September 2020. The Upper chamber has promised to commence debate on the bill on October 20, 2020 with a promise to Nigerians to ensure an accelerated passage of the Bill.
At the inauguration, he also assured stakeholders of the determination of the Senate to conclude the process for the amendment of the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts Act, CAP D3 LFN 2004 to drive the country’s oil and gas sector, a promise he kept when he not only sponsored a Bill for the amendment of the act but also spearheaded the conclusion of the legislative process on the bill leading to its signing into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
AMENDMENT OF THE DEEP OFFSHORE AND INLAND BASIN PSC ACT
When the Senate passed its fastest ever Bill in the history of legislation in Nigeria on Tuesday, 15 October 2019, Senator Albert, who was the sponsor of the Bill, played a leading role in the passage of that Bill. The Bill titled, a Bill to Amend the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts Act D3 LFN 2004, was read the first time in the Senate on Thursday, October 3, 2019. The intendment of the Bill was the need to review and recover additional revenue accruable to the government of the Federation from the Production Sharing Contracts pursuant to the Act of 2004.
Leading the debate on the second reading of the Bill to Amend the Act on the floor of the Senate on October 8, 2019, Senator Albert informed his colleagues that the said Act did not provide any mechanism or sanction for the implementation or otherwise of the provisions regarding the statutory periodic review in Section 16. To this end, he said the Bill seeks to amend the Act to make provisions for periodic review of royalty payable in respect of Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts (PSC) as well as offenses and penalty for non-compliance.
The extant Act had, in section 16, provided that where the price of crude oil exceeds US$20 per barrel, the PSC Act will be reviewed to ensure that the share of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) in the additional revenue is adjusted to the extent that the PSCs shall be economically beneficial to the FGN, and that in any event, the PSC Act shall be liable to be reviewed after 15 years from its commencement in 1993 and every 5 years thereafter. Senator Albert informed his colleagues that the new sections 17 and 18 have placed a responsibility and subsequent consequences for non-compliance to section 16.
The Bill was subsequently referred to the Joint Senate Committees on Petroleum Upstream, Gas, Finance, Judiciary and Human Rights chaired by Senator Albert for further legislative work. On Monday, Oct 14, 2019, the Joint Committee held a one-day consultative meeting/public hearing with stakeholders on the Bill to Amend the Act. Declaring the meeting open, the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan said there was need to amend the Act to maintain a competitive environment for the oil and gas sector to thrive. He disclosed that the National Assembly is determined to pass the bill as a precursor to passing the Petroleum Industry Bill.
On Tuesday October 15, 2019, Senator Albert presented the report of the Senate Joint Committee, which was adopted before the Senate resolved into the Committee of the Whole to consider the Bill clause by clause. The Bill was subsequently read the third time and passed. It received the concurrence of the House of Representatives and was eventually signed into law by the President.
With the signing of the Bill into law, it is estimated that Nigeria reaped about $1.5billion to fund the 2020 Budget. Other features of the legislation include an exponential increase of fine from N50 million or an option of one year imprisonment to N500 million or option of 5 years imprisonment as penalty for violation of the provisions. Also, the Bill provides for royalty payable to the Federal Government to be reviewed after eight years instead of 15 years.
SECOND PHASE OF HIS SCHOLARSHIP SCHEME
The first phase of Senator Bassey Albert (OBA) Scholarship Scheme had over 180 students mostly drawn from all the nine local government areas of Uyo Senatorial District as beneficiaries with some beneficiaries drawn from local government areas from other Senatorial District.
However in March this year, during the second phase of the scholarship scheme, Senator Albert magnanimously extended his benevolence to students from the 31 local government areas of the state. A total of 1449 students applied for the scholarship out of which 1150 students wete shortlisted for the qualifying examination for the second phase of scheme. After a rigorous screening exercise, 189 students (136 male and 53 female) were successful, bringing the total number of students that have so far benefitted from the programme to 381.
Impressed with his philanthropic gesture, the Governing Council of the College of Education, Afaha Nsit, had in July this year at its 7th combined convocation, conferred on Senator Albert an Educational and Philanthropic Award in recognition of his contributions to the development of the state’s educational sector.
MOTION ON THE $9.6 BILLION JUDGEMENT DEBT AGAINST NIGERIA
When the Senate resumed from its eight weeks recess on Tuesday, September 24, 2019, a motion was raised by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele on the controversial $9.6 billion judgement debt delivered against Nigeria by a British Court purportedly after a failed Gas supply and processing agreement (GSPA) between the Federal Government of Nigeria and Process and Industrial Development (P& ID) Limited.
Speaking in support of the motion, Senator Albert, a trained economist, noted that procedures as stipulated under the National Gas Supply and Pricing Regulations, 2008, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (Establishment) Act 2005 as well as the key strategies of the National Gas Master Plan, 2008 for gas supply and processing agreements of this nature, were not duly followed from the period of conception to the execution stage of the Gas Supply and Processing Agreement (GSPA) with P & ID. He further observed that there is no tangible evidence of equipment and/or any other elementary infrastructure procured by P & ID in readiness for the gas processing take off as claimed. He also expressed concern that the consequential arbitration, court proceedings and the award against Nigeria has been concealed from the National Assembly.
It was such brilliant presentation that triggered off the resolution by the Senate to invite the Minister for Petroleum, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, officials of the ministry of petroleum, agencies, lawyers, consultants who represented the country during the conception stage of the GSPA, arbitration and court proceedings to appear before the Senate to brief it on steps taken in a the interest of Nigeria.
BILL TO END GAS FLARING IN NIGERIA
A Bill to end gas flaring in Nigeria sponsored by Senator Albert was passed by the 8th Senate but could not receive the concurrence of the House of Representatives because it was passed by the Senate towards the end of its tenure. Senator Albert has represented the Bill, which has already passed through second reading.
HISTORIC RESOLUTION OF THE NNPC/CHEVRON ESCRAVOS GAS TO LIQUID DEAL
One of the signature achievements of Senator Albert in the Senate is the pivotal role he played in the resolution of cost dispute between NNPC and Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) which had lingered on for over a decade and defied solution by previous sessions of the Senate.
The intervention of the Senate Committee on Gas chaired by Senator Albert in the 8th Senate, and later Committee on Petroleum Resources Upstream in the 9th Senate also chaired by him led to the historic resolution of the long disputed NNPC/Chevron Escravos Gas to Liquid deal in favour of Nigeria. The deal raked in several billions of dollars into the country’s economy.
BILL TO AMEND THE NIGERIAN SOVEREIGN INVESTMENT ACT
Senator Albert is also sponsoring a Bill to Amend the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (Establishment) Act, CAP N166 LFN 2004.
The bill seeks to amend the principal Act to provide for additional funding of the Sovereign Wealth Fund through a statutory allocation of funds from the monthly revenue accruing to the Federation Account.
The Bill has passed second reading.
PETITION ON PERCEIVED MARGINALIZATION OF AKWA IBOM IN FEDERAL APPOINTMENTS
Senator Bassey on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 presented a petition on behalf of Akwa Ibom State Caucus in the Senate alleging marginilization of Akwa Ibom State in terms of Federal appointments.The petition has been referred to the Committee on rules and ethics for legislative action
REOPENING OF IBOM AIRPORT
Senator Albert on Tuesday, June 8, 2020 drew the attention of Senate on the need to include Ibom Airport on the list of airports in the country to be reopened. Consequently, the Senate directed the Chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation to liaise with the Aviation authorities to ensure that Ibom Airport was among the airports to be reopened.
DONATIONS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
In his characteristic benevolence, Senator Albert made available palliatives to several indigenes of the state and organisations from across the state to cushion the effect of economic challenges occasioned by the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.
Senator Albert also donated Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to several groups and organisations in the state including the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Akwa Ibom Statement Council to assist in the fight against the pandemic.