Unlike the first two days when altercations from Niger Delta senators and their northern counterparts heated up the debate, there was decorum in the chamber yesterday all through.
Summing up senators' divergent views on the bill, Mark noted that contrary to people's expectations, the debate on the bill had united the Senate more than ever before.
"Apart from the constitution amendment, I've never seen any other bill where as many as 81 senators contributed to debate. The three days alloted to this debate have been fully utilised. Before the debate on Tuesday, the atmosphere was so charged that people thought we're going to leave the chamber with our cloths torn, boxing one another, fighting and never coming back to the chamber; but the exact opposite is what has happened. We've ended this debate more united than ever before. We've ended it on the same wavelength because we've debated like nationalists and patriots. Certain areas of the bill that people thought were going to be controversial issues have turned out to be the issues that have united the Senate more.
"First is the unprecedented unlimited powers proposed for the petroleum minister. All of us agree that the powers are too much and that there is no reason for it. We're also very united on the fact that so much power is given to Mr president particularly in Section 191 where the president can grant lease. If he can grant lease unconditionally, he can also revoke this unconditionally. The same thing with the minister. We also all agree that the Frontier Exploration Services should be properly funded and independent, and that there should be time limit within which it'll complete or start prospective work on oil exploration in all parts of the country. Even those that spoke strongly for Niger Delta or South-South also emphasised this. That was the area where people expressed fears, but the fact is that we all need to be on the same wavelength and look at this bill from a nationalistic point of view or from a national perspective. This bill, I must confess and emphasise, is not north versus south at all. Far from that, because what is good for the north is good for the south and what is bad for the south is bad for the north. So it is not about one section of the country or the other. This bill, like you rightly pointed out, is the life-wire of this country and it has national and international interests. The international oil companies are very interested in the debate going on here just like Nigerians are interested in the debate we've had so far."
Mark, however, said the bill was not sacrosanct, stressing that it would go for a public hearing after which the Senate would tinker with it by a way of amendment.
This is source from Nigerian Daily Trust News papers