As the Senate inches closer to the passage of the first phase of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), lawmakers have expressed readiness to override President Muhammadu Buhari, in the event he declines to sign the bill.
Lawmakers, who spoke to newsmen at the end of a four-day retreat on the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), held in Uyo, capital of Akwa Ibom State, said the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians must be first, ahead of any other thing.
The lawmakers, drawn from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), maintained that they are ready to explore every legal option available to ensure that the bill, when passed, is signed into law.
Senate Chip Whip, Olusola Adeyeye, who represented Senate President, Bukola Saraki, at the event, said the PIB is not about the occupant of the position or the position of the president.
Adeyeye said although he is a strong supporter of president Buhari, he will, however, put the interest of the country first and added that the oil industry is too important to be left in the hands of foreigners to manage.
“I am not really afraid that the president will withhold his assent. The president comes from my own party. I want my president to succeed. I am not sure there is anybody in or outside Nigeria who as committed to the president as I am.
“But, this bill is not about Buhari. It is not about my party, the APC. It is about Nigeria. What we are trying to do is to give Nigerians a document such that if we have a good president in power, things will work.
“And, if, in the future, we have a bad president, because of what we would have put in place, things will still work. This legislation is not about the current president. Rather, we are trying to do what we believe will be in the best interest of Nigeria and Nigerians.
“In any case, if the president does not assent to the bill, as it is the case in every presidential system, the rules of the Federal Republic have given room on how you can exercise your power of veto over the president.
“I am praying that we do not come to that, but, if that is the last option, we will put the interest of Nigerians first. In the end, it is not about the president or the parliament. Its about the Republic we all love and swore to serve,” said Adeyeye.
Senator Chukwuka Utazi, who heads the committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, on his part, explained that the presidency must be separated from the occupant of the office.
He said the National Assembly is empowered, by law, to act in the best interest of Nigerians and noted that, if vetoing the president will be the last option, he will support the move.
“The situation where those serving in the presidency see everything we do as being against them is not good.
“If we pass this bill and the president refuses to assent to it, we will veto him,” Utazi said.
Former PDP national chairman, Senator Barnabas Gemade and now a member of the ruling APC, echoed his colleagues on the move to veto the president if withholds his assent.
“I am hoping that we will not get to the level where we may have to override the president on this particular issue. I am a member of APC and I want to president to succeed. President Buhari is trying his best to fix the country.
“But, I need to look at the bigger picture and also, at the future of this country. We need to set a strong foundation for the oil and gas sector. If, in the end, the only option left is to override the president, I will support it. We need to safeguard the future of this great country.”
Senator Matthew Urhoghide, a member of the PDP, said he will hesitate to support any move to veto the president in the event that he declines to assent to the PIGB. He drew an instance from the passage of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by the National Assembly, in the early days of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Urhoghide reiterated that, if president Buhari declines assent, the National Assembly will replicate what it did with the NDDC bill, by vetoing the president.
“I am from the Niger Delta. I know how the National Assembly has tried to ensure that this bill is passed. You do not expect us to go through this rigorous process and then, just sit back and allow the president to decline assent. We cannot allow that to happen. If the president does not append his signature to the bill, we will do the what we did with NDDC bill and pass it into law. Today, NDDC is working and assisting the region. This one, too, will be handled like that,” he insisted.”