A bill proposing the establishment of a Bitumen Development Commission to regulate the exploration, development, and exportation of bitumen has passed a second reading at the Senate.
The bill titled, “An Act to Establish the Bitumen Development Commission of Nigeria and Provide a Legal Framework for the Promotion of Research, study, Investment, Exploration, Production, Exportation, development and Utilisation of Locally Sourced Bitumen in Nigeria and for Related Matters, (2023)’ is sponsored by Jimoh Folorunsho (APC Ondo-South).
It was extensively debated before being read for the second time at the upper legislative chamber on Thursday.
The bill aims to make bitumen an alternative source of revenue for the country, as Nigeria is said to have over 38 billion reserves, the second-highest deposit in the world after Canada.
Bitumen and heavy oil resources are estimated to be 5.9 trillion barrels (938 billion m3), with more than 80 percent of these resources found in Canada, USA, Venezuela, and Nigeria.
Folorunsho said Nigeria was missing out on the $110 billion bitumen market despite abundant resources. According to him, the bill’s objectives include developing a legal framework for the regulation of bitumen development in Nigeria, preventing unconventional sources from taking advantage of research-enhanced applications over other competitors; leading innovation and resource-based strategy in the development of bitumen in Nigeria, and ensuring effective utilisation of the over 38 billion reserves in Nigeria. It also aims to promote the economic diversification policy of the Federal Government.
Meanwhile, some lawmakers argued against the bill, stating that Nigeria was in a financial crisis and did not need further strain on its limited resources.
Adams Oshiomhole (Edo North) said creating a commission was not needed for the exploration of bitumen, adding that Nigeria already has too many commissions.
“It is not the absence of laws that stops Nigeria from exploring natural resources, it has to do with political will. We are borrowing so much, that the Senate cannot be seen to enact laws that will lead to more commissions. We should shrink the overhead cost of government”, he posited.
However, Godswill Akpabio, the Senate put the bill to voice vote, and was supported by the majority of the senators.
Akpabio then referred the bill to the Senate committee on solid minerals for further legislative scrutiny. The committee has one month to report back.