The Senate on Thursday sought the inclusion of Nigeria in the $147 billion global bitumen market with passage for a second reading of a bill seeking the establishment of a Bitumen Development Commission.
The bill was sponsored by Senator Jimoh Ibrahim (APC Ondo South).
He informed the Senate that more than 80% of the resources are found in Canada, the United States of America, Venezuela and Nigeria.
He lamented that while other countries blessed with natural resources are exploiting them through the required legislation or legal frameworks, Nigeria has no legal framework for such exploration, with attendant untapped opportunities and huge market losses.
He said, “The objectives of the Bill include the need to develop a legal framework for the regulation of the Bitumen development in Nigeria; to prevent unconventional sources from taking advantage of research-enhanced applications over other competitors; and to lead innovation and resource-based strategy in the development of bitumen in Nigeria.
“The Bill will also ensure effective utilisation of over 38 billion reserves of bitumen in Nigeria, and to promote economic diversification policy of the Federal Government.”
He added that the bill, among other reasons, seeks to restrict the activities of the commission to its regulatory and coordinating functions, specifically as it relates to the development of bitumen in Nigeria.
According to Senator Ibrahim, Ondo State alone has the highest deposit in Africa, with an estimated value of $42bn, aside from deposits in Ogun State, Edo, Lagos and Akwa-Ibom States.
He said, “The proposed Bitumen Development Commission when established, would fastrack the development of Bitumen in Nigeria, make her a key player in the $147bn global market and create instant 12,000 jobs for Nigerians.
“It would also help the Government at various levels to put in place asphalted roads in various communities.
“Out of the 200, 000 kilometres of roads in Nigeria, only 20, 000 are asphalted even with imported Bitumen which is not good and being addressed with the proposed commission,” he said.
Many of the senators who contributed to the debate on the bill concurred with Jimoh Ibrahim’s submissions, making the Senate, as put to voice votes by its President, Godswill Akpabio, pass it for a second reading.
Akpabio, who commended Senator Ibrahim for sponsoring the development-driven bill, mandated the Senate Committee on Solid Minerals to make further legislative inputs on it and report back in a month’s time.