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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Senate set to pass Atomic Energy Commission Bill

The Senate is set to give legal backing to the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC).

The Nigerian Senate
The Nigerian Senate

This came to the fore during a Public Hearing organised on two bills by the Senate Committee on Science and Technology chaired by Sen. Uche Ekwunife (PDP-Anambra), on Thursday, April 27, 2023, in Abuja.

The two bills are: “Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC) Act (Repeal and Reenactment) Bill 2022 and Nigerian Content in Programmes, Contracts, Science, Engineering, Technology and Innovation (Establishment) Bill, 2023”.

The NAEC bill was sponsored by Sen. Emmanuel Orker-jev (PDP-Benue) while the Nigerian Content in Programmes, Contracts, Science, Engineering, Technology and Innovation Bill was sponsored by Sen. Sani Musa (APC-Niger).

In her welcome remarks, Ekwunife said the passage of the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission Act (repeal and reenactment) was crucial to the development of the science and technology sector.

She explained that the act was enacted 46 years ago in 1976, adding that since then, there were no legislative steps taken to improve the commission in line with realities of global dynamics.

Ekwunife said: “This bill, therefore, seeks to repeal the Atomic Energy Commission Act (CAP.N91) Laws of the Federation to streamline its provisions.

“The bill will make the commission cater for robust implementation of National Nuclear Programme in line with acceptable international standards in accordance with Nigeria’s obligation under relevant international legal instruments.”

She said repeal of the act was not in any way intended for negative use of nuclear power such as armament but mainly for peaceful purpose in areas of nuclear power, medical diagnoses and others.

“The repeal also intends to make the commission develop the ways and technical machinery to effectively explore, exploit and harness atomic energy for peaceful applications and for sustainable national development.”

On the Nigerian Content in Programmes, Contracts, Science, Engineering, Technology and Innovation Bill, Ekwunife said that it aimed at harnessing domestic talents and the development of indigenous capacity in science and technology.

Also speaking, Chairman, NAEC, Prof. Yusuf Ahmed, said the decision to embark on a nuclear programme in Nigeria represented a long-term commitment to safety.

He, however, said that the lack of requisite legal framework was a challenge that had greatly slowed the activities of the commission to be able to harness the potential of atomic energy.

Ahmed also urged the senate to amend Section 2 of the NAEC bill which deals with the leadership structure of the commission.

“This has been one of the major challenges in the implementation of the National Nuclear Energy Programmme.”

On his part, Mr Festus Osifo, President, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), said the association had members from the commission and the authority.

Osifo, who was represented by Owan Abua, Branch President, DPR PENGASSAN branch, said the bill would go a long way to enhance the promotion of a peaceful use of nuclear atomic energy in the country.

“I suggest to the committee that it looks into the whole governance aspect in the nuclear regulatory space to be able to streamline the functions such that we will not have overlapping functions.”

Also, President, Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE), Tasiu Gidari-Wudil, said that there “will likely be a clash between the two agencies if the grey areas in the bill are not amended”.

By Naomi Sharang

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