Tanzania resumes debate on energy bill after suspending opposition MPs

gas-pipesTanzania’s parliament resumed debate on Saturday on a contentious and long-delayed petroleum bill, after the speaker suspended around 40 opposition lawmakers for disrupting an earlier session.

The government says the legislation will create a legal and regulatory framework to manage discoveries of gas – Tanzania’s reserves are estimated at 55 trillion cubic feet – and possible future discoveries of oil.

A copy of the draft legislation seen by Reuters sets out royalties and other payments that energy companies will have to pay to the government. A parliamentary official told Reuters the government still hoped to pass the bill this weekend.

Opposition lawmakers called for the legislation to be withdrawn to give industry players and non governmental organisations time to scrutinise it.

“The suspended members of parliament will not be allowed to enter parliament premises and will be on half pay for the duration of their suspension for five sessions,” Speaker Anne Makinda told parliament. “These MPs are just using delaying tactics.”

The 35 lawmakers joined five other opposition legislators who were suspended on Friday on similar charges.

The suspension of the opposition lawmakers leaves the government with a smooth path to pass the bills in the ruling-party dominated house, analysts said.

Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete is expected to dissolve parliament on July 9 ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections in October.

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