By Emmanuel Ajibulu
The determined attempt to enrich the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) with the inputs of critical stakeholders received major boost on Tuesday, May 15, 2018 as Nigeria’s oil unions, the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Oil Producers Trade Section (OPTS), representatives of government and oil associations gathered at the National Assembly complex to discuss.
The well attended public hearing organised by the House of Representatives Adhoc Committee on Petroleum Industry Bill chaired by the House Chief Whip, Hon. Ishaka Bawa will last for 3 days (May 15-17, 2018). Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum Resources Downstream, Hon Joseph Akinlaja who is also a member of the PIB committee led the gathering in an opening prayer.
Giving the welcome address and declaring open the public hearing, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon Yakubu Dogara stated that the new petroleum industry bill currently before the National Assembly will enable Nigeria to operate at standards and levels of efficiency expected of a 21st-century oil and gas industry. He said even the government recognises that the industry can no longer meet its aspirations and those of key stakeholders.
According to Mr Speaker, the Bills being considered are the Petroleum Industry Administration Bill, the Petroleum Industry Fiscal Bill and the Petroleum Host and Impacted Communities Bill.
“You are all aware that the oil and gas industry reform have been a critical issue before the House of Representatives since 2009 when the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) was first transmitted to this House as an Executive Bill for legislative consideration.
“The major reason for the reform, which remains even more valid today, is that the petroleum industry in Nigeria is not operating at standards and levels of efficiency expected of a twenty first century oil and gas industry.
“Government recognizes that the industry can no longer meet its aspirations and those of key stakeholders”, he said.
The speaker regretted how the 6th and 7th national assemblies failed to conclude legislative consideration of the PIB.
He explained, “This, in my opinion, was as a result of insufficient consultations, weak ownership of the Bill, absence of requisite political will as well as the extremely divergent and competing views of the government and other major stakeholders on the provisions of the Bill.
“However, at the National Assembly, the most important set back was that the PIB was difficult to handle by the relevant committees because it was a massive and complex document that was to repeal and re-enact almost all our petroleum laws into a holistic legislation.
“Because of its sheer size and complexity, the Bill was difficult to consider by the legislative committees in both chambers.
“The implications of the delay in concluding the oil and gas industry reform which commenced since the year 2000 has been very colossal for our country running into several billions of dollars that would have accrued to Nigeria and our economy coupled with the loss of our erstwhile continental competitiveness.”
He, however, assured that despite the setbacks experienced in the past, the 8th National Assembly, especially the House of Representatives, will ensure that the bill passes because completion of the oil and gas industry reform is one of its cardinal legislative objectives.
Mr Dogara added: “Today’s event is in keeping with our covenant with Nigerians to lay to rest this difficult but surmountable challenge that has been the best of our oil and gas industry.
“To ensure a thorough and expedited conclusion of the reform, this House decided to split the reform Bills into logical smaller Bills.This way, the individual Bills can be expeditiously considered and passed one after the other.”
According to the speaker, the reform Bills were split into the following Bills, namely: Petroleum Industry Governance Bill 2017, Petroleum Industry Fiscal Bill 2018; Petroleum Producing Host and Impacted Communities Bill, 2018; and Petroleum Industry Administration Bill, 2018; available facts have it that the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, 2017 has been passed by both the House and Senate and is now before the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for assent.
Among the dignitaries at the event were the director of DPR, Mr Mordecai Ladan, National President of NUPENG Comrade Prince Williams Akporeha, Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum Resources Upstream, Hon Victor Nwokolo and his counterpart in Gas Hon. Agbedi Frederick.
Also present at the public hearing were MDs and CEOs of International and local oil companies, members of the PENGASSAN and NUPENG joint Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) committees, they are Comrade Chief Hyginus Chika Onuegbu (Chairman), Comrade Victor Ononokpono (Vice CHariman), Comrade Afolabi Olawale (Secretary), Comrade Fortune Obi, Comrade Kiri Barile, Comrade Godwin Okodugha, Comrade Cogent Ojobor, Comrade Dr. Michael Oke, Comrade Eluozo Collins, Comrade Aminu Ahmed, Comrade Yusuf Abubakar, Comrade Festus Osifo, Comrade Joseph Oshiokpekhai.