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A civil society group, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development, Centre LSD, on Tuesday warned Nigerians not to relegate the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, to the background for the current clamour for a national conference.

The Executive Director of the centre, Otive Igbuzor, who was speaking in Abuja at a media roundtable on “PIB and Oil Theft” noted that though national conference, demand for the review of revenue allocation formula, party politics and preparation for 2015 elections were desirable, pursuing these at the expense of the immediate passage of the PIB would be too costly for the country’s economy and national development.

Mr. Igbuzor said that with reports that Nigeria was losing an average of 400,000 barrels of oil every day and revenue loss of over $11 billion annually through crude oil theft, Nigerians must demand that the National Assembly make the extra effort to see the draft PIB passed into law as soon as possible to help address the challenge of crude oil theft and its negative impact on the country’s economy.

“The PIB seeks to harmonise and consolidate about 16 existing laws governing the oil and gas industry. We must the attention of Nigerians on the need to get back to work on the PIB and pass it. The more we delay, the more we create uncertainty and loss of revenue to the country,” Mr. Igbuzor said.

He drew attention to the dangerous trend of increasing opulence in the face of abject poverty, which has pushed the poor to embrace “illegal businesses”, like crude oil theft, to survive; pointing out that though global economic wealth has increased sevenfold and average incomes tripled, poverty has increased to record high levels.

In his presentation on the theme, Oladayo Olaide of Nigeria Stability & Reconciliation Programme, NSRP, acknowledged the critical importance of the PIB to the country’s economy, pointing out that the continued delay in passing the draft bill into law was creating enormous uncertainty in the system, which was frustrating investors’ interest in the country and causing the country huge losses in revenue.

Noting the role of corruption in the socio-economic problems the country was facing, Mr. Olaide said that in spite of the various reforms initiated by government in various sectors of the economy, the problem has remained endemic.

He said various motivations for oil theft include either as a business, a struggle for justice, a way of sustaining the oil politics, or a form of criminality as a result of the lawlessness in the country, adding that some of the main drivers of the act include political, economic, socio-cultural and international conspiracy.

Mr. Olaide listed lack of transparency and accountability, corruption, and impunity as the political drivers, while weak regulation and low cost of entry into the business, sabotage and vandalism as the economic factors sustaining the crime.

In addition, he said the issue of systemic inequality, environmental degradation, public distrust in government and deplorable human development index as a result of unemployment were the socio-cultural driver, while rising crude oil prices at the international market and trans-border criminality make up the international conspiracy in the crime.

Though he acknowledged government’s effort to tackle the menace, Mr. Olaide said oil theft has continued to thrive due to lack of public trust as a result lack of political will to enforce the laws; lack of transparency, information and accountability; prevalence of inequalities in the society; high level of poverty; as well as environmental degradation and arms proliferation.

He called on the National Assembly to expedite action on the passage of the PIB, pointing out that this would help create a conducive business environment for the economy to thrive, though he said government still needed to exercise the political will and commitment to enforce the laws against perpetrators.

 

Information from Premium Times was used in this report.

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