The joint Senate Committee on Petroleum Upstream, Downstream, Gas, Judiciary and Legal Matters concluded its public hearing on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) Wednesday with a promise that the bill will be eventually passed into law.
But the oil and gas producing communities in the Niger Delta, who made various submission yesterday, during the third and final sitting of the committees, kicked against the proposed granting of “excessive” powers to the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, in the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
The chairman of the Oil and Gas Producing Host Communities, Dr. Alfred Bubor, which is a platform for all oil producing communities in the Niger Delta, said the PIB “should not be made to be a Personal Industry Bill for upcoming petroleum ministers.”
“This huge concentration of so much power in one person, office or government functionary is not in the best interest of the industry, the nation if previous experiences with the ministry is anything to go by,” he said.
The Bayelsa State Government, in its separate submission to the committees, also frown on what it said was excessive powers placed in the hands of the petroleum resources minister.
“The PIB grants extensive powers to the minister of petroleum resources, much of which is discretionary. We are concern that the overall concentration of mostly unchecked powers in the hands of one official may engender an abuse of powers and may work to the detriment of the Federal Republic of Nigerian and of industry stakeholders,” he said.
The delegation from Bayelsa State maintained that powers granted to the minister, which include supervisory powers over regulatory institution, direct powers over operational aspects of the industry, powers over environmental matters, appointment or recommendation for appointment and making of regulations must be stopped no matter how capable that minister is.
The delegation also queried the placement of control of the total oil and gas resources of the region in the hands of the federal government as faulty and unjustifiable.
“Before the first statue that declared ownership of petroleum or mineral rights to the FG who owned these resources and the land in which they occurred?” they said.
They argued that since Nigeria operates a democratic federal republican, presidential system of government in the mould of the United States of America, the “time has come for Nigeria to adopt a US-style mineral rights regime which recognises and protects the mineral ownership rights as part of land rights.”
Consequently, the Bayelsans demanded that “a minimum of 30 per cent of the ownership and equity holding in all petroleum shall be reserved at all times for the respective communities of location and a minimum of another 20 per cent shall be reserved for the host states.”
But the Deputy Chairman of the Joint Committees, Senator Kabiru Marafa (Zamfara, Central), said the delay in the passage of the bill was because of its importance to Nigerians and the need to do a good job of ensuring transparency in oil and gas exploration and all related activities.
“Because of its importance, It will not be out of place for the senate to exercise caution in passing a bill that will be acceptable to all Nigeria and reposition the oil industry for more transparency.
“People both within and outside the oil industry have accused Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and some petroleum companies of lack of transparency. So, we want to come up with a document that will make everybody happy. We want to accommodate everybody in this bill and the delay in passing the bill is to ensure that a good work is done.
“We are working round the clock to see that this legislation sees the light of the day. But in doing this, we have to be careful and not allow time constraint to force us to hurry and pass this bill. Nigerians want a good bill and we will give them one,” he said.