The National Assembly (NASS) is said to expect the new Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) ‘soon’, so that deliberations and debate can begin on the much-awaited piece of legislation. It is not however clear if the new bill is coming as a single bill or would come in four sets as it was in the last edition.

Two authoritative sources deeply involved in the workings revealed this at a web seminar Thursday, June 4, 2020, hosted by ‘Save Nigeria Oil & Gas Industry’ and AfriTAL with support from FOSTER, but anchored by Louis Brown Ogbeifun of AfriTAL. The topic was: Petroleum Industry Bill in Focus: Myths and Realities.

Revealing the inside workings, Tim Okon, the former Group Coordinator of Corporate Planning and Strategy in the NNPC whose career spans over four decades in the oil and gas industry with special affinity to the academia, said the PIB is being reviewed to be re-presented to the National Assembly. “This time, it is coming as an executive bill.”

Okon, the member of Society of Exploration Geophysicists, International Association of Energy Economists, Association of International Petroleum Negotiators, and Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists, said many eyes were still looking at the PIB to ensure that serious opposition does not come this time.

The man who has won many performance awards as a geoscientist made it clear that the oil industry is going away and that it is important not to waste the last stages. “This is our last chance.”

Okon, a geophysicist, petroleum economist, corporate strategist and financial consultant, has been very passionate about oil and gas transformation through the Oil & Gas Implementation Committee (OGIC) to the present day. He is said to have also led an inter-agency technical review team on government memorandum on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).

The expert said: “Nigeria is obsessed with rent collection. We must now move to production venture, just as we moved from the era of cement armada (ships carrying cement lining our shores to offload) to cement export now. Nigeria should be an oil and gas processing centre. The market will take care, so we should not be worried by price of crude oil because in processing, there are different prices for different products of same crude oil.”

He insisted that Nigeria must now use her oil for economic development through massive processing instead of as economic rent.

Confirming what Okon said, a member of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Henry Nwauba, said: “The PIB is being looked into and we had networked with all groups in the National Assembly to ensure smooth sail. We had expected it in June 2020 but the present uncertainties may affect the time.

Nwauba came to the NASS in 2015 (8th National Assembly) to represent Mbaitolu/Ikeduru federal constituency of Imo State and won again in 2019. His legislative interests are said to include local content & human development, oil & gas, banking, telecoms, and public accounts. He is a Member of House of Representatives Committees on Appropriation, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), and Navy.

Nwauba said: “I even went round to mobilize for its success to see if we can bring it as private member’s bill but the Presidency assured us that effort was being made to achieve consensus before it comes, and that it was to come before June.”

He appealed to stakeholders to be a bit more patient so that when it eventually comes, it would be a good piece. “We also want to focus on other aspects of the oil industry at the moment. For instance, NEITI said Nigeria has earned N83 Trillion in the past four years. We must see that such earnings are properly utilized.

“Also, we aim to diversify the oil sector first. I am very close to this process and I know what I am talking about. We have set up groups looking at it so that when the Bill comes, it won’t take much time. We even toyed with the idea of making it a private member’s bill, but if the government version comes, we would spend time trying to harmonise.

Please, let us wait for it, it is on the way. We at the NASS are eager to act on it.”

The cheering news however did not excite labour. The Petroleum and Gas Workers Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and others said they have not been carried along in the underground meetings and discussions that would soon birth to the new Bill. Nduka Ohaeri, described as an engineer of repute, the president of a PENGASSAN World wide, a National Industrial Relations Officer and branch chairman of the NLNG, said: “We in PENGASSAN have a standing committee on this subject for years with the NASS but after 20 years, we are still struggling on this matter.

“We have not been engaged in this new plan to reintroduce the PIB. It seems it’s being done in secrecy. We know there has been reluctance by industry players on the law, and many do not want to venture into the downstream. It is the duty of the government to encourage them.”

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) a team lead in PENGASSAN’s PIB team, Chika Onuegbu, described what happened as bitter/sweet news. “The sweet part is that government is doing something again, which anyway, is not new. It has been a case of new NASS new work, but no law.

“Bitter aspect is to hear that such a sensitive law is being revisited and nobody has engaged very critical groups. It is being done in secrecy, and it is unfair. We should be carried along so our input will be carried along to the FEC, even if it is not taken. If we disagree with anything, let it be on record.

“The bill is a large set of documentation, almost 300 pages, when it was one bill. Now, we have four bills, nobody knows the size. It is important for us to follow closely now because the volume is large and the devil is in the details. If we do not see it now, we would be forced to access it only during the public hearing, and it may only be within two weeks.

“It is good to hear that the emphasis is now on mid- and down- stream sectors of the oil and gas industry. Nigeria has been doing the same thing over the years: relying on imported products. If the new PIB can boost diversification this time by diversifying the midstream, it would be great. The jobs are in processing and product manufacturing.’

 

Source: Business Day

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