David-mark04032011Senate President, David Mark, has asked International Oil Companies, IOCs, to avoid the use of blackmail and the threat of pulling out of the country if the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, does not go their way.

He spoke while inaugurating a two-day Public Hearing on the PIB in Abuja.

The Hearing is organised by the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream and Downstream), Senate Committee on Gas Resources and Senate Committee on Justice and Legal Matters.

However, governors who were scheduled to participate in the event were absent. But Niger, Kaduna and Kano states sent representatives.

Chairman of the Joint Committee, Senator Emmanuel Paulker, in his opening remarks, said the Hearing was organised to offer Nigerians and other stakeholders the opportunity to contribute to the bill.

He said members of the Committee have not taken position on any of the clauses of the bill, assuring that submissions by stakeholders would be considered.

Mark noted that the Sixth National Assembly tried but failed to pass the bill due to proliferation of versions of the Bill, adding that there was no doubt that the speedy passage of the PIB would be a win-win situation for IOCs and the Federal Government.

The Senate President warned that what the country would not want to hear is the threat of pulling out of the country if the bill did not turn out to be what some IOCs wanted.

“Nigeria wants to welcome investors in the oil and gas sector, but this should not be at the expense of the country, but IOCs should not take undue advantage of the Nigeria.

“What we don’t want to hear is if you don’t do this, we pack out. That will be unacceptable because Nigeria has been an extremely friendly country for investment,”he said.

Also, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, urged stakeholders in the oil and gas industry not to politise or personalise the PIB, stressing that it is geared towards providing a win-win scenario for stakeholders in the sector.

The Acting Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Tumini Green, quoted Mrs. Alison-Madueke, who spoke at the public hearing as saying that the responsibility for the exercise of the powers proposed in the Bill for the President and Petroleum Minister, will, ultimately, rest on any administration in power at the time, and so should not be personalised.

She argued that it was important for the law to empower any administration to act in the best interest of the Nigerian people.

“By the time the PIB is fully articulated and implemented, the President and Minister of Petroleum Resources will no longer be in office. This Bill takes a while before it is operational. The proposed transition period after the passage of the Bill is at least three years. Note, there are over 80 regulations to be made for this Bill to be operational,” Mrs. Alison-Madueke said.

She said while Nigerians learn best practices from other developed nations, they should also work within the understanding of its own socio-economic and social-cultural norms, and create entities and policies that will work and are not destined to fail.

She said contrary to the impression that the PIB granted enormous powers to the Minister of Petroleum Resources, it should be noted that the powers vested on the Minister by the Bill, are not different from those vested on the Minister’s counterparts by the petroleum laws of the United kingdom, Malaysia and Norway, stressing that the powers granted are less than those of her counterparts in advanced petroleum producing countries.

Mrs. Alison-Madueke noted that the PIB establishes a flexible fiscal regime that will increase government’s take, and yet encourage investment in the petroleum sector, saying that it allows for production-based incentive system which in the long run, will accommodate every player in the industry.

On the Host Communities, the Minister noted that it was established to mitigate the human and environmental conditions in the region and to assuage the feelings of the host communities towards oil and gas companies.


Information from The Nation was used in this report.