Contrary to expectations, the passage of long-awaited Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, may be stretched to before 2015. Ironically, earlier promises made by various arms of government including the executive and the legislature were that the bill will be passed before year end.
The hint was dropped in Lagos at the 7th Oil Trading Logistic Expo, thereby heightening anxieties of protracted investment freeze in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry.
The Chairman House Committee on Petroleum Downstream, Hon. Dakoko Peterside, who gave the hint, said: “We are working on the bill and we are conscious of the fact that it is very critical to the economy of Nigeria, and so we are not taking it lightly. I want to reassure you again that we are taking the PIB very seriously and I’m very optimistic that the bill would be passed before 2015.”
Explaining why the bill will not receive expedite actions at the National Assembly as anticipated, the Chairman Senate Committee on Petroleum Downstream, Senator Magnus Abe, said the PIB in its current form is a very delicate structure that needs to be handled with care.
Challenges facing the passage
Abe listed a number of the challenges impeding speedy passage of the bill, saying: “There are issues with productivity with the Nigeria worker, the PIB will not solve it; there are issues of inefficiency in the Nigeria economy, the PIB will not solve it. There are lots of issues that are there with us that we can begin to solve before the PIB is passed. The PIB alone will not automatically solve all these problems.
“There are even challenges as to how long it will actually take us to actualise the true meaning of the PIB because even after we have pass these laws there are still pieces of paper that have to be implemented.
“Agencies have to transform and change their way of doing things. The whole PIB package is a very delicate structure that needs to be handled with some care. But the emphasis at this time is not on all of that because the basic thing which is the passage of the PIB has not been done.
“So let us pass it first before we will begin to talk about all these other issues which would come after the passage of the bill.”
Abe however argued that the major issue about the PIB is not about some controversies surrounding it, but the fact that “There are certain sections of the law that some people have difficulty with and that is normal in any law.
“For example you have the major operators warring about the financial provision (fiscal regime) in the bill. Then you have political entities like the states and local government worried about some of the community fund projects provision.
“So those are individual provisions and it does not mean the entire PIB has any problem. I think almost 90 per cent of Nigerians have agreed that we cannot continue to run the oil industry in this country the way and manner it is currently being run under our present laws.”
The lawmaker further noted that such concerns are expected of every legislation, adding that the purpose of legislation in democracy is for all stakeholders to have disagreements and resolve these issues.
Notwithstanding these concerns, Abe maintained that all stakeholders are in agreement on the need for the PIB, adding that by the time the bill is passed, some will gain, while others will lose. “In some place there will be trading and adjustment so that we can arrive at what is acceptable to the majority. That is how the law making process works.”
Abe disclosed that the PIB is currently before a Senate committee, comprising the committees on Upstream, Downstream, Gas and Judiciary.
He said further, “We also held public hearings but people complained that everybody was not given a chance to say what they wanted to say and so what we did was to try to reschedule another hearing before we go into a retreat.
“But that hearing now fell towards the Muslim holiday and naturally, we cannot hold a hearing on a sensitive bill on a day that is not convenient for our Muslim brothers or a day that is not convenient for our Christian brothers.
“There are lots of other days that is acceptable to everybody, so we had to move it. That was what happened, there was no controversy. We moved it because we didn’t want to fall into the Muslim hajj so that everybody can have something to contribute.
“Hopefully in the next month or so we would conclude that public hearing and go on to conclude the bill. The House has done actually more than us but a lot of people in the house are younger so they tend to run faster than us.
“At the end of the day both houses would come together to sort the issues out and move on.”
PIB critical to economic growth
Reiterating the importance of the bill, Peterside, said the PIB is critical to the survival and growth of the oil and gas sector and the economy at large.
It was in recognition of this fact that he noted that “there was no single dissenting opinion, everybody agreed that the PIB is critical to the survival and growth of the oil and gas industry in the country.”
Accordingly, he insisted that the bill is progressing as planned. It has passed through the first reading and the second reading in the House. In the House “In the house, we will have public hearing in the six geo-political zone of the country. After that we would have another public hearing in Abuja where the oil majors will participate. At the end of all the public hearing, we will get back to the committee, we had set up a technical committee driven by the speaker himself.”
Information from Kunle Kalejaiye, Vanguard was used in this report.