The inconclusive journey of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, began in 2000 when concerns about more transparent management of the oil and gas sector resulted in the bill. It has remained controversial since then.
Among the aims of the bill are to –
· the exploitation of oil and gas in Nigeria
· Commercialise the government’s interests in the industry
· Deregulate and liberalise the downstream petroleum sector
· Optimise gas supplies to the domestic gas market (especially for power generation and industries)
· Reform the fiscal regime
· Promote openness and transparency in the industry
· Encourage the development of Nigerian content
Noble as the objectives are, key issues for the oil majors are government’s control of the industry with the role the bill created for the Minister of Petroleum Resources and possibilities of new tax regimes. The most strident oppositions however appear to be local.
The bill has polarised the National Assembly along sectional lines, hence its long neglect. There appears to be more concern with how provisions for a fund for the host community would affect the resources that would remain in the common purse.
It would have been expected that with all the devastation of oil and gas explorations in their host communities, the proposed host community fund that would be utilised in provision of economic and social infrastructure in the areas, would have enjoyed the support of the rest of the country.
The National Assembly is more fixated on the uses of special funds for the oil producing areas. Instead of dealing with the issue on its own imperatives, mismanagement of the funds is considered a reason for opposing the bill.
Economic benefits of the bill that includes government’s divestments, more transparency in the industry’s operations, and the protection of the environment should be bigger considerations than the immediate economic benefits of more money to operate the economy.
Oil and gas is so central to the operations of the economy that the over-dependence on it should not be the main issue in deciding the future of the industry. We expect managers of the economy would diversify, using resources from oil and gas. Governments have fallen into the easier option of waiting for shares of oil revenues for their activities.
Those opposed to the passage of the PIB are neglecting the impacts of delay in its passage on the oil and gas industry. Investors have remained tentative in the 13 years of the bill’s journey, keeping new investments in the industry on hold.
We ask the contending parties to place the interests of the country in context and pass the bill. Delays in its passage are hurting the economy and endangering its prospects.