As the present legislative year gradually comes to an end, Nigerians are waiting, keeping vigil, hoping and praying that before it finally winds up, the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is passed into law by the National Assembly.
The PIB is a legal instrument with which the Federal Government intends to restructure the entire petroleum industry so that the entire industry can make a more significant contribution to the development of Nigeria.
It is meant to create a new transparent and accountable governance regime for the oil sector with a new fiscal framework that will enhance Nigeria’s earnings while still being competitive enough to attract investors.
The PIB will also ensure that Nigeria’s reserves and production of oil and gas are increased through more investment in exportation and production and will liberalize and deregulate exploration, production and distribution of petroleum products.
Moreover, it will enhance licensing private investors to build and operate refineries, storage, distribution and retail outlets for petroleum products. Investments like these will boost local refining and distribution capacity and end the regime of dependence on imported refined products.
The bill, if passed will encourage the Nigerian Content Act thereby creating employment for the teeming population of unemployed graduates whose number increases on daily basis as the universities churn them out in their thousands.
There are lots of positives the bill could bring into the industry if passed.
The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke said that the PIB would bring sweeping changes to the oil and gas industry, a change that will no doubt have positive domino effects on the economy.
She said, “And for an economy that is so dependent on the sale of its hydrocarbon reserves, the PIB is an avenue to maximize the use of the nation’s natural resources while providing much needed revenue to the government and jobs for citizens, as well as ensuring a better deal for the communities most affected, the Minister said.
Continuing, she added, “I am convinced that the PIB represents a great opportunity for Nigeria’s oil and gas industry and for the country as a whole.”
There is the regulatory uncertainty among other things that has helped make Nigeria’s oil stagnant. Output is about
the same as it was a decade ago; the government has not held a licensing round for five years. The PIB which has been with the National Assembly for over ten years could have helped to overhaul the industry, make it more transparent, improve its regulatory institutions and bring everything up to global standards. Its non-passage has made the oil and gas sector deteriorate the more.
If the PIB had been passed before now, the country would not have felt the impact of the dwindling oil prices as they are feeling it now. There are elements in the PIB charter that make for improvisement that would have helped to mitigate the effect of the falling oil price on the economy of Nigeria.
The question now is: if PIB could improve the oil and gas sector and boost the economy of the nation as has been outlined here; why has it not seen the light of the day? What has it been doing in the prison of neglect of the
National Assembly and the Executive who has the political muscle to drive it?
Granted, the passage of PIB will entirely phase out the problems in the oil and gas sector, it will go a long way to stabilize the economy.
A former president of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Goodie Ibru echoed it when he said, “While we note that the passage and implementation of the PIB m ay not entirely eliminate the problem, it will however expand the investment sector.”
Perhaps there are other reasons that do not meet the eyes that have made the National Assembly not to have done the needful in this area. It could be due to some ulterior motives too.
From the look of things, some people and organizations are hell-bent on ensuring that the PIB does not see the light of the day.
Sources disclosed that these people include some International Oil Companies (IOCs), foreign investors who collaborated with some disgruntled Nigerians to sabotage all efforts made at passing the bill citing that some fiscal terms in the PIB draft are uncompetitive.
This is their opinion but indications suggest that they have more sinister motives because they are ready to lobby, even bribe to see that the bill is not passed.
The passage of the bill is very pertinent to the growth of the nation’s economy especially as a means to forestall future reoccurrence of the present situation the country is passing through.
Human rights activist, Femi Falana said, “the PIB needs the support of all, if only for the simple reason that never in the history of Nigeria has such bold attempt been made at redefining the oil and gas industry.”
“We must be sincere to ourselves and come to terms with the fact that the laws guiding this rather sensitive sector are obsolete and should as a matter of necessity be changed without further delay,” he added.
The country should try to put sentiments and selfishness aside and work towards ensuring the passage of this all important bill for the benefit of the present oil crisis and the discovery of oil in other parts of Africa, it is now more urgent than ever for the country to pass the bill so as to stay afloat and maintain their position in global oil ranking and in the African continent.