PIB: A backward-looking law in a rapidly evolving world
Since the Obasanjo-led era more than two decades ago, there have been attempts to revamp Nigeria’s petroleum sector through the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). A 21-year old process, any child who was born at the time the preparatory work for the Bill was being done, would legally be an adult in any country in the world today, yet the Bill has still not seen the light of day.
In the past 21 years, so much has changed – climate change has become a front-burner issue, the Paris Agreement has been signed by nearly every country in the world, various human rights treaties that promote environmental justice have been passed, renewable have taken centre stage and the energy transition has become the slogan of the day. The PIB’s trajectory is akin to being incarcerated for 21 years and re-joining the world after that – nothing is the same.
The society that the PIB – if passed next month as promised by the Federal Government – will meet is one that is worlds apart from what it imagines in its text, and one, for which it is no longer fit. In an age where countries are hot on the heels of the energy transition, the PIB makes no mention of or allusion to the transition in its current text. The most it does is make a passing reference to “development of renewable resources” as part of the objects of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in Section 64(g) of the draft Bill. Also, in one other place, Section 305, it makes a passing reference to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Save for these peripheral mentions, no real attention is paid to the current reality of the energy sector.
The PIB focuses almost entirely on fossil fuels and provides no insight into Nigeria’s plans, strategies or goals towards energy transition, where those exist. It mentions nothing about research and development for new energy sources and says nothing about carbon capture and storage or decarbonisation of fossil fuel activity. In essence, the PIB is a document for the future that lives in the past.
If the journey to passing the PIB is anything to go by, it is hardly expected that Nigeria will pass another major energy sector law in the next 30 years after the PIB is passed, as such, the wise move would be to ensure the Bill does not just address present-day circumstances, but looks down the road into the future and attempts to set the pace for decades to come. Unfortunately, the PIB in its current state does none of that- it is neither fit for the present nor for the future.
Granted, the Bill attempts some governance restructuring for the country’s oil and gas sector, but ruefully, the restructuring is two decades late, so it is hardly worth cheering. It also attempts some environmental justice fixes, particularly by recognizing the environmental pain points of host communities, but yet again, this should have been done decades ago, the failure of which has led to significant and irreversible environmental harm to these communities.
Another sad thing about this Bill over which there has been much pomp and pageantry and for which Nigerians are waiting with bated breath, is that it does not attempt to address any novel issues. It is a backward-looking law in a quickly evolving world. In a world where remote sensing technologies, artificial intelligence and robotics are ubiquitous, tracking of emissions and their effects with specificity in a particular area is now possible, yet a fossil-fuel rich document like the PIB speaks to nothing about technologies for emissions reduction or tracking.
Worse off, despite the indication in Nigeria’s recently submitted interim Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that the energy sector is the largest source of greenhouse gases emissions in the country – 60% – with fugitive emissions from oil and gas constituting the largest share of this percentage, the PIB does not for once, mention the Paris Agreement to which Nigeria is a party and has obligations under. The PIB is an intentionally oblivious document – a problem being created for now and the future, and one for which the country may struggle to legislate a solution to again in a few decades.
There is no rational purpose for passing a document that is already outdated. Only a few weeks ago, the Federal Government decided to effect new changes to the PIB. It could easily have effected changes that border on the energy transition and climate change governance, particularly seeing as many large oil sector investors in Nigeria have set out plans to go green, with some already divesting from fossil fuel assets, yet it chose not to. This only makes one wonder whether the PIB, when passed, will be able to thrive in a world it does not recognize.