By Musa Adamu
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Walter Onnighen, has said the recent passing of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) by the Senate was a pointer that the present government was serious about steering the oil and gas sectoe in the right direction.
Justice Onnoghen spoke yesterday at the PTDF-NJI Conference with the theme: “Enhancing the quality of Judicial services in the petroleum sector.”
Describgin the theme as apt, the CJN who doubles as the Chairman, Governing Board of the Nigerian Judicial Institute (NJI), added that recent innovations in the oil and gas industry have introduced new legal regime in the sector which required the judiciary to abreast itself with them.
He said: “Our responsibility is to abreast enhance the quality of the interpretation of the laws to serve the industry palyers, hence, the need to abreast ourselves with happenings in the industry.”
He however, noted that as Judicial officers, there was need for them to avail themselves with the opportunity presented by Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) at all time so as to reduce overcrowding of the Court and animosity anomg litigants.
He described the NJI as key partner in esnuring stability in the oil and gas industry through giving the right interpretation of the laws.
Also speaking, the Executive Secretary, Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), Dr Bello Aliyu Gusau, listed two broad reasons behind the conference.
He said the first was that the oil and gas industry was constituted by a network of legal relationships.
According to him, since this relationship could be subject of adjudications between the parties, it is imperative for judicial officers to keep abreast of the emerging challenges regarding these relationships.
He added that the second reason behind the conference was that the Industry was presently passing a number of fundamental changes and series of new legislations were being churned out, hence, there was need to bring the Judicial officers on the board
He said: “The Nigerian oil and gas industry is presently undergoing very major and fundamental changes, including the introduction of series of new legislations that would govern the operations of the industry.
“Already, the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB)has passed the Senate and is being processed in the House of Representatives. In addition, the fiscal framework legislation and host vommunities participation Bills are getting accelerated treatments in the National Assembly.
“All these coming legislations will eventually come before your Lordships for possible interpretation and adjudication. It is for these reasons, that we reached out to the National Judicial Institute (NJI) for partnership in putting this programme together.”
The Administrator of the NJI, Justice Rosaline Irorefe Bozimo, said the fact that through government had been doing alot to diversify the economy, oil and gas industry had remained dominant, there was the need for the judiciary remain alive to happenings in the sector.
She described the regulatory framework in the as remaing fraught, hence the need for reforms.
She said as the society keeps on evolving there was every need for the Judicial officers to also keep on evolving, adding that judges were required to acquaint themselves in the industry.