Share this:

Like this:

Like Loading...
" />
Published On: Fri, May 30th, 2014

Suspicion, anxiety as NASS toys with PIB

Share This

NASS with PresidentBy Ikechukwu Okaforadi & Umar Mohammed Puma

Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is an essential Bill which Nigerians are looking up to the Seventh National Assembly for passage into law. This, no doubt, is because of the potentials it has to transform the nation’s oil industry and make life better for Nigerians.

Recall that dealings in the oil sector have been shrouded in opacity, mostly resulting in corrupt practices and diversion of public funds. This is currently why the Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, is locking horns with members of the House of Representatives over alleged financial misconduct.

To this end, PIB has been described by oil and gas experts as the solution to these challenges of corrupt conducts; hence it has remained in the fore front of public discuss.

Due to the level of political and economic interests it has attracted across ethnic and political divides in the country, expectations of Nigerians is that the National Assembly will make haste and pass this Bill to take care of the evils bedeviling the Nigeria’s petroleum industry.

Unfortunately, the lawmakers have suspiciously continued to delay its passage for no clear reason. In the House of Representatives, this very crucial Bill has been turned into a tug for blame game.

While the Senate keeps assuring Nigerians on its readiness to pass this Bill, nobody can guarantee their commitment to that effect, especially given that such promises were made previously but failed.

On the other hand, there are reports that some lawmakers in the lower chamber are already gearing for a showdown with this peoples’ Bill. A lot of them are already nursing one reservation or the other against it.

Speaking last week when he received the new leadership of Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), led by Chinedu Okoronkwo, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekwerenmadu, assured the oil traders that the PIB will receive accelerated consideration in the Senate.

According to him, “We are committed to passing the Petroleum Industry Bill because we believe that it is going to bring major reforms in the industry. We want to solicit your patience and also your support towards passing it.

“We are hoping that very shortly our Committee will bring forth the report of the bill and we are going to give it an accelerated hearing so that Nigerians and those who are in the industry will begin to have the benefits of reforms intended by this bill”.

Also making clarifications on what is delaying the passage of the PIB, Senate spokesman, Enyinnaya Abaribe said a fine tuned version of the Bill will soon be brought before the Senate at plenary session for debate.

He further refuted the allegation that there is disagreement between the northern and southern senators on certain parameters of the Petroleum Industry Bill.

“The matter of PIB in the senate is on course. There’s no division between northern and southern senators. The three committees charged with it: Upstream, Downstream and Gas, will soon meet to fine tune the document before bringing it to the plenary”, Abaribe said.

When contacted for comment on what is delaying the PIB in the Senate, a member of the Senate ad hoc Committee set up to harmonise the controversial areas, Etah Enang, declined comment, insisting that it is only the chairman of the committee that has the authority to speak on the Bill.

Moreover, when Peoples Daily got to the office of the Chairman of the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on PIB, Emmanuel Paulker, our correspondent was referred to his Secretary, who in turn demanded an official letter before questions on the PIB could be answered by the committee.

The last time PIB was debated in the Senate; there was serious disagreement between the northern and southern senators.

An unconfirmed source who does not want to be mentioned, said the harmonising committee has not been able to agree to some critical areas of the Bill, hence there has to be time for lobbying among the lawmakers to save the Bill from being rejected.

The lawmaker pointed out that the Bill is a very important one, which the Seventh Senate owes Nigerians, adding that there is no intention by both northern and southern senators to kill the Bill, especially given its potentials to solve the problems in the oil industry.

Speaking on why the PIB has delayed over time, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Commerce, Sylvester Ogbaga, urged the public not to see them as the stumbling block standing in the way of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) as it is being made to appear.

Ogbaga stated that although they would have passed the PIB, it however has faced issues of undue interference from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), as well as the Presidency, with regards to intermittent review in the composition of the bill.

“People always think that the delay being experienced by the PIB is caused by the National Assembly which is very wrong. The Bill would have been passed if not for the way both the Executive and the NNPC kept recalling it for content update and modification in line with current trends, so it’s not solely on the part of the National Assembly as Nigerians are being made to believe”, he said.

Efforts to get the Chairman of the House of Representatives ad hoc committee on PIB, Peterside Dakuku, to explain what is delaying the Bill could not yield results.

In addition, the spokesman of the House of Representatives, Zakaria Mohammed, refused to respond to the SMS that was sent to his mobile phone, even the calls put to his mobile phone was not answered or returned.

Nigeria being a mono-economy, whose existence largely depend on sales and proceeds from crude oil, there is no reason why a hide and seek game should be played by the representatives of the people on a Bill as important as PIB.

The Bill met strong controversies when it was first introduced in the Senate, apparently due to the skepticism with which northern senators viewed it and this has ultimately delayed the passage of the Bill by the National Assembly.

The controversy over PIB stems from issue of the additional 10 per cent it seeks to give the oil host communities. Other issues affecting the passage of PIB into law is the believe that it gives absolute and enormous powers to the Minister of Petroleum Resources and the sitting President, to discretionary award oil blocs to oil companies.

In addition to the above, northern senators are also clamouring that the Frontier Oil Exploration Fund should be made independent of the sitting President.

This fund, which will be used to pursue exploration activities in new oil frontiers, especially in the Chad basin in the north, is subjected by PIB to the whims of the President in power.

It would be recalled that in the sixth senate, various versions of PIB were in circulation. This impeded the consideration and adoption of the Bill then. But now, it has become very essential to Nigerians, considering the current economic realities.

One of the advantages PIB offers Nigerians is that it would help to place more serious fines on the International Oil Companies if they spill oil in their host communities.

The current fine is very insignificant, hence OICs do not care about the sanction while spilling oil in the communities where they explore oil; as they pay deaf ears to the cries and difficulties experienced by their host communities due to the spillage.

For this reason, aquatic and agricultural activities in the communities where these companies operate have been destroyed, leaving the people there with no means of living.

Moreover, if the PIB is passed into law, it would help Nigerians to know the amount of money generated daily from the sale of crude oil.

Presently, nobody can say the exact barrels of crude oil which Nigeria National Petroleum Co-operation (NNPC) lifts every day, but with PIB, this issue would be resolved.

In addition, Section 198 of the Bill restricts the oil companies from destroying trees and objects which are of commercial value or of veneration to the people resident within the petroleum mining area, unless the company is ready to pay compensation for the damage to the people.

This section, which is lacking in the current law regulating petroleum industry, will help to protect Nigeria’s heritage, commercial trees and farmlands, irrespective of whether they are in the north or south.

The PIB, if passed into law, would force oil companies to provide a means of protecting the local communities where they are operating, from damages of oil spillage, in addition to plans on how to improve and develop the environment of their host communities and the people living there.

Moreover, the PIB will also bring more revenue to the Nigerian government, in addition to making provisions for optimal utilisation of the petroleum resources such as gas. Nigeria ranks second to Russia in the world in gas flaring, which is akin to wasting Nigeria’s gas resources.

In view of these few advantages which this Bill proposes for Nigerians, there is no reason why the National Assembly should continue to play politics with this very important Bill, which will salvage Nigeria and its citizens.

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these html tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

%d bloggers like this: