Contentious PIB won’t make it to Aso Rock as planned

The most debatable bill in the history of Nigeria’s oil industry may not get presidential assent as planned, as the House of Representatives has stepped down the report of the Conference Committee of the National Assembly for reasons that may not be unconnected with percentage due to host communities.

Having delayed the passing of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) for close to two decades, the Nigerian lawmakers appear not to be in a hurry to reform the oil and gas sector, despite the new normal that has changed the course of events in the global energy space and economy.

Though no reason was given, the stepping down is not unconnected with the protest over the adoption of Senate approval of 3 percent operating cost by oil companies to the Host Community Development Trust Fund in the recently passed PIB.

The speaker called for dissolution into executive session after which he asked the chairman of the Conference Committee from the House and Chief Whip, Mohammed Mongunu to lay the report.

Read Also: PIB: Senate sustains 3% equity share for host communities

The trio of Chinyere Igwe (PDP-Rivers), Boma Goodhead (PDP-Rivers) and Bede Eke (PDP-Imo) were seen visibly angry and shouting that they were not going to accept the 3 percent for host communities.

The Host Communities Development Fund remains the most contentious issue facing the passage of Nigeria’s long old PIB. The Senate had passed a version with 3 percent operation expenditure of oil companies for Host Communities while the House passed 5 percent.

It is uncertain what will happen to the bill expected to rewrite Nigeria’s decades-old relationship with its foreign oil partners and alter everything from fiscal terms to the structure of the state-oil firm, as the lawmakers are due to go on their annual recess.

Given the tasking processes bills go through to become law, the PIB, which has become synonymous with missed targets, may miss another deadline despite an ongoing global gospel that a significant amount of crude oil reserves may end up totally worthless by 2035.

“PIB is jinxed for the umpteenth time, following altercation and divergent views between members of the National Assembly, oil-producing communities, organised labour and various interests’ groups at the public hearings on the bill,” Kelvin Atafiri, who runs Cavazanni Human Capital Limited, an investment firm exposed to the oil and gas sector, says.

At the 2021 Nigeria International Petroleum Summit in Abuja, the president of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, assured investors that the National Assembly expected the bill to be passed before the end of July.

“As I speak, our joint committee of both the Senate and the House on the PIB are about to conclude writing the report, which will be submitted to both chambers of the National Assembly. Our expectation is that we will pass the PIB within this month of June by the grace of God,” he said

Read Also: The PIB: Panacea to the ills of Nigeria’s Oil industry?

Next process for PIB

For instance, the failure of the House of Representatives to accept the decision of the Harmonisation Committee may require another joint sitting of both the upper and lower legislative houses with the Senate President presiding on the area of contention.

The lawmakers are due to go on recess starting on July 15 and may not resume until September 2021 before the harmonising committee re-summit the PIB to both chambers for consideration.

If both chambers adopt the report, all the original papers will be sent to the Clerk of the National Assembly who then sends it to the President for his signature.

Here the President is involved in the act of lawmaking by signing bills into laws. A bill does not become law until the President signs it.

The Clerk of the National Assembly will “enrol” the bill for the President’s signature. Enrolment is the production of a clean copy for the assent of the President.

If the president withholds assent, another stage sets in. The President has 30 days to sign a bill sent to him by the National Assembly. If he disagrees with the provision of the bill or some aspects of it, he can veto by withholding his signature.

Within the 30 days the President must communicate to the National Assembly his feelings and comments about the bill. The President must state the areas he wants amended before he signs the bill.

If the National Assembly agrees with the President the bill can be withdrawn for deliberation on the amendments suggested.

The National Assembly is empowered by the Constitution to overrule the veto of the President.

If, after 30 days, the President refuses to sign the bill and the National Assembly is not in support of the President’s amendments, the two Chambers can recall the bill and re-pass it.

If the bill is passed in the form it was sent to the President by two-third majority vote in both Chambers, the bill automatically becomes a law even without the signature of the President.

Despite decades of sluggish progress, experts say the PIB, like the ones that have preceded it, ignores an open secret concerning how the world is undergoing an energy transition from fossil fuels to a system based on renewable energy sources.

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