• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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Holding down Nigeria’s progress on PIB politics


 While controversies persist over the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), its non-passage by the National Assembly has continued to impact negatively on the overall progress of Nigeria.

Too many reasons have been adduced for the non-passage of the bill. The North believes that the passage of the bill in its present form would further widen the revenue distribution gap between the North and south which may further pauperise the North.

However, calls are being made in many quarters for piece-meal passage of the bill, as according to pundits, expectation for its whole passage may not materialise in the near future.

Pundits have expressed fears that the delay in the passage of the bill has held back investments in the oil and gas sector of the Nigeria’s economy, raising fears that it is capable of causing more damage if urgent actions are not taken.

Blame game over delayed passage

Stakeholders have continued to trade blames all over who actually is responsible for the delay. While some say lack of will power on the part of President Goodluck Jonathan is responsible; some believe the opposition coming from the North should be blamed; yet another school of thought believes the International Oil Companies (IOCs) are playing bad politics on the bill.

What has become incontrovertible is that the bill, when passed, is going to be the Bible of the industry which would tackle all the problems in the sector.

But to David Mark, Senate president, some interest groups, who circulated three different versions of the bill, must be blamed for confusing the sixth Senate on the subject matter.

Mark said despite the fact that the bill went through all legislative procedures at the two chambers of the National Assembly, it failed to scale through the remaining hurdles to become law.

“The problem with the PIB was that when it showed up, there were so many versions. As many as three or four versions were in the hands of senators and members of the House of Representatives,” he said.

The bill is expected to among other things stipulate rules for the operation in the upstream, midstream and downstream sectors. It is also meant to establish institutions, regulatory authorities and legal frameworks for the industry. It also seeks to mandate major oil companies and other operators to take seriously development of their host communities seriously by embarking on relevant projects in such areas. In fact, some industry operators have described the bill as cure all if passed. This is because, not only that it will prescribe what oil prospectors will do while carrying out their businesses; it will also ensure that government will be transparent, accountable and more responsible.

Public hearings had been held in various geo-political zones of the country to feel the pulse of the people on the subject matter. Many critics have been vehement in their observations that the document gave sweeping powers to the minister of Petroleum.

PIB, petroleum minister and the opposition

The bill empowers the minister to coordinate and supervise all activities in the petroleum industry, including powers to grant, amend, renew, extend or revoke upstream and downstream petroleum licences and leases. It is said that these are too sweeping for a minister, especially when the draft stipulates that all that the minister needs is just the president’s approval to carry out the above listed functions.

In their various observations in this regard, some Northern governors said such powers would be detrimental to the country.

Aliyu Muazu, governor, Niger State, was vehement. “PIB 2012 grants disproportionate powers and authority to the minister of petroleum resources over policy, regulatory and operational issues. Thus it is not justifiable to grant such an enormous to a single functionary of a tier of government, given that the PIB deals with the federation as a whole.”

Abdulfatai Ahmed, governor, Kwara State, said: “I am concerned here about the power that has been put together for the minister of because I see her as a politician. We can’t allow the fate of about 157 million Nigerians to be tied to the hands of a politician. It would be too dangerous. I will rather suggest that we have an institutional framework that would sustainably be administering that portion of responsibility, that would ensure that on a continuous basis Nigerians would have a source of confidence…”

By the same token, Idris Wada, governor, Kogi State, said: “It is evident from the PIB draft that a lot of power is being vested in the minister of petroleum to be more productive, it should not be encouraged. We do not want a PIB passed where some roles and functions that were erstwhile exclusive to the President of the Federal Republic now scrapped off and given to the minister of petroleum.”

Lack of political will fingered

A pundit recently alleged that part of the challenges facing the PIB is as a result of the lack of political will by the leadership in the country. According to the pundit, every step of the legislative process has been politicised to the extent that some of the IOCs were said to have allegedly compromised some members of the National Assembly saddled with the responsibility to manage the PIB legislative process.

David Ugolor, executive director, Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), in a recent interview said: “The IOCs with their local collaborators who currently benefit from the status quo do not want any reform in the oil and gas sector that will take away their pecuniary benefits from the sector. To worsen the situation, there has been poor leadership in the country and this has affected the oil industry, even to the extent that Nigeria, which was the leading country and flagship of the global Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, EITI, is being affected.”

Implications of the delay

Across the globe, sweeping changes are taking place in the oil industry. Countries that wholly relied on Nigeria for oil have started to look elsewhere. Nigeria is no longer the only game in town when it comes to oil production in Africa. With Angola, Ghana, Egypt, Sudan and some other countries within Africa producing oil in exporting quantities, Nigeria is no longer the same bride it used to be some years back.

Moreover, demand for the light crude being produced in Nigeria is fast diminishing. With the inability of Nigeria to meet up the expected daily production level of about 2.5billion barrels, revenue has been affected. The nation’s foreign reserves are been affected. This is because our income is a function of production. There are no new investments in the oil and gas industry and no exploration is going on. Some of the IOCs are selling their investments in the country to look for where the field is greener. These are dangerous signs that should jolt policy makers into taking urgent action to save Nigeria from an impending doom.

If this ugly state of affairs persists, it may even affect budget implementation which may ultimately have negative consequences on the long-suffering masses of this country.