PIB will make Nigeria an investment hub – minister

… National Assembly threatens to throw it out if not clear

The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) 2020 will attract large-scale foreign investments to Nigeria, if passed, Timipre Sylva, minister of state for petroleum, has said.

Sylva explained that the bill contained reforms in the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency and Petroleum Equalisation Fund as well as commercialisation of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

According to Sylva, the bill proposes to develop the midstream sector.

Sylva spoke on Monday when he appeared before the joint leadership of the National Assembly ahead of the presentation of the bill to the two chambers.

This is as Senate president, Ahmed Lawan, who chaired the meeting, said the National Assembly would not hesitate to throw out the bill if not desirable to the interest of the masses.

Lawan said, “By tomorrow when the communication to the House and Senate will be read; when it will be before the two chambers… it is our desire we understand what is in the bill.

“That is the focus of this meeting so that we first of all interact with you, so that we have first-hand information, understanding and idea. From there the interaction will continue at the level of the committees.

“We want to see an oil industry that is properly regulated, that not only sustained the investment that we have but that attracts more investments, very competitive, and that all resources will be beneficial to all Nigerians.

“The ninth assembly want a situation where we work with you to process the bill. We want to have a clear understanding of every available clause or provision so that we can both make history by providing a legislation that will make the industry more effective and efficient.

“Try to make us understand everything that we need to understand. It is easier for everyone if we understand it because it will take is less time to deal with it. If we don’t, we are not going to pass it because this is a critical and crucial bill for us in Nigeria,” he said.

The minister was accompanied to the meeting by Mele Kyari, group managing director, NNPC.

Also in his remarks, the co-chairman and speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said the assembly would do a thorough job and consider the bill alongside 2021 budget.

“We won’t sacrifice thoroughness on the altar of speed,” he said

However, Lawan lamented that the bill had suffered several abandonment in the past, either by the assembly passing it and the executive refusing to sign it or the executive sponsoring it and the legislative refusing to pass it.

“The PIB is said to be jinxed for a long time. This interaction is for us to have a feel of the bill,” he said.

Noting that the delay in the transmission of the bill was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the senate president promised to expedite action on the bill but put no time frame.

“We want to pass the bill quickly as possible because the economic lifeline of Nigeria depends on how the industry is regulated,” he said.

In his presentation, Sylva said the process for the amendment of the laws regulating the petroleum industry started 20 years ago.

He said a draft of the PIB had been submitted to the assembly in 2009, 2012 and 2018 but was not passed.

The minister noted that the PIB was at the core of the Nigeria’s economy, adding that the proposed changes will impact on other sectors of the economy.

He said, “Here we are after 20 years, but It is also a good signal because one of the things the investors look at in an environment is the predictability of the economy. They will understand that our laws are not easily changeable.

“Today the forecast in the world is that oil will play lesser roles in the global energy…”

According to him, the petroleum industry must be well protected because a school of thought projected that the world dependence on oil would reduce to 50 % in the next 10 years while Organisation for Petroleum Exporting Countries projected 2040.

He said, “Whichever you look at it, it appears the days of oil are numbered. The deposit of coals did not finish before the world moved away from coal. Today the world is talking about alternative energy. We must also move along.

“Therefore our focus should be we take advantage of our resources whirl it matters. One of the central focus of the bill is to make Nigeria an attractive investment destination.”

Speaking on the importance the bill would receive, Gbajabiamila said, “We are here to talk about, perhaps the most important piece of legislation that will come out from National Assembly in the lifetime of this government. It is a most important piece of legislation because we all know what oil represents in terms of our economy.

“Everyone has been waiting for the arrival of the PIB. That is the legislations that is on the lips of every Nigerian whether he knows anything about petroleum or not. It is the most popular and most common Bill. Everybody talks about PIB because oil represents the life wire of our state. That underscores the importance of this Bill.”

Gbajabiamila added that the house had assembled a crack team of legislators who were versed in the workings of the industry.

Speaking with journalists after the meeting, Sylva said, “NNPC will be commercialized, If you are talking about transforming the industry, the new thing we are developing is developing the mid-stream.

“The PIB will take care of that the PEF and the PPPRA will not exist in the form it is today,” he said.