25 May 2015, Abuja – As the National Assembly makes the last attempt to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, the dichotomy between the North and the South has heightened over the consideration and possible passage of the bill. Major stakeholders in the North are uncomfortable with the passage of the bill, which is expected to give more financial muscle to the Southern communities in Nigeria, which control most of the oil facilities.
They express fear that passing the bill may inadvertently give more money to the region to the detriment of their impoverished area, yet to enjoy commercial oil boom proceeds but deeply devastated by Boko Haram insurgency.
One major area of disagreement which may likely stall the consideration of the bill today, and its eventual passage before the end of the current NASS on June 6, is the amount of money that should accrue to the country from the exploratory licences to be issued to prospective oil firms in Nigeria.
Section 209 of the PIB makes provisions for a special fund for exploratory activities in oil basins to facilitate the development of more oil wells in the country. Under the provision, the sum of $4 per barrel of oil was to be set aside for the development of oil basins, a development that is acceptable to lawmakers in the North, where oil is to be actively explored in the Chad Basin.
But the amount, according to lawmakers from the South, is on the high side and should be reduced. Indication of conflict is likely to play out today when the matter comes up for consideration by the lawmakers. Findings by Vanguard indicated that the clause might have been disappeared from the bill and another figure of 20 cents per barrel may become the figure for consideration, thereby causing more friction between the North and South.
It was learnt that in a bid to provide a soft-landing for all, the committee handling the matter, might recommend the use of a fixed sum of $100 million in the bill for the development of oil basins in the country. A source said the new figure might have been brought about with the active support of oil majors, which appear to have exerted serious influence on the making or otherwise of the PIB.
A lawmaker from the North explains: “This fund is not meant to develop the areas where the Basins are located but for the purpose of exploration of resources therein in furtherance of the nation’s economic growth.” But a lawmaker from the Southern part of Nigeria faulted the provision of $4 per barrel provision in the bill, describing it as being too much.
The lawmaker from Rivers State said: “Even the 20cent per barrel is a lot of money that can be used to kick start any exploration activity anywhere. If we must do it, let’s leave it at 20cents per barrel of gas and 2cents per barrel of crude”, he submitted.
A competent source in the House of Representatives said last night that there was no ways the lawmakers could consider and pass the bill before the end of the current tunure.
The current Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison Madueke, is credited with the major work of the PIB, which was meant to transform the oil industry in Nigeria. It is not likely to see the light of the day before the exit of the present administration pushing the industry some steps backwards.