30 June 2015, Port Harcourt – The Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, passed by the 7th House of Representatives at the expiration of its tenure may have been a pseudo bill, as the one approved by the Federal Executive Council under former President Jonathan’s administration was not the one passed over to the National Assembly.Indications to this effect emerged, yesterday, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, when then Chairman of the extant PIB Committee, Mr. Osten Olorunsola, denied authenticity of the bill.
The revelation came even as participants at the forum reiterated the need for urgent assage of a petroleum reform bill to cushion current challenges occasioned by falling oil prices, dwindling revenues, devaluation of the Naira, high interest rates, and worse still the nose-diving of Nigeria’s reserves for the first time in the history of the economy.
Olorunsola, a former Director, Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, petroleum industry regulator, spoke to journalists on the sidelines of a two-day National Petroleum & Power Policy Forum, NPPPF, which opened at the Emerald Energy Institute, University of Port Harcourt.
PIB doctored to suit political interests
This revelation seems to confirm widespread allegations and criticisms that the PIB drafted by the committee was doctored to suit political interests.
Olorunsola, who broke his silence for the first time since his removal from DPR said: “Although the House of Reps passed the PIB, we do not know the details of what they have passed. But one thing I can say for sure is that PIB was not the one approved by Mr President during the FEC meeting.”
Probed further, he recalled: “The PIB approved by the FEC was not what was submitted to the National Assembly. As at the point of submission to the National Assembly, there were a lot of alterations, and I could see those alterations because I still have the original copy with me and the copy submitted to the Assembly. So there was a lot of alterations and some of the clauses were either reworked or amended by the National Assembly.
“Unfortunately, we have not seen exactly what the House of Reps claimed they had passed, but that is water under the bridge now anyway, because a new process has to be restarted.”
Against the current economic woes, and the fact that the PIB had stalled in a process that lasted 15 years without being passed, stakeholders warned that if the petroleum industry reform is not concluded urgently, the Nigerian economy is in for even harsher times.
PIB should be passed into segments
The Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Emerald Energy Resources, co-organisers of the forum, Dr. Jude Amaefule, said rather than delaying further in view of the dire consequences on the economy, the PIB should be broken and passed in segments.
He suggested that since the contentious proposals make up only about 20 per cent of the entire bill, the bill can be segmented along the lines of fiscal management, host community benefits and general industry operations.
He said: “Let’s pass the bill in segments since 80 per cent of the provisions are favourable. Even the remaining 20 per cent were opposed because the people did not understand the provisions.
“When we said host community compensation, they thought we wanted to empower the people of the Niger Delta more, but the provision is that if a pipeline passed through your land, at the end of the month you get a cheque as compensation even if you are not in the Niger Delta.
“The industry is high capital expenditure and we are losing money daily because no new investment is coming in and it will get worse if we don’t act fast.”
NNPC blamed for confusions in PIB
Prof. Yinka Omoregbe, a member of the former Oil and Gas Industry Committee, OGIC, which started the reform process under former President Olusegun Obansanjo, accused the political leaders of selfishness and lack of will to see the reforms through for the benefit of all.
She said despite the fact that there have been multiple versions of the bill, there have actually been only two PIBs presented to the National Assembly in the 15 year band.
Omoregbe, who was also removed unceremoniously as the Company Secretary, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, also blamed the corporation for most of the confusions that trailed the PIB at the Assembly, as it was the most affected by the reforms, which it resisted.
She said: “Let me clarify that there have only been two PIBs. The first one, which is the original bill, was put in 2008, and the revised one of 2012. All that transpired were still part of that; so there was a Senate bill and a House of Reps bill.
“And the proliferation was because of the openings that were noticed because the fiscals were poor. Dr. Rilwani Lukman said we should go in and ensure that some things were done especially for the PSCs, which created the opening for the whole bill to under redrafting and redrafting and so on.”
“Make no mistake, there was the highest sense of commitment by then President Yar’Adua for the reforms and Dr. Lukman abided by that. Primarily the problem was more with the institutions, so to speak, particularly the NNPC, plus the politicians that opened the door for the proliferation. NNPC thought that whatever they presented will be passed but that was not the case.”