07 September 2016, Sweetcrude, Abuja – Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources, Senator Tayo Alasoadura, has said the long-awaited bill to reform the country’s petroleum industry is effectively on hold until tensions ease in the restive Niger Delta region, the country’s oil hub.
Alasoadura pointed out in an interview on Tuesday that the delay is the latest setback caused by activities of militants in the Delta region, whose actions have prevented more than 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) in oil production due to anger at the way the nation’s energy resources are split.
The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) covering everything from an overhaul of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to taxes on upstream projects, has been stuck in parliament for almost decade, but President Muhammadu Buhari has made passing it a key part of his reform of a sector hit by corruption at NNPC.
“We have to hold it because of all the problems in the Niger Delta,” Alasoadura said of bill. “As soon as things improve, then it will come to the front of the line again.”
Alasoadura said there were no plans to change the bill, which had a first reading in the senate, but the unrest in the Delta had forced lawmakers to wait.
“There is a deliberate effort to keep things waiting so we don’t accentuate what is happening there,” he said, adding he hoped the bill could move forward again within three to five months.
Despite a ceasefire reached late last month with one of the most active militant groups, the Niger Delta Avengers, others have continued to attack oil and gas infrastructure in the region.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu told journalists on Monday that talks were ongoing with various groups to bring about lasting peace in the region.
After promising to reform the oil and gas industry, the new administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has split the bill in two in an effort to streamline its passage, and a draft leaked to the public earlier this year included plans to divide NNPC into two companies and sell stakes in a portion of it.
Recall that the Senate on Monday blamed lack of agreement over the host community clause for non-passage of the PIB.
In an interview with journalists in Abuja, Senate’s Spokesman, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, (APC, Niger North) said however that on resumption from recess, Senators would take on the management framework, stressing that the sensitivity of the host community relationship stalled the process while experts have been urging that the bill be revisited.
According to him, “The Senate is already primed because most experts have submitted that we need to do something about the PIB.
“We wanted to take the management framework but because of the sensitivity of the host community relationship and benefit-sharing issue, that issue met some brick wall even before it went ahead, we thought it wise to step it down.
“But I’m convinced beyond reasonable doubt that by the time we come back from recess that issue will still get a front burner attention because it’s key to whatever changes we want to see done, going forward on a sustainable basis in the oil and gas industry.”