Lagos — Passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB after 20 years by the 9th National Assembly on Thursday has been greeted with outburst of emotions from experts in the Nigerian oil and gas sector.
The Senate passed the Bill after the clause by clause consideration of the report of its joint committee on Petroleum (Upstream, Downstream and Gas.
Reacting to the historical development, the Executive Secretary, Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji described the decision of the Senate and the House of Representatives to consider the Bill as priority resulting in its eventual passage as bold, courageous and progressive. This is given the challenges the bill had passed through in its legislative journey.
According to Dr. Orji, “NEITI as an agency set up to enthrone transparency and accountability in the management of extractive industries in Nigeria has demonstrated genuine and legitimate interest in the PIB from the onset. NEITI’s interest is in view of the urgency and strategic importance of a new law to replace the existing archaic legislations that have aided huge revenue losses, impeded transparency, accountability and investment opportunities in the nation’s oil and gas industry”.
Before the passage, NEITI boldly alerted the nation through a special Policy Brief “The urgency of a new petroleum sector law” that the current stagnation of investment opportunities in the Petroleum Industry was as a result of the absence of a new law for the sector, adding that the delay had led to huge revenue losses in terms of investment to the tune of over $200billion, with over $10.4billion and N378.7billion lost through under-remittances, inefficiencies, theft or absence of a clear governance framework for the oil and gas industry.
However, with the new governance law now passed, the NEITI Executive Secretary said he is optimistic that these huge revenue losses to the nation as a result of process lapses and outright stealing, will be strictly checked if not eliminated.
Dr. Orji expressed the hope that the PIB when assented to by the President will provide a dynamic governance framework required to re-position the Petroleum industry to fully embrace competition, openness, accountability, professionalism and better profit returns on investments to both companies and government.
He added that NEITI and its multi-stakeholders are encouraged that the National Assembly in this particular instance threw politics aside and dealt with the PIB issue with the attention it deserves in over all public interest.
The Executive Secretary also commended the media, the civil society, development partners, industry, stakeholders and experts who have followed the bill in the National Assembly for their valued contributions to what has been achieved so far.
The Senate approved three percent as against five percent demanded by the South-South lawmakers of profit made by oil firms to be shared to host communities.
It also approved that 30 percent of profits accruing from oil and gas operations by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation would be set aside for exploration of oil in the frontier basin.
The proposed law stipulated that all exploration of frontier basins would fall under the purview of the Upstream Regulatory Commission.
Other experts and oil marketers who spoke to SweetcrudeReports on telephone also expressed delight at the passage of the Bill.
Managing Director of Vhelbherg, an indigenous oil firm, Mr. Bank-Anthony Okoroafor, said the passage of the PIB and the expected assent by the President would help to bring the country’s oil and gas industry back on track.
Okoroafor, who is a former chairman of Petroleum Technology Association of Nigeria, said the passage of the bill would improve investor confidence as there would be clarity on the fiscal terms of the industry.
“It brings confidence and stability; so, it is a move in the right direction. I say well done to the Senate and House of Representatives for this giant step,” he added.
The National Operations Controller, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Mike Osatuyi, said the passage of the PIB into law would mark the beginning of the repositioning of the oil and gas industry.
“If the President assents to it, then that is the beginning of the reform that we have been expecting in the oil and gas industry. It is the beginning of deregulation in the downstream sector,” he said.
He said the passage of the PIB would allow market forces to determine of petrol prices and curb smuggling of the product.
Outgoing Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr. Muda Yusuf, described the PIB as a major instrument of reform in the oil and gas sector, with a number of significant implications for the sector and the economy as a whole.
National President, Petroleum Products Retail Outlets Owners Association of Nigeria, Billy Gillis-Harry, described the passage of the bill as a big blessing for Nigeria.
According to him, through the bill, a deregulated downstream oil sector would be achieved, adding that this would boost the fortunes of the country and improve the Nigerian economy.
However, the Pan Niger Delta Forum said it was not time for the oil bearing region to celebrate.
PANDEF’s spokesman, Ken Robinson, said the forum would like to take a look at the version of the PIB that was endorsed before responding to it.
Robinson added that it would be unnecessary to begin to celebrate when President, Muhammadu Buhari had yet to give his assent to the bill.
He said, “We like to reserve our comment and see the version they passed, whether they accommodated the input made by host communities – those suffering the impact of oil exploration in the Niger Delta and not benefiting from the system.
“We will see whether the input made by the people is accommodated. It is not time to celebrate; if the National Assembly has passed it and Mr President does not assent to it, then it remains with them.”
The forum’s spokesman said he was not sure that the current National Assembly would have the drive to override the President if he (Buhari) refused to assent to the bill.