Port Harcourt — Stakeholders in the petroleum industry have kicked against the plans by the ninth Senate to commenced the drafting of a new Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB from the scratch.
This is as the President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, recently announced that the National Assembly has begun consulting with the presidency to draft a new PIB from scratch, which would be passed by the end of 2020.
Lawan had also assured that the bill would be passed by both chambers of the National Assembly and sent to the President before the end of the year.
But experts, stakeholders and industry watchers have described the Senate’s plans as sheer waste of resources and unseriousness on the part of the federal lawmakers, to move the country’s petroleum industry forward.
They wondered what was wrong in the previous PIB, which was almost completed by the eight Assembly, averring that passing the PIB into law does not mean an end to the bill, as there is always room for future amendments.
For the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, the lawmakers do not have the interest of Nigerians at heart, for them to even consider drafting a new PIB from scratch.
Chairman of PENGASSAN, Port Harcourt Zone, Azubuike Azubuike, wondered if government was no longer a continuum that the existing PIB could not be revised and amended for passage, instead starting afresh.
“What it means is that the lawmakers do not have the interest of the people at heart and are not interested in the development of this nation.
“They(lawmakers) are unserious, after wasting all the whole time, now they are coming to say they want to start afresh. Is government not a continuum?
“If there are areas in the existing PIB, they need to revised, they should revisit it but not to start drafting it again from scratch. If they insist they must start afresh, it shows how unserious they are, which means we have elected a group of people that have no interest of the masses at heart.”
Also speaking, the President of the Ijaw Youths Council, IYC worldwide, Mr Eric Omare, said it was evident that the government has failed to address the concerns of the Niger Delta people by not passing the Host Community aspect of the PIB.
Omare said he has no confidence that efforts of the ninth National Assembly to draft a new PIB would bring any positive result.
“Well, it is a shame that the Nigerian Parliament after so many years is unable to get its heart together and put together a Law that would govern the activities of the most critical sector in the country.
“I do not have confidence in the effort that the Senate is about to embark upon. I have the strong feeling that like previous efforts, it would end without any positive result.
“For us from the Niger Delta region, it is another evidence of government failure to address our concerns by not passing the Host Community aspect of the PIB.”
Also speaking, a Chartered Economist, Mr Friday Nathaniel Udoh, urged the Senate to the existing PIB which was almost completed by the eight National Assembly, then make amendments where necessary, because time is resources.
Udoh advised that the resources earmarked for the new PIB by the Senate, should be channelled into addressing the macro-economic dysfunction in the county, lamenting that Nigeria was currently facing an economic gridlock.
He averred that it would take another five years before a new PIB could be achieved, emphasizing on the need for the Senate to look into the fundamental economic issues facing the country.
“The issue of drafting a new PIB from scratch is unnecessary. It is a sheer waste of time. My appeal is that the Senate should understand that a reform is never an end itself, neither would the PIB bill under its present form be an end to petroleum industry’s reform. The key elements in the present PIB is well conceived, to addressing the fundamental issues facing Nigerian petroleum industry.
“I implored the Senate to delete provisions that is cut-up with economic, environmental, social and political dynamics. Again whatever short-comings could always be addressed through secondary legislation or amendment of the Act.
“Where to consider spending their time and financial resources should be on policy for sustainable management of ageing assets, including reservoir and physical assets. Another issue is reliability and security of supply in domestic market capable of stifling investment in upstream, midstream and downstream.”
For his part, the Leader of Egbema Voice of Freedom, Pastor Evaristus Nicholas, accused the Federal Government of not being sincere to the oil producing communities in the Niger Delta region, in respect to the PIB.
Nicholas, who had won a suit bothering on environment against the Nigerian Agip Oil Company, NAOC in Italy, said the announcement by the Senate was just a diversionary tactics.
“The Federal Government has not been sincere to the people of the Niger Delta with regards to this issue of PIB. Even if the Senate begins the drafting of a new PIB, they would dilly dally till the end of this administration and more administrations to come.
“I think they’re just playing with the sensibility of Nigerians. If they are sincere, they should know that passing the PIB will open up the oil industry for investment.
“For me, I do not see anything good that will come out of the new PIB or even the old one, because there is no sincerity. Why can’t we have a restructured Nigeria? To me, all these are diversionary tactics.”
Also speaking, a University Don and Professor of Energy Economics, Prof Wumi Iledare, said the Senate has not started the process for consideration of the PIB, and would consider the executive bill when it is sent to them.
“The Senate has not started the process for consideration of the PIB. So it will be wrong to say they will write a new bill. The correct process is that the Senate will consider the executive bill when it is sent to it.”
However, a Community Consultant and Director, Directorate of Modular Refineries, Institute of Environment, Mr Pat Obiene, said the existing PIB did not capture the yearning and aspirations of the oil and gas host communities of the Niger Delta region.
Obiene, said drafting a new PIB from scratch was not a problem, as long as it will capture the needs of the petroleum host communities and also empower the host communities to participate in the midstream and downstream sector.
He also advised the petroleum host communities to see the Senate’s plan as an opportunity to ensure that their needs are captured in the new bill.
“It is shocking to hear that instead of making efforts to assent the previous segment passed by the eight National Assembly, they are planning to draft a new one from scratch.
“The one passed by the eight assemble did not capture the basic needs of the stakeholders, particularly the oil and gas host community aspect of the bill.
“Starting a new PIB from the scratch is not a problem, so far it will capture the necessary needs and demands of the oil and gas producing communities. Particularly, empowering the host communities to participate in the mid-stream and downstream sector of petroleum, an also spell out their environmental rights.
“If the Senate is not prepared to consider the host communities aspect of the bill, then the idea of starting from scratch makes no meaning.”