05 October 2013, Abuja – Senate Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, has attributed the delay in the passage of Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, to required hectic legislative process, controversies generated by the bill among stakeholders in the oil sector as well as the perception of every senator on the bill.
Ndoma-Egba, who made this disclosure in an interview with THISDAY, said Nigerians who accuse the Senate of unnecessarily delaying completion of legislative process on the bill need to be educated that the parliament does not operate like a factory.
According to him, a bill of that magnitude which has the capacity to salvage the oil sector cannot be subjected to hasty legislative processes, explaining that every legislation is usually a slow and tedious process which has the interpretation of each of the 109 senators in the parliament. He added that if Nigerians want products of legislation to be rushed like the production of a loaf of bread in the factory, then they should not dream of having a parliament.
“What do the Nigerians want? Do they want the legislature or they want a factory line? It is only in the factory line that you put flour and sugar and you know that in the next three minutes, a loaf of bread is coming out the other way. The PIB has clauses that even stakeholders in the industry cannot agree on. It is a bill that is going to completely revolutionise the oil sector in Nigeria and people expect it to be like a product that is coming out in the factory line?
“The legislative process is a very tedious and slow process. And that is what is called legislation because even every word not only has 109 interpretations, it also has 109 nuances; every word, not to talk of every clause. So, it is a very slow process. If we are expecting a factory line, then I will just say we should look elsewhere, not the parliament,” he said.
When the bill scaled second reading after a three-day heated debate on March 7, the Senate asked the joint committees on petroleum (upstream and downstream), gas and judiciary, human rights and legal matters to report back to the chamber in six weeks.
But four months after, the committee only scheduled a two-day public hearing for July 18 and 19, but held the hearing only on July 18, while it unilaterally cancelled its continuity the following day (July 19) when several relevant stakeholders were still billed to make presentations.
Such stakeholders included the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Trade Union Congress (TUC), host communities, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN).
Following the grievances generated by the cancellation, the committee has scheduled another public hearing for October 9 to enable affected groups and individuals air their views on the bill.
At the July 18 hearing, international and local oil companies under the aegis of Oil Producers Trade Section (OPTS) vehemently opposed the bill, describing it as the harshest regulatory framework in the world.
OPTS which is a conglomerate of 18 international and indigenous oil companies, submitted that though the PIB possesses a unique opportunity to resolve the numerous challenges confronting the oil sector, it only sets out to aggravate them and will simultaneously reduce investment potentials in the oil sector. PIB, among others, sets out to optimise domestic gas supplies, particularly for power generation and industrial development; establish commercially-oriented and profit-driven, oil and gas entities; deregulate and liberalise the downstream petroleum sector; create efficient and effective regulatory agencies; and promote transparency and openness in the administration of the petroleum resources of Nigeria.