Is the much-talked-about all-important Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) jinxed? This is the recurring question that is seriously agitating troubled minds of Nigerians following inability of federal lawmakers under successive administrations, to pass the profoundly controversial Petroleum Industry Bill despite immense importance of the oil and gas industry to overall growth and development of Nigeria.
The bill was sponsored by the Eighth Assembly that broke it down into three parts and passed it but unfortunately, there was no assent. However, there is indication that the jinx would soon be broken following assurances last week by President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila that the current Ninth National Assembly is determined to break the jinx by finally passing the bill.The past NASS leadership also promised to pass the bill but failed to do so, Lawan and Gbajabiamila should walk the talk by ensuring the laudable cardinal objectives for which the PIB which this time around, is an Executive Bill was introduced, are achieved. This was perhaps why less than one week after resumption from their recess last week, the bill reportedly passed first reading on floor of the Senate.
It is no exaggeration that the PIB had over the years, been severely “abused” by selfish stakeholders who fear that if finally passed, it could pose incalculable threat to their interests and survival in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry. This was largely responsible for the seemingly deliberate protracted delay in getting the bill passed in-line with global best practices. Inability of successive NASS to allow the PIB to see the light of day in order to overhaul the corruption-ridden and decaying oil and gas industry so that it can be attractive to serious investors, is monumental disservice to national economy.
This is why all bottlenecks that have been militating against successful take-off of the much-desired PIB must be removed through joint efforts of the Executive led by President Muhammadu Buhari who incidentally, also doubles as substantive Minister of Petroleum Resources and the Dr Ahmed Lawan-led Ninth National Assembly. This would put to rest myriad of debilitating factors continuously impeding plans to make the oil and gas industry perform seamlessly to enable Nigeria benefit maximally. The worrisome level of corruption and mismanagement bedevilling the oil industry would be halted if old laws guiding operations of the industry in Nigeria embedded in the Petroleum Act of 1969, enacted almost 52 years ago, are changed having outlived their usefulness in view of new developments in global oil market. Oil prices have fallen considerably but unfortunately, oil still remains mainstay of Nigeria’s economy since successive administrations have paid lip service to diversification of national economy away from oil to agriculture, solid materials, and tourism, amongst others. Therefore, if oil remains prime source of Nigeria’s revenue, the need for government to replace archaic Petroleum Act of 1969 with contemporary laws that will provide enabling environment for domestic and foreign investments to thrive in the oil industry, as well as reduce drastically, crises in the oil-rich but poverty-stricken Niger Delta region, cannot be over-emphasised. This is why further delay in passing the PIB should not be contemplated by anybody or group that wants Nigeria to progress.
The Eighth NASS, compared to others, went as far as disaggregating the PIB into four different bills ___ the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), the Petroleum Industry Administrative Bill (PIAB), the Petroleum Industry Fiscal Bill (PIFB) and the Petroleum Host and Impacted Community Bill (PHAICB) in 2017. Unfortunately, the bill, having been broken down into parts, never got to stages for them to be enacted into law. The PIGB the then NASS passed which was expected to be transmitted for Mr. President’s assent, was reported to have been recalled in 2018 for the federal legislators’ review. Non-passage of the PIB for over 10 years has become scandalous due to unfulfilled promises by the National Assembly under successive administrations. Sometime in 2018, a coalition of Civil Society organisation named Publish What You Pay Nigeria (PWYP Nigeria), through National Co-ordinator, Peter Egbule, shocked many when it disclosed that at least a whopping sum of N3 trillion is lost by Nigeria annually as a result of non-passage of Petroleum Industry Bills (PIBs) by NASS. This avoidable financial waste must be stopped to prevent further loss detrimental to national economy. For instance, passage of PIGB would encourage accountability and good governance while PIAB will permit unhindered administrative operations in the oil and gas sector. Since NNPC had never been accountable in its operations in the past, fiscal discipline and transparency would be entrenched through PIFB while the PHAICB would promote skills acquisition, development of local contents and other essential socio-economic benefits to the locals by government, the 10Cs, as well as other relevant stakeholders so as to avert recurring hostilities in host-communities in oil-producing locations. Modern laws to effectively regulate and co-ordinate operations in oil and gas sector would also tackle age-long challenges making Nigeria to lose humongous monies due to unending gas flaring and environmental degradation destructions.