By Alex Okoro
OrderPaperToday – The House of Representatives on Thursday passed for second reading the lingering Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and set up an adhoc committee to midwife its eventual passage.
Chief Whip of the House, Alhassan Doguwa will chair the panel which has chairman of the Petroleum (Upstream) committee, Victor Nwokolo, among others, as members.
Recall that the Senate had recently passed the Petroleum Industry and Governance Bill (PIGB) with work pending on a Host Community Bill to cater for concerns by oil-producing areas of the country.
At plenary, the three bills which are described as the new governance and regulatory framework for Nigeria’s oil and gas sector was debated separately on the floor.
Sequel to its debate at plenary, members had argued that it should have been lumped as one bill.
However, during debate most members agreed that the bill will help to provide for a framework relating to oil producing communities’ participation, cost and benefit sharing among government, petroleum exploration companies and host communities and for related matters
One of its sponsors, Mr. Victor Nwokolo explained that the oil sector is responsible for 80 percent of government’s revenues shared by Federal, States and Local Governments; 90 percent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings and 30 percent of the GDP of the most populated African country.
Giving further insight on a “bill for an Act for governance and institutional framework for the petroleum industry and to establish a fiscal framework that encourages further investment in the petroleum industry whilst increasing accruable revenues to the Federal Government of Nigeria and for other related matters,” Nwokolo expressed optimism that unbundling Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) will boost the revenue, employment generation and investment into the sector.
According to him, Nigeria is endowed with about 37 billion barrels of crude oil and 187 trillion cubic feet (33bln boe) of gas and currently rated as the sixth largest exporter of crude among OPEC members and seventh largest gas reserve in the world.
For Nigeria to maximize the huge reserve base/resource endowment as a major player among its peers, the lawmaker expressed optimism that the new legal framework will help to address issues bothering on extant obsolete legal framework, institutional decay/inefficient regulatory entities, decline revenue, Niger Delta crisis, among others.
He added that the bills when passed into law will bring government’s aspiration towards 4million bpd oil production, 40 billion bbl crude oil reserve, power road map delivery, gas master plan delivery and robust, long term revenue stream to fruition.
Lawmakers in the likes of Mohammed Mungono (APC-Borno); Leo Ogor (PDP-Delta); Kayode Oladele (APC-Ogun); Loveth Idisi (PDP, Delta); Sergius Ogun (PDP-Edo); Henry Nwawuba (PDP, Imo); Frederick Agbedi (PDP-Bayelsa), and Sunday Karimi (PDP, Kogi), among others supported the bill.
Speaking on the bill for Memorandum on legal and regulatory framework, institutions and regulatory authorities for the Nigerian Petroleum Industry, to establish guidelines for the operation of the upstream and downstream sectors and for purposes connected with the same, Daniel Reyenieju observed that the unbundling of NNPC will provide opportunities for Nigerians to participate in the ownership of the new entities to be established.
On his part, Leo Ogor (PDP-Delta) noted that the bills provide deep analysis on how best to address the endemic challenges in the Nigeria’s oil and gas industry.
He observed that the bills specifically address issues on structural, governance, management and operational arrangements, control of oil blocks, decline and leakage of revenue accrued to government and provide enabling environment for investors and operators.
Also speaking, Kayode Oladele, chairman, House Committee on Financial Crimes who applauded the objectives of the bills, assured that the new laws which seek to unbundle NNPC will provide employment for teeming Nigerians and reduce the influx of expatriates who are currently employed to do jobs that average Nigerian experts can do as well as enhance technology transfer and industrial development of Nigeria.
In his contribution, Idisi (PDP-Delta) who argued that Nigeria did not get value for the 2.3mbpd crude oil production, frowned at the inconsistency in the management and operation of the sector.
According to him, the current metering system used to determine the quantum of crude oil produced at various terminals are obsolete and impact negatively on the revenue accrued to government.
While frowning at the inordinate attitude of the previous administrations towards getting the sector out of the doldrum by putting in place effective and efficient legislative framework, the Delta lawmaker expressed optimism that the new regularly framework will put to rest all forms of sabotage and impunity in the system.