Despite public cynicism, Ita Enang, chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, has given an assurance that the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill will receive priority attention as Senate resumes its plenary sessions
| By Vincent Nzemeke | May 19, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
THE Nigerian Senate has promised to give priority attention to the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, as members resume plenary sessions after a one-week recess. The PIB is one of the oldest bills in the National Assembly. It has gone through several legislative sessions without being passed into law.
It was first presented to the National Assembly for consideration in 2008 and the then Senate Joint Committee headed by Senator Lee Maeba, conducted the first public hearing on it in 2009, with the aim of passing it into law that same year. However, the hope of its quick passage was eventually dashed due to stiff opposition by some stakeholders, particularly, the international oil companies, IOCs, who picked holes in some of the provisions of the Bill. Besides, the existence of different versions of the bill in the national assembly, coupled with political intrigues and wranglings within the National Assembly on the one hand and the executive on the other were major impediments to the passage of the bill during the sixth national assembly session.
Following the inability of the sixth assembly to pass the bill, the federal government in 2012, drafted a team that reproduced a new draft bill, which was presented to the seventh National Assembly for consideration. But as was the case at the previous attempt, the newly drafted PIB didn’t see the light of the day as anticipated in 2012.
In 2013, frantic efforts to pass the bill by were hampered by stiff resistance by some stakeholders. The major opposition first emerged when some northern senators, who were against the host community’s fund as provided for in the new draft of the PIB, openly opposed its consideration by the Senate.
Ever since, various interest groups and stakeholders have come up with their demands and suggestions on some of the provisions of the bill. In essence, the PIB seeks to revive Nigeria’s oil industry by ensuring transparency, accountability; fiscal terms; institutional framework and regulation. It also seeks to establish a legal, fiscal and regulatory framework for the petroleum industry in Nigeria in order to rejuvenate the sector which, experts believe, has been stagnant for many decades when compared with countries such as the United Arab Emirate, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, who have developed their economies with oil.
Among the benefits which the Nigerian Minister of Petroleum, Deziani Alison-Madueke has been using every available opportunity to drum support for, are to create a conducive business environment for petroleum operations; enhance exploration and exploitation of petroleum resources in Nigeria for the benefits of Nigerian people; optimise domestic gas supplies, particularly for power generation and industrial development; establish a progressive fiscal framework that encourages further investment in the petroleum industry while optimising revenues occurring to the government. Other benefits of the bill include deregulation and liberalisation of the downstream sector; creation of efficient and effective regulatory agencies as well as promotion of transparency and openness in the administration of petroleum resources in Nigeria. Additional benefits include the promotion of the development of Nigeria Content in the petroleum industry; protection of health safety and environment in the course of petroleum operations; and attainment of such other objectives that will promote a viable and sustainable petroleum industry in Nigeria.
Knowing the importance of the Bill, Senators have vowed to ensure that it is passed into law before the expiration of the 7th National Assembly in May 2015. Senator Ita Enang, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business, in his briefing of journalists ahead of Tuesday’s resumption, said the Senate had concluded arrangements to prioritise the PIB and other pending critical bills in view of the short time before it. Enang explained that the Senate was aware that the remaining time available for its legislative activities was limited. According to the Senate’s calendar, the law makers are expected to embark on a two week recess in June. When they return, they would then embark on their annual eight weeks recess which will terminate in September 2014.
When they resume in September, they are expected to begin preparations for the various primaries of their political parties. But in spite of the crowded schedule, Enang, was confident that the PIB bill would be passed because the committee working on it had made appreciable progress and would soon submit its report to the Senate.
“As a member of the committee, I can authoritatively confirm to you that the PIB is one of our prioritised bills. It had passed second reading and we are working towards submitting our report for the third reading and final consideration of the Senate”, Enang said. To speed up the passage of the Bill, Enang disclosed that the Joint Committee on Petroleum (Downstream, Upstream and Gas) on PIB has constituted a conference to harmonise issues on the Bill. He added that the conference of the three committees was working assiduously to conclude its assignment and submit a joint report to the entire Senate for the final passage.
Enang, also said that contrary to the general opinion that the law makers were not committed to the passage of the bill, he could confidently confirm that legislation on the bill was currently on top gear and would end very soon. “The conference of the three committees on PIB is working hard. It is a major priority on our list. That is why work on the bill has been intensified.”