Bukola Saraki, senate president raises hope that the long awaited Petroleum Industry Bill will be passed by the National Assembly soon
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Dec 19, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT |
THE National Assembly has renewed hope that the long awaited Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, will be passed before the lifespan of the eighth Senate expires. Bukola Saraki, senate president, gave the assurance to Nigerians while delivering a speech at the resumption of public hearing of the Senate Joint Committee on the Bill on December 7. Saraki said the Senate will pass the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill in tranches as a way out of its non-passage for the past eight years.
He said the passage of the Bill in tranches was necessitated by the need to unbundle its contents into manageable compartments that could be implemented in phases. Saraki noted that the Senate was set to pass the first tranche of the bill, while putting measures in place for the passage of other tranches. He added that the passage of the first tranche would further tackle persistent problems associated with fiscal framework and host communities.
“This public hearing is another avenue for us to hear from the operators, regulators, experts and other stakeholders in the industry on how to move the industry forward. We want to move away from the way things were done in the past during the consideration of such bills, especially fiscal framework and host communities.
“We will push for greater partnership so that the bill will be a win-win for everyone; one that works for government, attractive to oil companies and takes into consideration concerns of the host communities. We will also tackle the issues of downstream, gas and environment. We are poised and resolved to deal with all issues related to the industry, albeit in tranches.
“As a nation we cannot afford any further delay in our effort to reform our oil and gas industry. The journey begins now and I assure you that we will guarantee that all of these bills are passed in record time,” he said.
Saraki expressed concern that though the petroleum industry contributed over 90 percent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings, existing legal, regulatory and institutional structures in the industry were out-dated. He noted that the sector had performed below expectations, adding that the development had led to the federal government and investors losing significant edge in the oil and gas investment trends.
He said that it was unacceptable that till date, Nigeria still imports over 90 percent of needed petroleum products, flares substantial gas produced, damages the ecosystem and pollutes host communities. The senate president added that in spite of Nigeria’s might in the sector, it could not supply adequate electricity to individual homes and industries.
“This situation has undermined our citizen’s standard of living, life expectancy, national energy security. It has therefore resulted in other unforeseen fallout like labour unrest, fuel queues, high cost of delivery of products and unquantifiable wastage of national productivity. The oil and gas industry is yearning for good governance, competitiveness, transparency, indigenous participation and accountability,” adding that the bill would be passed in record time.
The PIB has the unenviable record of being the Bill that has undergone the longest process of legislation in the current democratic dispensation. Despite the fact that it has been in the National Assembly for more than eight years, with 350 amendments, the bill has not gone past second reading because of politics, intrigues and outright struggle for the protection of group, sectional and generally selfish interests.
It is expected that the proposed bill will encourage greater participation of the private sector in the oil sector and increase gross domestic product while enhancing the standard of living of Nigerians. It will encourage greater participation of oil communities in the developmental projects that affect them, and also enhance the technological capabilities of Nigerians through emphasis on local content in all the components that make up the industry.
The PIB was first forwarded to the National Assembly by late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua in 2008 but was withdrawn by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2010, revised and re-transmitted back to the legislature in July 2012. Senate empanelled four committees to work on the proposal while public hearings on it held in 2013 but the committee under the leadership of Senator Emmanuel Paulker failed to report back to the Senate after four weeks ultimatum to do so.
The PIB, when passed, is expected to reform the administrative, governance and fiscal regimes in the oil industry; give Nigerians greater stake and open up massive investment and employment opportunities, especially in the downstream sector.