What absence of Petroleum Industry Bill is doing to Nigeria – APPO Secretary-General

OMAR Farouk Ibrahim

OMAR Farouk Ibrahimsecretary-general, African Petroleum Producers’ Organization, APPO, is well horned in international energy relations having worked with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, handling that duty as the group general manager. Ibrahim has also represented Nigeria at the highest bilateral engagements in the oil and gas sector and was once the country’s liaison officer at the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries, OPEC.  At the recent Sub-Saharan Africa International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference, SAIPEC, which held in Lagos, Ibrahim speaks with Maureen Chigbo, editor and Anayo Ezugwu, senior staff writer, Realnews on contemporary issues in the oil and gas industry. Ibrahim’s views on the effect of non-passage of the petroleum industry bill on the oil and gas sector; the reforms in APPO; what the government must do to eliminate gas flaring among others are thought-provoking. The interview is a must-read. Excerpts.


Realnews: The International Oil Companies, IOCs, are saying that the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, should be passed into law for them to make a profit from their investment.  What do you think of the PIB and the minister’s promise that the bill will be passed into law this year?

Ibrahim: The PIB has been long overdue in terms of passage. And certainly, it has affected the perception about the investment climate in our country. Many potential investors have found it difficult to put in their money when they don’t know when the new regulations are going to come out. And more importantly, how is it going to affect their investment and this is something really that has affected investment in the industry in the last 10 years or more since we began to talk about it.

Realews: You are now the secretary-general of APPO, what new initiatives are you bringing to the organization?

Ibrahim: I was appointed APPO secretary-general after a major reform had been undertaken. For your information, APPO has been there for the last 33 years. APPO was founded in Nigeria, in 1987, but it is based in Brazzaville. But certainly, it hasn’t lived up to expectations of the founding fathers of the organization and that informed the decisions of ministers four years ago to embark on a major reform. One, we have changed the focus of APPO. We have realized that the challenges facing the industry today are not just global challenges, they are peculiarly African challenges, which APPO has to work to ensure that we address the challenges of infrastructure, regulations, finance, etc. And these are the things that we must address.

Realnews: How do you get different countries in Africa to collaborate and make sure that the resources, especially in oil and gas are tapped to improve the well being of Africans?

Ibrahim: I can tell you that it is not going to be easy but we are making effort. Only recently, we were in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, where APPO co-funded some studies. One of the studies is on emission limits in West Africa, and popularising use of the  Liquefied natural gas, LPGs. These are projects that you can’t fund as a country and do it well on your own. When you talk of emissions in Lagos, Benin, Maiduguri, Chad, why do you say that it cannot go beyond certain limit? These are things we are working on and I think that governments has come to realize that they can’t go it alone and succeed but will have to collaborate with others countries.  Today, Francophone African countries, the Spanish, the Portuguese have come together to say look, we have to bury our differences if we are to make any progress.

Realnews: One of the major issues discussed at the SAIPEC conference is pollution and carbon emission. What is APPO going to do to ensure that the IOCs or indigenous oil companies play according to the rules and reduce the level pollution on the environment?

Ibrahim: Seriously speaking, it is my personal opinion, I am not so much bordered about pollution or emissions. When those who have polluted the world were polluting it where were we? Now that we are trying to get there, they are stopping us. I believe that if the West were to visionalise the opportunities in renewable energy, believe me, they would have been forced to develop the technology that will reduce the carbon footprint of hydrocarbon. The technology exists, for example, for carbon capture, storage and utilization technology. The point is, if you develop it, then you are going to elongate the lives of hydrocarbons and Africa is now the next destination for hydrocarbons, but they don’t want it. So, let them put money and this is one thing that Africa has to do through our own technology. The question is, what can we do to mitigate the carbon footprint of hydrocarbons in oil and gas? It is possible and we need to do it. If not, the world will move on, we will be left with our oil and very soon and you know it. In APPO alone, out of 15 member countries, 13 have signed and rectified the climate change agreement they signed in Paris and 49 African countries have signed it. When they were signing, it looked like so many years ahead now and in a few years this thing that they went to sign will become international law and whether you like it or not they are going to sanction you if you don’t comply with what you sign in 2015.  And we are not in a position at this time to say that we can forgo oil.

Realnews: Is gas flaring still a problem in Nigeria and other African countries?

Ibrahim: Government is working very hard and I think there is even a special body created to ensure that gas flaring is reduced and eliminated by certain percentage. But for now, it is not just in Nigeria, but actually in a number of African countries also.

Realnews: What percentage of gas is being flared?

Ibrahim: I can’t say for sure. But the eventual target is to completely eliminate it.

Realnews: Is there any time frame for the elimination of gas flaring?

Ibrahim: The problem of time frame is that we have put it for more than three times but failed in all. Initially, we did a penalty if you don’t comply and the IOCs are happy to pay the penalties because to them at the end of the day the money still belongs to them. It is part of their cost of operations. So I don’t think that penalty is going to work. Make the rules and have stiffer sanctions than to just say if you flare this much you will pay this much. They will just put it in their operations budget and that is what is happening.

Realnews: How effective are conferences like SAIPEC? Does it really help the development of oil and gas production in the country?

Ibrahim: I think we should have less of these conferences to be honest with you.

Realnews: Less…?

Ibrahim: Yes. Look if you count, we just came out from Nigeria International Petroleum Summit, NIPS, now we are doing this and next month I understand there is another. The point is, we should sit and agree on having a programme over the year that we should all key in. I don’t want a situation where there is NIPS, Nigeria Oil and Gas, NOG, SAIPEC and there is no coordination. What is the objective? The objectives of all these conferences are the same. So, why don’t you come together and make sure that you have harmonized it and that will make exhibitors, sponsors, etc to make a proper budget. And when people are coming they know that the key speakers are going to be there. I think we need to say, industry-wise that we should have six key events in a year and people can budget their time and resources towards it. But not every month you have something. Honestly, that is my personal opinion.

Realnews: Nigeria targets to remove oil subsidy, what are your views on this?

Ibrahim: It is long overdue.

– May 15, 2020 @ 17:55 GMT |