ABUJA, NOVEMBER 11, 2016 – The idea of the Petroleum Industry Bill popularly called the PIB began in 2007 following the recommendations of a Presidential Committee set up to carry out oil and gas sector reforms in Nigeria. The reforms were expected to form the nucleus of Nigeria’s aspiration to become one of the most industrialized nations in the world by the year 2020.
For nearly a decade this bill have not been allowed to see the light of day and right now it is hurting Nigeria’s ailing economy.
The Nation reported that the delay in the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is hurting the economy and stunting progress in the extractive sector in particular, experts have said.
The experts, who spoke with The Nation in separate interviews, lamented that, despite being touted as the best thing that would happen to Nigeria’s oil and gas industry and also the economy, the PIB has remained stagnated at the National Assembly (NASS) since 2007.
The PIB, introduced in 2007, was expected to produce a dynamic policy framework for massive reforms in the oil & gas industry. The reforms were expected to form the nucleus of Nigeria’s aspiration of becoming one of the most- industrialised nations by 2020.
For the country to realise this dream, it was envisaged that the major source of revenue to the Federation Account, the oil and gas sector, must be repositioned for greater efficiency, openness, and competition built on corporate governance as obtained in other resource-rich nations.
Sadly, the PIB, which is the vehicle to achieving these goals, is yet to be passed into law, with experts noting that the industry and the economy would continue to lose with the its non-passage.
“It is unfortunate that the PIB, which is touted as the best thing that would happen to Nigeria’s oil industry and also boost the economy has been stagnated at the National Assembly,” the Chief Executive Officer, Holistic Security Background Checks Limited, Don Okereke, lamented.
The security expert attributed the non-passage of the PIB to high-wire politics. “It appears some powerful cabals are opposed to it, he told The Nation, pointing out, however, that the Senate is reportedly making arrangements to expedite or fast track its passage.
Also, the Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Mr. Nnimmo Bassey, said: “When a suitable PIB is passed into law, it will provide a good playing field for all stakeholders in the sector.”
Bassey, a renowned international environmentalist, told The Nation that if Nigeria valued its people and the environment above money, it ought to show this in the formulation and enforcement of environmental laws.
He said this bridge could be crossed by having uniform provisions for the environment and host communities in the extractive sector.
According to him, this will eliminate parochial considerations and arguments that stymie progress in the sector, thus, allowing an unacceptable regime to persist.
Bassey noted that the reasons the initial PIB could not be passed after eight years of negotiations and debates were still at play, adding that the unfortunate fact was that some of the contentious aspects of the Bill ought not to be seen as such.
“The current approach has been to break the PIB into four bills and have them passed into law in bits. The troubling aspect of that approach is that the concerns of communities and the environment may be pushed to the back burners, while financial management issues take the front seat,” Bassey argued.
Noting that the PIB is a good first step in reforming the industry, he said the delay in passing it into law was unacceptable. He attributed the delay to several factors among which are toxic politics and pressure from the International Oil Companies (IOCs) which, he said, had stated hat they would not accept laws that curb their excessive profits.
Bassey also identified the pressure points as wrong perception by some legislators that provision of funds for communities meant more money to the oil-bearing states.
“Actually, the PIB makes the offer of money to communities on one hand and takes it away on the other. It criminalises communities when it says that if oil facilities are tampered with then the communities, local govt areas and states would pay,” he said.
He argued that communities were not the policemen of oil facilities.
“The PIB speaks the old language of subsisting laws that free IOCs of responsibility where facilities are interfered with by third parties. That has made the claim of sabotage the favourite refrain of the oil companies even before incidents are investigated.
‘’The PIB fell into the same anti-people trap,” he said.