When fuel subsidy protests almost paralysed the nation’s economy for about six days early January, most industry watchers felt that the unfortunate incident that led to the death of so many Nigerians and the loss of whopping sums of money were enough for the National Assembly to urgently pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) into law.
Again, long queues caused by panic buying of petroleum products are gradually returning to petrol stations across the country because motorists do not want to be caught unawares as was the case on January 1, when the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) suddenly jerked up fuel price from N65 to N141 per litre.
Their concerns and arguments are tenable, given earlier pronouncements that full deregulation of the downstream sector may begin in April this year.
Although there have been no official reaction from the office of the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the PPPRA on the actual date that the anticipated full deregulation will commence, the fact remains that motorists who besiege filling stations anticipate an increase as the implementation of the 2012 budget is due to begin this month.
Based on previous experiences analysts noted that the fact that there has been no official reaction from the office of the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the PPPRA on the actual date that the anticipated full deregulation will commence is no reason to conclude that the government will not go ahead with its plans , saying the government could hit its websites with its policies anytime like it did on January 1 this year.
This inconsistency they noted, informed the clarion calls by concerned Nigerians for the passage of the nation’s PIB by the National Assembly, pointing out that the idea of the PIB was prompted by the need to make the oil and gas industry more transparent and to ensure that the country derives maximum benefits from its natural resource.
At least it is certain that the passage of the bill would liberate the downstream sector of the petroleum industry from government regulations and interference, thereby removing it from past practices where the sector was been used for patronage by politicians and their cronies.
To them it is worrisome that eight years after the bill was drafted by notable industry operators, politics and intrigues that attended the bill during its first, second, and third readings at the floor of the National Assembly have continued to keep it in limbo.
The Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi appealed to members of the National Assembly to pass into law the PIB to correct these anomalies and promote economic growth in the country.
According to the governor of the oil rich State, the passage of the bill would promote industrialisation and create employment adding that ,“70 per cent of crimes are caused by poverty and the key cause of poverty is unemployment.
“The federal government has to create conducive economic atmosphere that encourages development and that development includes industrialisation which then will create employment, but the absence of a petroleum industry law is hindering that development.
“The oil servicing companies are not working and because they are not working they have laid off their workers and because they have laid off their staff the crime rate has increased”, he added.
Amaechi, averred that the Nigerian economy would perform better with the passage into law of the Petroleum Industry Bill.
He said , “There has not been much investment in the oil sector because there is no law on the country’s petroleum industry”.
Cyril Guobadia, a petroleum engineer seems to reason along this line when he said the passage of the bill would also open up the oil and gas industry for more investors to play in the sector.
According to him, the implementation of the Act when signed to law, would also allow the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to operate commercially and thus play a greater role in the economy.
On the calculation that deregulation of the downstream sector is imminent, the President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Peter Esele, said the inclusion of more than N800 billion to the 2012 budget is an indication that the Federal Government may have chosen to continue funding the fuel subsidy regime.
According to him, “Nobody has told me that full deregulation will begin this April. We are not doing anything for now because there is nothing to show that government is about implementing full deregulation.
“The Federal Government included more than N800 billion in the 2012 budget after the strike and protests that greeted the January increment. With that, we believe that government will continue to fund the subsidy well beyond the April this year.”