After so much delay, intrigues and tinkering, the National Assembly finally passed the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB). The bill, which is a product of sustained struggle and advocacy by key stakeholders in the oil and gas sector, is among the legislative instruments that stayed longer than necessary on the floor of both Chambers having been introduced since the last 17 years.
No doubt, it is plausible that the current National Assembly did the needful by setting aside some of those considerations that made it impossible for their predecessors to pass the bill. The PIGB provides for the establishment of the Nigerian Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NPRC) as a one-stop regulator that will be responsible for licensing, monitoring and supervising petroleum operations, as well as enforcing industry laws, regulations and standards.
Under the new law, some of the existing regulatory agencies like the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) will continue to exist while some will be merged with others to form new agencies. Additionally, PIGB stipulates that the regulatory functions of the Minister of Petroleum Resources under the Petroleum Act and the Oil Pipelines Act be transferred to a Commission, which will be governed by a nine-man board with a fixed tenure whose composition shall include one representative from each of the ministries of petroleum resources, finance and environment.
The law seeks to ensure transparency in the nation’s oil and gas sector, bolster investors’ confidence and ultimately ensure optimisation in the sector. Before now, there had been widespread concern about what the nation was losing due to the absence of this law. The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) disclosed that the nation lost N1.74trillion in 2013 alone, due to the absence of the PIGB.
NEITI said that the sector had also lost over $200 billion as a result of investments withheld or diverted by investors to other more predictable jurisdictions, and even through under-remittances, inefficiencies and theft due to absence of a clear governance framework for the oil and gas industry. While the struggle for its passage lingers, concerns were rife that the nation is being short changed through activities of some persons who are feeding fat on the opportunity provided by the absence of a clear cut governance structure for the oil and gas sector.
Since the Senate passed the bill in May last year and the House of Representatives recently lent its support to it through the eventual passage, what remains is the president’s assent. It is a statement of fact that the oil and gas sector still remains the mainstay of the nation’s economy even though there are signs of a gradual shift with the recent successes being recorded from the government’s frantic efforts to diversify the economy.
We commend the bold and courageous step taken by both chambers of the National Assembly to pass the Bill. Indeed, with the passage of the PIGB by the National Assembly, a new dawn has come for the oil and gas sector. We are optimistic that with the PIGB, incidences of huge revenue losses to the nation will be averted.
While the nation wait eagerly for the presidential assent which will give life to the PIGB, as part of an overall objective of sanitising the oil and gas sector, we join other stakeholders in Nigeria and outside to urge the President to hasten the process of appending his signature to this bill. The president needs to waste no time in breathing the much needed life into the bill by signing it and putting in place all the required legal and if necessary, political machineries, that will make for its effective operation.
In our considered opinion, the National Assembly, the executive and indeed, all persons who are saddled with the responsibility of giving full life to the law, ought to be guided first and foremost by the patriotic zeal to strengthen the nation’s economy for the good of all.
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