FESTUS OKOROMADU in this report, examines calls by stakeholders in the nation’s oil and gas sector on the need for President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB).
The commendations that has continued to trail the passage of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) by the 8th National Assembly is perhaps an indication that nation’s oil and gas sector has not lived up to expectations in the past.
As some analyst have rightly noted, the passage of the bill by both the senate and the House of Representatives within two years was not only a commendable efforts but equally an achievement of historic landmark by the legislators.
In line with the spirit of the time, many well- meaning Nigerians and civil society groups have continued to beckon on President Muhammadu Buhari to assent the bill already on his table.
The motive behind such call is based on the conviction by such persons and groups that the bill if assented by Mr. President, would reposition and transform the nation’s oil and gas sector instead of the needless curse that it’s currently perceived to be.
This exercise dates back to April 24, 2000, when the federal government inaugurated the Oil and Gas Reform Committee. The effort culminated to the presentation of the first Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to the National Assembly in September 2008.
However, the 6th and 7th National Assembly failed due to many reasons including lack of national consensus on the various aspect of the PIB as it presented then.
Why Previous Attempts Failed
According to the senior special assistant to president of the senate on legislative matters and strategy, Mr. Kingsley Amaku, the PIB had in the past suffered setbacks mainly because it was presented to the national assembly as an executive bill.
Kingsley while speaking as a panellist at the CISLAC forum, stated that the process of initiating the bill through the executive arm in the past led to delays.
He insisted that the process of waiting for the attorney- general to draft the bill, send to the federal executive council for approval before getting to the national assembly was time consuming and hence the bill arrived late.
Another panelist, the technical consultant to the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) Dr. Dauda Garba, stated that the omnibus notion of the PIB was partly responsible for the previous assembly’s inability to pass it.
“I think another issue that was critical and perhaps made the initial efforts unsuccessful is the wisdom behind the putting together of the 16 different regulations and laws into one omnibus document as we had in the PIB of 2008 and also in 2012,” Dauda stated.
Both men agreed that the breakdown of the bill into four components comprising the PIGB, the Petroleum Industry Administrative Bill (PIAB), the Petroleum Industry Fiscal Bill (PIFB) and the Petroleum Host & Impacted Community Bill (PHCB) contributed to the early passage of the bill.
In his keynote presentation, energy & natural resource partner, Streamsowers & KӦhn, Chiagozie Hillary-Nwokwonko, explained that the bill seeks to reform the governance of the petroleum industry by bring it up to date with international best practices to enhance competitiveness.
“The bill embodies inter alia the principles of transparency, accountability, the avoidance of conflicts of interest and undue political interference in the regulation of the Nigerian petroleum industry and the commercial operations of State-owned entities,” he said.
Speaking to why the civil society community has continued to show so much interest in the PIGB, senior programme officer, CISLAC, Kolawole Banwo, noted that for an industry that hitherto generates about 80 per cent of government’s revenue and 90 per cent of foreign exchange earnings, the sector remains the backbone of not just the economy but also of national life.
He stated that by implication if the revenue generated from the sector was managed efficiently, the government was likely going to get more funds to execute human development programmes and human capacity.
According to him, this would mean that education, health and other social services would be better funded and thus improve the living standards of the ordinary Nigerian.
Although, Kolawole agreed that some progress has been made with the passage and sending of the PIGB to the president, he expressed worries over the prospect of getting Mr. President to assent it while those opposing it advocate that the bill literary takes away power and authority from him.
However, the former chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Dr. Sam Amadi, also a panelist at the event disagreed with the notion, pointing out that the bill only means a delegation of power by the president to the regulatory board to allow for efficient management.
“I don’t think that the PIGB diminishes the president’s power. His appointment of members of the regulatory board means that he is actually delegating power to them that does not make him giving out power absolutely,” he stated.
Why Mr. President Should Assent The PIGB
While some critics and those benefiting from the existing structure continue to persuade Mr. President not to assent the PIGB, advocates of transparency in governance and government institution are insisting the President Buhari must follow the part of honour and assent the bill.
Such advocates argued that there was no perfect law, stressing that there was provision for amendments, even of the most rigid of constitutions.
As the executive secretary of NEITI, Waziri Adio, noted recently, “The proposed bills will have evident and non-evident areas of contentions, flaws even. But that should not stop us from going ahead and running them through the crucible of implementation. We should not make the best the enemy of the good.”
According to him, the process would continue to throw up areas of debates, stressing that there was no political challenge that good politics cannot solve.
As noted by Mr. Amaku at the CISLAC forum, President Buhari would not only score a strong political point if he assents the PIGB, but would further boost his anti-corruption campaign.
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