About fifty years after the Nigeria Petroleum Act 1969 was enacted, the country’s oil and gas industry is still running on these laws. Transparency-focused civil society organisations have continued to warn both the executive and the legislative arms of government on the negative implication of outdated laws on the sector. FESTUS OKOROMADU writes on the need to heed to this call to duty.
The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) on Sunday this week released an Occasional Paper which reviewed three years financial and operations reports of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
A key highlight of that report is the alarm raised on how the country was shortchanging itself of huge revenues due to the application of obsolete laws in the production sharing agreement (PSA) between Nigeria and oil companies operating in the country.
Barely 24 hours later, another civil society organisation, Publish What You Pay (PWYP), held a press conference in Abuja to draw the attention of Nigerians to the urgent need to pass the lingering Petroleum Industry Bills (PIBs).
While reminding Nigerians that the PIB which is an attempt change the existing laws governing the oil and gas industry has lasted for close to two decades, eighteen years (2000 – 2018), PWYP stressed the fact that these protracted attempt to update the laws cuts across different administrations. It equally noted that the country has continued to be the loser.
A Tradition Of Delayed Reform
Speaking on the need to update the Petroleum Act 1969, the national coordinator, PWYP, Mr. Peter Egbule, argued that some provisions of the Act have since been overtaken by significant changes in the domestic and global realities of the industry.
But as he noted, “In spite of this obvious need to restructure the regulatory frameworks of the entire petroleum value chain in Nigeria, successive administrations have failed to achieve this.”
Counting The Losses
According to Egbule, Nigeria loses substantial amount of revenues by the day due to the absence of updated laws in the sector, stressing that community livelihoods were degenerating by the minute without these laws.
While putting figures to the value of loss incurred, he quoted the minister of state for petroleum resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, as having stated recently that the country loses N3 trillion annually.
A Call To Duty
PWYP was apt in charging the 8th National Assembly and the Presidency to take advantage of the opportunity presented by present circumstances to hasten the passage of the PIB which has been split into four distinctive bills; the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), the Petroleum Industry Administrative Bill (PIAB), the Petroleum Industry Fiscal Bill (PIFB), and the Petroleum Host and Impacted Community Bill (PHAICB).
According to Egbule, “The present administration have a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity of writing its name in the annals of achievements by passing and signing these bills into laws.”
While urging both arms of government to do the needful, PWYP stated that the passage and signing into law of the bills was in the collective interest of all Nigerians, as it would create a more functional administrative structure, significantly reduce financial leakages, encourage foreign and domestic investments, provide succour for host communities, among others.
Need For Mr. President To Assent The Bills
Although the national coordinator of PYWP and his team expressed optimism in President Mohammadu Buhari to assent the PIGB and the other bills whenever they are transmitted to him, they are not unmindful of his right to refuse assent.
Accordingly, they noted that if the latter happens, it would be disappointing to well-meaning Nigerians, as it would result in another round of legislative reconsiderations, political intrigues, delays, and public frustrations.
“This will be a major setback in our collective interest in establishing a more responsive and socio-economically impactful Nigeria petroleum industry, as well as send the wrong signal to Nigerians and the global community at large,” they stated.
They therefore, appealed to the national assembly to immediately refocus on the passage of the bills, and intentionally dedicate substantial time for the legislative processes required for the passage of the bills, before they become engrossed in the obviously heightening political activities towards the 2019 general elections.
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