After waiting for 17 years to secure legislative approval to proceed to get presidential assent, the petroleum industry governance bill (PIGB) suffered another defeat as President Muhammadu Buhari refused to append his signature to it. FESTUS OKOROMADU writes on the need to revisit the bill in order to save the nation’s economy from collapse.
It first came as rumors and speculations with some media reports saying President Mohammadu Buhari has refused to assent to the petroleum industry governance bill (PIGB), after 17 years of debate on how to reform the nation’s major source of income, the oil and gas sector.
Then it was confirmed by the senior special assistant to the president on national assembly matters (Senate), Ita Enang. He cited constitutional and legal issues as the reasons for the President’s withdrawal of the assent.
According to Enang, the national assembly empowered the Petroleum Regulatory Commission, one of the bodies created by the bill to unduly retain 10 per cent of the funds it generates to the detriment of the three tiers of government and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
He further explained that the president vetoed the bill because it expands the scope of the Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF) in a manner that is antithetical to the policy of his administration and consequently stipulating provisions that are in conflict with independent PEF.
Enang also disclosed that the president opted to return the bill to the national assembly because it consists of some legislative drafting concerns which he said had the capacity to create ambiguity and conflicting interpretations.
Going ahead to discuss the issues raised by the presidency which has been extensively tackled by experts in recent times, it is important to draw attention to the facts that apart from the PIGB Mr President equally declined assent to Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2018 which was sent almost the time as the former.
But unfortunately while the committee on the Electoral Amendment Bill is currently working round the clock to amend the issues raised and is now ready for the national assembly to take second look, approve and send back to the president for assent, the PIGB appears to have been abandoned.
PIGB In Whose Interest
One of the most important reason experts have advocated for the reforms in the oil and gas sector is fact that it has failed to support economic growth and development in its current state.
It is a known fact that crude oil revenue is key to the country’s wellbeing as over 85 per cent of its revenue accrue from the sector. Economists have attributed the slump in revenue from the sector in 2015 to have pushed the economy into recession.
The Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in its second quarter report said the absence of reform in oil sector partly contributed to the decline in GDP growth from 1.95 per cent in the first quarter of 2018 to 1.50 in the second quarter of the year.
Experts’ Response To The Non-passage Of PIGB
One of those who objected to the reasons proffered by the presidency not to assent to the PIGB is an oil and gas expert in the research department of ECO Bank, Dolapo Oni.
Writing on his Twitter page (@Dolarpo) on August 30, 2018, he took closer look at the president’s concerns, and submitted that they may not have warranted his refusal to give assent.
He explained that the 10 per cent has nothing to do with government’s oil revenue shared by FAAC. Instead it deals with revenue from fees and licenses. According to him this includes, “publications sold, fees for services rendered by the NPRC to non-petroleum companies and only 10 per cent of this fund is to be kept by the NPRC
All other monies made from production, leases, bonuses and etc are to be paid into the Federation account,” he stated.
On PEF, Dolapo wrote, “Please I would like to ask if someone can point me to where this regime has articulated its policy for an independent PEF.
“Don’t worry I checked the National Petroleum Policy. The PEF is mentioned only once and in passing.
When we find this, we can discuss the second topic,”he stated.
Faulting Enang on the wording of the PIGB as to having some legal issues, Dolapo wrote, “The presidency has to do better and show us where these are.
“Dont forget this is a document that has gone through several public hearings with all industry stakeholders over several weeks.”
Similarly, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) expressed disappointment at the president’s refusal to assent to the bill and urged him to re-think his decision in the interest of the nation.
In a statement signed by its executive director, Auwa Ibrahim Musa , the centre said it was unfortunate that the President refused to assent to the bill in spite of his promise to reform the country’s oil and gas sector.
CISLAC, according to him, see the bill as a tool for addressing corruption in oil and gas sector.
The Centre expressed shock that after all the efforts, time and cost incurred in the passage of the bill, the sector is back to where it was 17 years ago.
Speaking to the losses attributed to the absence of an unto date regulatory law in the sector, the statement said, “CISLAC finds it worrisome that in spite of the established losses the country incurs due to the absence of this law, which among other sources, the NEITI put at $200 billion yearly and another $15 billion yearly in fresh investments, the President did not consider it a matter of national importance to assent to the bill.
“CISLAC considers this refusal to assent as a big failure on the part of this government and a lost opportunity to reform the sector and transform to meet up with global standards.”
On its part, the Nigeria Natural Resource Charter (NNRC) has renewed its efforts to drum support for the national assembly and the presidency to take another Lk at the bill.
According to NNRC, the PIGB provides a strong governance basis which would help mitigate environmental harms. Highlighting the need to urgently tackle the issue of governance in the Nigeria oil and gas sector, NNRC stated in countries with poor resource governance, companies were lax in efforts to protect communities and the environment.
It added that resource governance matters for the people who live close to extraction sites, just as competent management of oil, gas and mining can reduce environmental impact.
While urging the political class to do all it can to the bill becomes a law sooner than later, NNRC noted that the PIGB would bring about drastic change in the sector as follows: roles and accountabilities would be better clarified; ministerial discretionary powers abolished; governance and transparency strengthened; introduced meritocracy in appointments; refocused industry regulation – one stop shop; created two commercial entities for improved performance and accountability; and refocused attention to frontier exploration.
Key Role Of PIGB
Industry experts confirmed that the PIGB has set out the foundations that would ensure optimum management (perform and drive growth) of the Nigeria’s petroleum resources.
The bill has satisfactorily defined the governance and institutional frameworks necessary to put the country in line with contemporary global and industry trends.
Therefore expedient passage of the bill and purposeful implementation would be key to the turnaround aspirations of the reforms in the sector.
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