Just 36 days after President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Petroleum Industry Bill into law, he has returned it to the National Assembly seeking to amend some sections of the law.
One of his intentions is to increase the membership of the Board of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NPRA) and Upstream Regulatory Commission (URC) from nine to 13.
Buhari had on August 16, 2021 signed the Petroleum Industry Bill into law, 14 years after it was presented for the first time in the National Assembly by the former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s administration.
But yesterday, the Senate received Buhari’s letter seeking amendment to the Petroleum Industry Act 2021 which he signed exactly 36 days ago, a document that was passed by the National Assembly on July 1, 2021.
The request was contained in a letter dated September 16, 2021, and read during plenary by the Senate president, Ahmad Lawan.
President Buhari, in the letter, explained that the appointment of two non-executive members as provided for by the Act to the Board of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NPRA) and Upstream Regulatory Commission (URC) does not reflect balanced geopolitical representation.
He, therefore, requested amendment to Sections 11(2)(b) and 34(2)(b) which provides for the Administrative Structure of the PIA 2021 to increase the number of the non-executive members from two to six on the boards of the NPRA and the URC.
According to him, doing so would foster national unity and “provide a sense of participation and inclusion to almost every section of the country in the decision making of strategic institutions such as the oil industry”.
In addition, the president proposed the deletion of Sections 11(2)(f), 11(2)(g), 34(2)(f) and 34(2)(g) from the Petroleum Industry Act, which would see to the removal of the Ministries of Petroleum and Finance from the Board of the Nigerian Petroleum Regulatory Authority and Upstream Regulatory Commission.
Even though the president in his letter ignored cries for an increase of three per cent for host communities, he explained that “the proposed amendment will increase the membership of the board from nine to 13 members, that is, representing 44 percent expansion of the board’s size.
“This composition would strengthen the institutions and guarantee national spread and also achieve the expected policy contributions.
“The two ministries already have constitutional responsibilities of either supervision or inter-governmental relations. They can continue to perform such roles without being on the board.
“It is also important to note that, administratively, the representatives of the ministries in the board will be directors – being of the same rank with directors in the institution. This may bring some complications in some decision making, especially on issues of staff related matters.”
The president also sought an amendment to Sections 11(3) and 34(3) to be replaced with a new section that provides that appointments to the Board of the Commission or Authority under section 2 shall be made by the president, while those made pursuant to subsection (2)(a), (b) and (c) of section shall be subject to confirmation by the Senate.
The president further requested that Section 41(2) of the Petroleum Industry Act be replaced with a new section as “there shall be five executive directors for the Authority whose appointment shall comply with the rules of the Federal Civil Service.”
The president, in his proposed amendment, underscored the need to exempt serving public officers from the established confirmation process for political appointments.
“This will ensure effective management of the regulatory institutions through uniform implementation of public service rules for employees of the Authority.
“In future, these positions will obviously be filled by the workers in the Authority through career progression in conformity with the rules and regulations of the Federal Civil Service”, Buhari said.
In a statement by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, the president said “having carefully reviewed the administrative structure of both the Commission and the Authority, I would like to propose the following amendments: A. Appointment of non-executive Board members. B. removal of the Ministries of Petroleum and Finance from the Board of the two institutions, C. Appointment of executive directors.
Under A, President Buhari observed that PIA 2021 provided for the appointment of two non-executive members for the board of the two regulatory institutions, but he is of the view that the membership limitation has not addressed the principle of balanced geopolitical representation of the country.
“I, therefore, pray for the intervention of the 9th Assembly to correct this oversight in the interest of our national unity,” he added, noting that if the amendment is approved, it will increase the number of the non-executive members from two to six: one person from each of the geopolitical zones of the country.
Under B, President Buhari proposed an amendment to increase the membership of the Board from 9 to 13, and strengthen the institutions and guarantee national spread, and also achieve the expected policy contributions.
He observed that the Ministries of Petroleum and Finance already had supervision or inter-governmental relations, and can continue to perform such roles without being in the Board.
On C, which is the appointment of executive directors, President Buhari noted the need to exempt serving public officers from the established confirmation process for political appointments, adding that it will ensure effective management of the regulatory institutions through uniform implementation of public service rules for employees of the Authority.
He stressed that the proposed amendments to the PIA 2021 are strictly about the structure, aimed at ensuring the smooth take-off and consequent growth of the two institutions.
PMB Seeks Confirmation Of NPRA, URC, EFCC Boards
The Senate has received a formal request from President Muhammadu Buhari to confirm the nominations of members of the Board of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority.
The president, in another letter to the upper chamber, also sought the confirmation of the Board of the Upstream Regulatory Commission.
He explained in a letter dated September 16, 2021, and read during plenary by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, that the request to confirm the chairman, chief executive and executive directors for the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority was made in accordance with the provision of Section 34(3) of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021.
The nominees for confirmation into the Nigerian Petroleum Regulatory Board are: Idaere Gogo Ogan (chairman), Engr. Sarki Auwalu (chief executive); Abiodun A. Adeniji (executive director, Finance and Accounts), and Ogbugo Ukoha (executive director, Distributions Systems, Storage and Retail Infrastructure).
In a separate letter dated September 16, 2021, President Buhari while relying on the provision of Section 11(3) of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, requested the Senate to confirm the appointment of four nominees as chairman, chief executive and executive commissioners to the Board of the Upstream Regulatory Commission.
The nominees for confirmation are: Isa Ibrahim Modibo (chairman), Engr. Gbenga Komolafe (chief executive), Hassan Gambo (executive commissioner, Finance and Accounts), and Ms Rose Ndong (executive commissioner, Exploration and Acreage Management).
According to the president, both requests for the confirmation of the board’s membership were made “in order to fast-track the process for the establishment of the Commission.”
Also, the Senate has received a request from President Muhammadu Buhari to confirm the appointment of the secretary and Board members of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The request was contained in a letter dated September 17, 2021, and read during plenary yesterday by Senate President Ahmad Lawan.
President Buhari explained that the request for the confirmation of the nominees was in accordance with the provision of section 2(1) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004.
Those to be confirmed include George Abbah Ekpungu, secretary (Cross River), Luqman Muhammed (Edo), Anumba Adaeze (Enugu), Alhaji Kola Raheem Adesina (Kwara) and Alhaji Yahaya Muhammad (Yobe).
PIA Amendment To Promote Inclusive Participation – Experts
Meanwhile, stakeholders in the oil and gas industry have commended President Muhammadu Buhari’s move to amend certain provisions of the Petroleum Industry Act.
Reacting to the request, Dr Muda Yusuf, economist and former director-general of the Lagos Chamber of commerce and Industry, LCCI, said the proposed amendment is in order.
Yusuf said, “It is about promoting the principle of inclusion in governance. The truth is that there is no perfect legislation.
“From time to time, there would be reason to consider other amendments as the Act becomes operational. What is important is to ensure that the fundamental reforms of the oil and gas sector are not compromised,” he said.
A lawyer and public affairs analyst, Barrister Segun Ashaye, said, “Considering the institution involved, having a non-executive director from each geopolitical zone will show equal participation, which is also in line with federal character policy.”
In his reaction, chairman of Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), Olarenwaju Suraju, said, “I think the proposed amendment is a welcome development. It is rather unfortunate that members of the National Assembly, representing the citizens and also the zones making up the country, passed the original bill without adequate consideration for this lacuna.”.
Suraju advised the National Assembly to take advantage of this request by the president to correct other shortcomings of the Act for popular acceptance.