By ANDREW ESSIEN ABUJA
A league of legal practitioners under the agies of Coalition of Public Interests Lawyers and Advocates (COPA) have expressed concerns over certain aspects of the Petroleum Industry Bill 2020 (PIB) which they say if left without proper interrogation, will have adverse effects on the nation’s oil sector.
They also charged the National Assembly to subject the Petroleum Industry Bill 2020 (PIB) to thorough and robust public engagement for necessary input before passage, adding that this was the only way to achieve the developmental potentials within the sector.
This was the thrust of the coalition’s press conference in Abuja, even as they expressed concern that a critical look at the bill revealed that it contained an array of new and improved legislation that will ensure the reformation of the oil and gas industry but observed that the vision for an improved petroleum regime may be threatened by gaps and inconsistencies in the bill which must be addressed and fixed to advance the developmental potentials of the Oil and Gas sector.
Barrister Olufemi Franklin Olufemi, who is COPA’s Committee Chairman on the Review of the PIB, noted that it has forwarded a document titled “Memorandum on Petroleum Industry Bill 2020” on it’s research, observations and recommendations on the PIB to all the stakehokders in the industry.
Olufemi said the bulk of the research effort was centred on the failure of the Bill to recognise, situate and provide for the full integration and exploration of the expertise of the non-pool professionals within the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
“For proper perspective, the non-pool professionals are specially trained group of experts within the Ministry of Petroleum Resources that were recruited sometime in 2008 in preparation for the implementation of the now defunct Petroleum Industry Bill, 2009 and have been extensively trained as situational experts but whose special skill-sets and expertise are made redundant by an industry regime lacking a legal instrument or provision that statutorily recognises these group of workers.
“It was hoped that any over-hauling legislation in the petroleum industry would positively identify and treat the systematic redundancy of the Ministry’s non-pool professionals, but it is a negligence that has occurred in the much celebrated new Bill.”
The lawyers argued that the neglected professional workforce within the Ministry of Petroleum Resources can save certain operational costs and ensure efficient running of the sector.
The group also recommended the establishment of a National Petroleum Directorate as a professional arm of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to absorb all the non-pool staff/professionals already engaged in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources. It also called for the restructuring of the ministry into administrative and professional organs.
“We strongly recommend that the Petroleum Industry Bill, 2020 create and establish a National Petroleum Directorate as a professional arm of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to immediately absorb all the non-pool staff/professionals already engaged in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources as earlier proposed by successive reports and bills on the need to revitalise the petroleum industry sector.
“Specifically, the Bill should structure the Ministry of Petroleum Resources into the Administrative and Professional Organ.
The Professional Organ should be the National Petroleum Directorate which would serve as the technical expert arm of the Ministry empowered by Law and made up of non-pool staff who, unlike in past regimes, remain a constant reserve of the Ministry regardless of the Minister’s tenure.
“The usual practice of a Minister hiring of external professionals as consultants to give policy support to their offices at all times and the resultant drain of the said professionals during the termination of the Minister’s tenure has not only resulted in an anomaly in the Ministry’s technical and professional make up but has equally brought about the exclusion and under-utilisation of the Ministry’s internationally trained professionals whose potentials are waiting to be explored and maximized,” it added.
To this end the group appealed to the National Assembly to subject the bill to thorough public debate to afford Nigerians the best opportunity to properly interogate all issues about the bill.